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The Future of Brand Publishing

One of the biggest opportunities that digital media has given brands is the potential to avoid principal-agent conundrums and simply publish their own media. Given the problems inherent in working with third parties to get a message out or fill the top of the funnel, many brands we’ve worked with have eagerly embraced the idea of creating their own content – such as online video or blogs  - or, especially among brands with fewer resources to devote to publishing, acting as aggregators.

But with publishing getting more complex by the day, and as brands realize that creating compelling content might be a little easier said than done, they’re finding willing partners in a media industry searching for new and better sources of revenue.

Or, at least, so says Nick Denton, the founder and publisher of Gawker Media and Jonah Peretti, publisher of BuzzFeed. Long considered two of the leading thinkers about how the media industry will make money in an era of ubiquitous content, believe that brands, given the choice, will allow them to create content that blends in seamlessly with their very web-native sites. Why? Comparative advantage; unlike many big consumer brands, Denton, Peretti, and their organizations know the web, and further, they know the unique tone that enables them to capture a loyal web following. Reading between the lines, they believe brands’ efforts to self-publish are ultimately not going to be as effective as integrated brand publishing on a platform that already gets the web.

Brands have built up significant publishing capabilities of their own in recent years for two reasons – first, they realize that content is the currency of the web, and that if they’re out of the loop of content being circulated at all times, they’re losing. But second is that, for the most part, they haven’t had media partners willing to play ball in content co-creation.

But as brands have built up this capability for themselves, I’m willing to bet that they’re finding the publishing business a little harder than they had imagined, and I’m also willing to bet that they’d welcome some help from media people who have some experience in the space. For newspapers this has been anathema until fairly recently; but the more forward-thinking web properties are beginning to embed this in their inventories. It’ll be interesting to see if the result is better than brands’ previous efforts.

MLC members, if you’re involved in brand publishing efforts, have you noticed more media partners willing to work with you? And what do you think about the future of brand publishing?

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