A group of companies is seeking to change the face of content creation and alter how brands are able to connect with target audiences online. They’re attempting to make an impact on the online news industry in a way that’s meaningful to businesses looking to promote their products and services, without compromising the integrity of interested publications.
Companies like Newscred, Percolate, and Brand.com are giving content creators tools to not only create original, interesting content, but get it distributed in helpful ways.
Investors see a lot of potential in these kinds of services. Earlier this year, Newscred raised a new $25 million round of funding (less than a year after it raised $15 million). A couple months ago it launched new partnerships with Getty Images, Visual.ly, and others. Percolate also recently raised $24 million.
We had a conversation with Brand.com president Mike Zammuto about how his company in particular views the new landscape. He believes that these types of platform companies are changing online news media.
Brand.com matches newsmakers (the aforementioned businesses who need to get word out) with journalists and publications looking for interesting stories. It enables news outlets to get info straight from the source while maintaining the editorial control that’s important for maintaining credibility. Brand.com’s platform enables brands to explain how they want to look online, and commission writers and reporters to tell their story as an alternative to “old-fashioned” press releases. It has distribution partnerships with media outlets like CNN, Forbes, Reuters, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.
To maintain credibility, they filter out self-promotional and advertorial copy, ensuring that story ideas really are newsworthy, and provide content that is actually valuable (otherwise this wouldn’t work).
“Content creation, whether it’s marketing content or news content, should have benefited immensely from the rise of Internet tech, but it hasn’t,” Zammuto tells us. “Platform companies provide an opportunity for reporters to actually utilize the parts of the Internet that are the most beneficial for creating the news. Brand.com creates an ecosystem that connects publishers and reporters with newsmakers with a genuine story to tell – reporters don’t have to dig around for scoops anymore. They can go straight to the source, easily and efficiently.”
“In the past, news creation relied largely on one-on-one communications,” he adds. “Platforms can improve scalability and efficiency. More broadly, news publishers have seen revenue for advertising and subscriptions fall off with no adequate replacement, and the industry is becoming desperate for a new business model that supports editorial independence and a free and open press, but also the prospering and growth of these publications so that they can continue to support their editorial goals. A platform is a scalable and flexible model. Just as social media streamlined online social interaction, our news platform streamlines the process of identifying and creating great news stories.”
In case you haven’t heard, native advertising is trending in a big way. This may leave some businesses wondering if they should skip this type of content production, and simply go the native ad route.
Here’s what Zammuto has to say about it: “PR and native advertising are both ineffective. Native advertising is simply a way to sneak PR into a news content platform. That strategy doesn’t benefit the editors and reporters or the readers. We want the control to ultimately remain in hands of the editors and reporters, not PR middlemen peddling promotional stories. Newsmakers have always wanted to contact reporters and vise versa, and a platform can link these bodies without relying on any intermediate point of contact that might dilute true news.”
“Travel agencies were a pre-Internet necessity,” he continues. “Now, they just stand in the way between travelers and travel providers. Eliminating a middleman benefits every party involved, in news media and, historically, in all other industries.”
Still, new native advertising options are launched all the time. Media companies are investing more and more in offering this to advertisers. A recent report from eMarketer found that for media publishers, native advertising represents an opportunity to “reverse the tide of flat or declining revenues”. So far, brands seem to be biting.
As far as reporters go, it’s church and state, ads and editorial. Zammuto’s company claims to provide reporters with a way to find interesting and original content.
“When reporters know and trust the platform as a location for exclusive scoops and sources, I’ll know that we’ve succeeded,” he tells us. “And when I see high quality but financially ill news organizations newly able to reinvest in original, high-quality news content, I’ll know that we’ve succeeded.”
“We see signs of success every day,” he says. “It’s a success whenever a publisher tells us that we are giving their reporters access to great stories and newsworthy exclusive topics. Our platform’s analytics can currently indicate to us who is reading the content, which is a major success for any brand working with us that is used to inefficient and unpredictable PR industry outcomes. Soon the SaaS model will provide us with a holistic end-to-end view of the news, from creation to publishing to analysis of associated demographics. Here’s how a successful article looks to us: publishers are confident that great content is reaching the right audiences, audiences have access to the information they want to read, and brands are able to track who reads published content and what other content those readers might find compelling.”
From a brand’s perspective, an offering like this can go a long way in spreading the word for a newsworthy brand in an era where everybody has a voice (and an opinion). Brand.com, Newscred, and Percolate are attempting to offer new and more dynamic options for brands for determining how to create and circulate content online.
Image via LinkedIn