May 27, 2016

Speaking of Content: The Economist

by Renegade

If you’re a reader of The Economist, chances are you’re looking forward to the long weekend, not just for the barbecues and beer but also for the opportunity to read this week’s issue from cover to cover and maybe even finish previous editions.  Your devotion to this pub, one of the few news magazines that has weathered the digital tsunami, is grounded in a shared appreciation for insightful commentary from a very clear and consistent point-of-view.  A point-of-view that just about all news can be interpreted through an economic lens expressed via language that is sharp, sassy and to my ear, singularly British.

For content marketers, the lesson here should be obvious.  Without a distinctive brand voice, your content will drown in the 30 trillion pages of content Google indexed last year!  One way to overcome this challenge is to partner with a brand that already has a unique voice and a devoted audience.  To understand how that works, I talked to Jeff Pundyk VP of Global Integrated Content Solutions at The Economist a few months back. I’m confident you’ll find this interview worth reading before you fire up your next content program. [For more sizzling insights, join Jeff and me at the upcoming Corporate Social Media Summit in NYC June 20-21st.]

Drew: This may seem like a weird question for a content creation company, but do you have a content strategy for marketing The Economist beyond publishing a magazine and ezine? 

Our content strategy is simple and basically unchanged since the publication was founded in 1843 — serve the reader first. That’s true whether we’re doing print, film, digital, social, our aps or VR. That may sound obvious, but these days it’s not. Today as the media landscape morphs and as more and more alternatives to media companies emerge — and as the lines between content and marketing blur — readers don’t know who to trust.  We build trust and credibility by putting our readers’ interests above our own, by being fully transparent about our commercial relationships, by having a deep understanding of who our audience is and how to serve them uniquely.

Drew:  Years ago I used to attend lots of Economist events and they were always excellent. Many times these were centered around a new research study which today would be touted under the content marketing umbrella.   Do you still do a lot of events & studies and are these integrated into your overall content creation strategy?

Yes, we do many events and we continue to create sponsored content for our clients.  As the traditional advertising business declines, both of these are important services we can provide for our clients.   Happily, our readers are very open to the proposition of connecting to our clients through original content — whether that be an event, digital media, or an old-school report — because we have earned their trust and do not violate it.

Drew: With seemingly every brand thinking they need to be in the content creation business, where does that leave a long-time quality content creator like The Economist?

It’s never been a better time to be a company that makes quality content for a quality, global audience.  Given all the companies creating content, the question is how do you rise about the noise.  Our answer is by creating high-quality work that connects with our audience in ways that nobody else can match.

Drew: I read recently that Meredith made a deal with Georgia Pacific to create a lot of that brand’s content.  Are you looking at similar arrangements with marketers?

Yes, we have many clients for whom we create content, and have being doing so for a long time.  Some are traditional research programs like you remember and others are more innovative digital projects.  Our most well known is probably the program we do with GE, called Look ahead.  It’s a three-year program.  We create content for this program every day.  The content is not about GE but is about topics that GE is associated with — Transportation, Health, Advanced Manufacturing and Energy.  It is sponsored content created by a dedicated team of journalists who are separate from Economist journalists.  See it here:

Drew: As a publisher, you know only to well how costly it is to create really high quality content and then build an audience for that content.  Do brands really have a chance at getting this done right?

It doesn’t have to be expensive to get started and to start learning what works for you and for your audience.  There’s lots of ways to do small, smart experiments that will inform your bigger decisions.  Frankly, there is no alternative.  The people you are trying to reach  have clearly moved beyond the old school marketing-communications tactics.  If you don’t find new ways to engage, they will  get what they need somewhere else.  There’s no shortage of choices.

Drew: What are the most common mistakes you are seeing brands make in the area of content marketing?

 There’s a few simple questions anybody creating content should be able to answer:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What are you trying to get them to do?
  • How will you reach them?
  • What can you tell them that is distinctive, relevent to them and credible coming from you?
  • What does success look like?

Before you start pumping out content, take the time to answer them.