Why are Brands becoming news publishers?

Have you paid a vist to recently? If so you'll have noticed that in there among details on how to upgrade your broadband and tune into BT Sport is a considerable amount of news based content.

The news, which is provided for the company by The Press Association, has sparked a mini debate in the content marketing world as to what exactly the role is of news based content on branded websites.

Brands publishing generic news (as opposed to what they are doing as a brand) is a trend that has been bubbling under for a while, but is something that we are likely to see a lot more of in the coming year. So why are brands adding news content to their site?

Well the obvious reason is that it is included to engage with consumers and encourage brand loyalty. It is hard to imagine anyone having a brand's page as their primary source of news, but if you read a few stories on your trip to the site you may feel slightly warmer about the brand. If the story is really interesting you might even share it.

SEO and Google News
Perhaps more important is that news content is clearly a traffic driver. From an SEO perspective the stories might help get the brand a higher Google page ranking and get more people to the site via organic search. If those consumers then go on to purchase goods and services then it will clearly have been a very worthwhile investment.

For some brands it could also mean that their news feeds are featured on Google News and News Now two very important sources of traffic for editorially-driven websites.

There are however two different ways of brands becoming new publishers. The first is, just like BT, to add news content from a major news provider. The second is to create content that delivers news about the sector the brand is in. It may be mixed in with a little opinion too to highlight how the company is a thought leader in its space.

To be fair to BT it may feel that its hand has been forced by its rival Sky. The satellite/broadband company generates a huge amount of news content largely in collaboration with its news-based channels. BT might feel that in order to compete that it has to offer a similar portfolio of content on its main site.

There has however been criticism of BT with some writers highlighting how they think that the content gets in the way of customers finding the information they need about products and services. Some have also argued that positing quirky viral videos on the site - to say nothing of serious financial news stories - looks curious as it seems to have little to do with BT's core proposition.

Qualcomm's Spark project
Mobile phone chip manufacturer Qualcomm is on much safer ground with its Spark project. It has signed up a group of high profile tech journalists, academics and industry thought leaders to give their opinions on the future of tech in general and mobile in particular. Some offer their opinions via short-ish news stories, others have penned longer magazine style articles. There are also high quality films under the banner of ‘episodes.'

In no way is Spark attempting to be an all-encompassing website that offers the last word in tech. Its choice of subjects and the way in which the content is presented though clearly reflects Qualcomm's brand values and its pursuit of being perceived a thought leader in mobile technology.

Operating somewhere in between BT and Qualcomm is Coca Cola whose Journey site seems to have drawn praise and criticism in equal measure. Billed as an online magazine the site features a fair amount of content (words, images and videos) that takes the user behind the scenes at Coke, focuses on the drinks company's history and its links to popular culture. However there are news stories, especially on its business and sport strands, that stand as interesting features but have seemingly little to do with the company's core product and its marketing.

What makes the Coca Cola stories stand out is the quality of the journalism and the interesting subjects which they focus on. They inevitably seem to boast a much higher number of shares on social media than the BT stories.

We have yet to see anything quite as ambitious as Coca Cola Journey in the UK yet. It is surely though just a matter of time.

Posted by: The CMA

Posted in CMA blog
22ndOct 2013

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