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Playing by a completely different set of rules
No one says you "have" to keep doing marketing like your peers, it's not written in any laws of physics...
My friend Noah has a fantastic post on the notion of media outlets selling something other than ads. The whole post is worth reading and helps explain something readers here already understand: that every company is a media company (all creating media for different outcomes).
I thought I’d highlight a few of Noah’s points:
I have a joke about brands creating content that starts by explaining that Red Bull is actually one of the largest (if not the largest) producer of action sports content in the world. That fact is quickly followed by the punchline: Turns out it’s a lot easier to be a publisher that sells highly-caffeinated soda instead of ads.
Indeed, this is a simple way to think about what happens in a world where it’s possible to go direct to consumer with messages. You build your own audience providing a far different kind of leverage than was possible (or at all efficient) before. This totally changes not just marketing and PR, but media too. Noah continues:
…essentially a company like Bloomberg, or even further Red Bull, are dangerous to the media industry because they’re playing by a completely different set of rules.
When you don’t have to attract advertisers, sell subscriptions and can invest the resources necessary to work long term purely to build trust with your market you are very dangerous to (certain types of) traditional media entities. That’s because everyone is still pursuing the same limited resource: attention. Yet when everyone is supported by different models the rules are very different for all parties. It’s extremely disruptive, and an opportunity for some companies (and startup pure media entities willing to pursue a unique path).
Attention is finite, but the amount of organizations, individuals and pure media plays vying for it are steadily increasing. And everyone is playing by a different rules (or no rules at all), motivated by different drivers and trying to paint a picture from a different vantage point.
How does this affect your efforts at building a brand of media (or your company as media)? Simple, reorganize yourself to play by a set of rules that don’t limit you, but the rest of your category is afraid to (or won’t) try. Think about how many new and very popular brands of web media simply aggregate/curate, add context/personality, publish and aggressively promote. And they’re winning, big. The email newsletter Morning Brew was valued at around 75 million when acquired, for example.
Newspaper revenue is gone forever. The paper part at least. But that does not stop many traditional media organizations from clinging to the past by setting up absurd paywalls, limiting their communities, and trying to rely on dated models to support themselves as a glimmer of hope. They keep thinking the game hasn’t changed and they can simply adopt dated models to digital/mobile. Of course, this isn’t really accurate. No one has a monopoly on attention anymore.
It might be as simple as freeing yourself of previous generation mindsets, playing by new rules and building a model that works. You just have to let go of the past.