Category: Digital

Publishers vs. LinkedIn: The Next Heavy Weight Fight?

This guest blog submission is from Raisa Guillemette of Knowledge Marketing, a sponsor of ABM/SIIA’s Business Information and Media Summit.

If you don’t consistently check your LinkedIn account, it would be easy for you to miss how LinkedIn has slowly, but steadily positioned itself as a publishing platform. Ryan Roslansky, head of content products for the company has flat out denied LinkedIn’s shift into the media realm stating, “We are not approaching this from a publishing or media-company perspective.”

This shift into publishing began with LinkedIn’s influencer program. In the initial rollout of this program, a select few “influencers” and “thought leaders” such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates and President Obama were allowed to contribute content. LinkedIn opened the publishing platform to 25,000 of its members on February 19th of this year, with the intention to steadily expand the publishing capability to all 300 million registered members. The publishing platform is still in beta testing, but you can apply for early access to this feature here. Whether they are trying to or not, it appears to me that LinkedIn is becoming a media company.

Either accidental or intentional, it appears that LinkedIn is throwing itself into the ring with traditional media and publishing companies. Let’s see how the two stack up against one another.

LinkedIn’s Strengths

A Trusted Platform
One of LinkedIn’s biggest strengths is the fact they are a trusted and established social media platform, specifically targeted toward professionals. LinkedIn has always aired on the side of caution when it comes to their privacy policy and advertising. Personally, I have never felt like I was being assaulted with ads, or I was secretly being studied as part of an experiment without my knowledge.

Built for Professionals
Not only do professionals trust and use LinkedIn, they are now going to LinkedIn to highlight their own expertise on a particular topic. The publishing platform allows individuals and companies to display their expertise to a large audience of professionals who are eager to learn, educate, share and interact.

Simplified Sharing
Now that members are free to post on the publishing platform, there is no need to join a Group or share content as a status update on your personal page. Anyone can search and find the content you are posting on a specific topic and read the posts you’ve written without being a connection or inside your network. If you write something that sparks enough interest, LinkedIn may even distribute it as part of their own aggregated content.

Free Content
LinkedIn is different from other publishers because it pays nothing for its content, and to avoid liability it grants full ownership rights to its member-writers, while promising to remove, annotate or edit posts that violate its policies. LinkedIn is making money off of content they don’t pay for while never having to actually own any of it.

Publisher’s Strengths

Distribution Diversity
Publishers have collected a vast amounts of audience data from event attendees, webinar registrants, subscribers and website visitors. With all this audience data, publishers are at a distinct advantage because of the variety of channels they can use to distribute their content. Whether that’s print, digital, websites, live events or conferences. LinkedIn is only one platform which limits your overall reach.

Credible Content
The content that publishers produce is more credible, serious and better researched compared to what is considered news or content on a social media site. Publishers produce content that typically produces more traffic, higher engagement rates, and multiple reading sessions. Print has also been proven to increasereader’s retention.

Complete Control
As you may already know, you are at the mercy of any social network you are a part of. You have no control over the constant (and frustrating) algorithm changes from Facebook or how LinkedIn decided to just drop the Product and Services tabs from the Business Pages. Publishers have complete and total control over their own property. Your website and every piece of content that is created is building traffic and revenue for something that you own. Why would you send traffic to LinkedIn that could be used to rank in search for your own website?

Superior Tracking & Analytics
Giving up control of your content or giving it away for free is not always the best option. Not to say that all of your content should be gated, but we all know that tracking, testing and being able to measure every aspect of your business is crucial. Publishers by the nature of their business have tracking and analytics built into their foundation. From personal experience I can say I have never been overly impressed with social media sites tracking and analytic features.

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Through the funnel: Marketing technologies becoming priority for b2b media

DragonForceSourceMedia has a new owner and a full war chest to pursue acquisitions. Among its targets: digital marketing technologies that can create a more efficient, targeted buy.

Advanced marketing solutions, including programmatic buying, marketing automation and retargeting, are no longer the domain of tech media but are becoming increasingly important in other verticals as well. “Where are we with tracking people through our funnel?” asked Mason Power, chief marketing officer at iLevel Solutions, during a marketer roundtable at ABM’s recent Annual Conference called “What B2B Marketers Want from You.” “Where are we with tracking people through [b2b publishers’ sites] and connecting the two? That’s what we want to discuss, not space and time.”

This week, Business.com launched a state-of-the-art data platform and content delivery system, designed to offer high-quality content and contextual advertising. The new platform includes advanced display advertising and retargeting, pay-per-click advertising, marketing-ready leads generated through content marketing and sales-ready leads, which connect marketers with active buyers at the final stage of the purchasing process. A video outlining the new services is available here.

“The old media model was to simply connect buyer and seller and get out of the way,” Uphoff said in a recent Q&A with ABM. “The new model uses data to connect the right buyer to the right seller at the right time while nurturing that relationship.”

Praetorian Group, Inc. earlier this year announced a partnership with Drakontas LLC, a software and communications firm geared toward providing solutions for the government sector. As a result of this deal, Drakontas’s DragonForce software will be incorporated into Praetorian’s PoliceOne Network, a news resource and directory for the law enforcement industry. Drakontas will specifically be working with Praetorian Labs, the innovation investment division of the parent company.

DragonForce is an interactive, software-as-a-service (SaaS) package designed to aid in connectivity of law enforcement teams – both tactical and non-tactical. It offers an instant messaging platform, photo and document sharing, tracking capabilities and a collaborative whiteboard-style program. Praetorian’s addition of this software to its PoliceOne Network – which already offers news, training, product research and more to law enforcement professionals – will result in an even more comprehensive user experience.

“Many leading tech companies have incubators, labs or investment funds to better monitor trends, inform future M&A and investments and stay on the forefront of innovation,” Praetorian CEO Alex Ford told ABM. “I think we’ll see more of these types of programs being launched by media companies as they continue to evolve. It’s one thing to launch tech products and websites, but entirely another to become a part of the tech ecosystem of your market and stay on the forefront of innovation. Programs like Praetorian Labs and partnerships with companies like Drakontas allow us to do just that.”

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Are you focusing on your audience’s channels?

I saved a Dilbert strip from May 18. Dilbert begins by telling his female colleague: “You never answered my IM.” She responds: “You should have emailed me.”

“I did. You didn’t answer my email.”
“If it was so important you should texted me.”

They next get to phones and finally he says, “So here I am [in person].”
“It’s premature to get your hopes up.”

Portion of Dilbert Comic, May 18, 2014

Dilbert, May 18, 2014

I thought about that when reading Real Magnet’s recent post (on their thought-leading blog Real Insights) titled The Rise of Channel-Specific Content. Every person has their favorite way of communicating these days. I may reach my nephew by texting, my best friend by email, a former work colleague on LinkedIn, an overseas friend on WhatsApp, and a sports buddy by tweeting. And does anyone talk on the phone for anything but a conference call these days? (Half that time you’re on mute.)

The idea of channel-specific content is that you are tailoring your content to fit that medium. No longer can we be satisfied to put the same message on all these different mediums—you’ll lose people. Writes Real Magnet: “Today, channel-specific content is a sound marketing practice as it shows respect for the way your audience uses the inbox, Facebook, Twitter and other channels.”

They offer three steps for adjusting to channel-specific content:

1. Understand and describe each channel. Tell your audience what they will be getting on each channel—limit the surprises. “…you may use your email list for a weekly newsletter, Twitter for customer service, and Facebook for promotions. Promoting them as such is a form of targeting, as your audience is signing up for the specific content you are providing in each. It also helps build anticipation.”

2. Use your email analytics to find the best-performing content. You’ve been measuring your open rates and click-thrus for a while now. You can do the same with your social media with engagement, retweets, likes and conversions.

3. Develop key metrics on channel engagement, not just message effectiveness. “…marketers are going to need to focus on optimizing each channel instead of each message. Develop and track a set of key metrics for each message that measures how much engagement you are driving in aggregate across the channel. For example, you might track ‘Likes per Post’ on Facebook, or ‘Mentions/RTs per Follower per Month’ on Twitter.”

Ryan Holmes, CEO of hootsuite, which automates your messages for different channels, wrote in a blog post: “Social media ushered in a new era of intimate, personalized marketing. Not surprisingly, consumers have grown less receptive to traditional ‘spray and pray’ mass marketing approaches. (Case in point: When 61,000 people were surveyed earlier this year by Forrester, fewer than a quarter said they trust email from companies.)

“To this end, the latest generation of marketing automation software is finding creative ways to bridge the gap: applying the intimacy, personalization and insights gained from social media on a mass scale…Companies that find ways to integrate social media and marketing automation effectively will be able to reach more customers and strengthen ties with existing ones in the years ahead. Companies that fail to do so risk being left behind as ‘mass’ marketing takes its place on history’s scrap heap.”

The question becomes can we be everywhere our audience is or will we have to choose the channels we do best? The quick answer would be yes, we have to try to be everywhere. Real Magnet isn’t so sure: “…marketers will begin limiting messages to the channels in which they work best, in order to make sure that every message contributes meaningfully to its channel’s engagement.”

Stay tuned.

By Ronn Levine

Beyond the white paper: content marketing that truly engages

When trade publishers think of marketing services and creating content for clients first thoughts are often custom newsletters, white papers and webinars. But, have you considered video? What about an app? And do you truly know the role of each of your content pieces and how it pushes a sale down the funnel?

During a recent ABM event, business-to-business marketers and agencies met with publishers to discuss the best types of content and how they help the ultimate goal of making a sale.

It’s no surprise that newsletters (and other content that require registration) lead the content marketing mix, noted Kevin Nalty, b-to-b marketing consultant, at the ABM and ISBM Brand Consortium last month. Nearly all of business-to-business marketers use content marketing for lead generation and almost half of b-to-b marketers choose lead gen as the number one goal.

“But is it fair to measure leads alone?” asked Nalty.

What about measuring how well you educate? How well you inspire? How well you entertain? These measurements, while not as concrete as leads, can also push a sale down the funnel, explained Nalty.
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Content aggregators? Definitely foes!

I went to our Executive Forum keynote, where Dan Roth, head of LinkedIn’s content strategy, talked about the ways publishers can work with LinkedIn to grow their audiences and gain exposure among business professionals. His keynote was titled, “LinkedIn: Friend AND Foe?”

I was curious going into the session, hoping to hear what LinkedIn is planning next. I thought it was exciting to think that LinkedIn was branching out from networking and job hunting to content, especially since Roth’s background is as a great writer – Roth got his start reporting at Forbes and Wired, and then became managing editor at Fortune.com.

But the takeaways I got from his keynote evoked current trends that actually devalue the work he himself used to do. Here’s my take on what he said:

• As business media evolves, the conversations about the events of the day are as valuable as the primary reporting of the events. “The reader sees himself as equal in authority to the author of the article,” Roth said. LinkedIn is hoping to leverage more reader-generated content as LinkedIn users engage in conversations about, say, articles from content publishing companies. Note that LinkedIn members contribute this valuable content for free.

• LinkedIn is soliciting engaging essays from “influencers” and “thought leaders,” big names like Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and T. Boone Pickens. All of whom contribute their words for free. Oh, sorry, I mean for exposure and metrics around who is reading their insights. But these influencers see value in it.

• LinkedIn also loves it when publishers use their “InShare” buttons to send metrics about readers back to LinkedIn, and where LinkedIn users are having conversations … in LinkedIn groups and in their content feeds that they share with other users. Again, LinkedIn does not pay publishers for any of this.

• LinkedIn is launching a new feature, now in beta, where publishers can give LinkedIn their full RSS feed, as much content as they want, to run on publisher LinkedIn pages. Publishers can also accessorize these pages with photos, graphics, and other content. In exchange for letting publishers put their content on LinkedIn, publishers get detailed metrics on who is viewing, using, and talking about the publishers’ content. No money changes hands, of course. And due to privacy considerations, odds are LinkedIn will not share the actual profiles of readers. So no lead gen opportunities there.

So what are the great content initiatives at LinkedIn? Get important people to contribute content for free. Get users to comment and converse on this content for free. And get publishers to contribute content for free. Use this content to bring users to LinkedIn every day.
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What LinkedIn means for b-to-b marketing — and publishers

In a post on TheGuardian.com, writer David Benady endorses LinkedIn as the “first port of call” platform for business-to-business marketers. He writes that b-to-b marketers overlooking the social network could be missing a huge opportunity. While it’s clear that LinkedIn is becoming a major game changer in publishing content for professionals, the platform has also silently built up other offerings for b-to-b marketers, including advertisements and lead generation, the same services trade publishers today offer their clients.

“There are a lot of tactical things that we do for marketers: brand awareness, lead generation, consideration,” said Jonathan Lister, vice president of marketing solutions at LinkedIn, in the eMarketer report, “Marketing on LinkedIn.” “The marketers who find the most success with LinkedIn are the ones who understand that we can help them engage with members all through the business lifecycle and touch them at all points of their decision journey.”

At an upcoming ABM event, LinkedIn executive Dan Roth will talk about how the company serves vertical markets — and where it wants to partner, rather than compete, with publishers. Here’s an overview of LinkedIn’s services, and how they may affect publishers.

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Where are your mobile customers? Waiting for a relevant product

When we make the business case for mobile in b2b media, we often cite consumer usage statistics (mobile traffic growing to 30 percent of global Internet traffic; smartphone market share, etc.)

However, understanding professional usage of b2b is critical. Earlier this year, ABM fielded a study called The Value of B2B Media, sponsored by Adobe, which looked at how b2b readers were using business media, particularly in how they leverage b2b information to make purchasing decisions, and what business marketers wanted from b2b publishers.

ABM sampled 111 member publishing companies in 10 different vertical markets to reach their end-users and received responses from than 6,600 readers on how they use b2b media, from print magazines to e-newsletters to live events and digital media, including mobile.

The good news — nearly two in three b2b end-users are using mobile optimized websites or apps.

Mobile optimized site use

Meanwhile, most b2b publishers say they’re seeing between 15 percent and 20 percent of their content traffic coming from mobile—depending on the market, that percentage is much higher, and it will only grow moving forward.

The bad news — as an individual platform, mobile apps are second-to-last in importance and mobile optimized websites are just slightly higher.

That speaks less to the demand for mobile products as it does the job we are doing as publishers in making usable, readable products for mobile. While many publishers are gingerly stepping into the waters of responsive design, the majority of b2b websites and newsletters are not optimized for mobile.

Earlier this year, ALM, a leading publisher in the legal information market optimized its newsletters for mobile—a move that boosted its open rates by more than 60 percent.

The priority in mobile isn’t necessarily creating a tremendous iPad app, it’s making sure your existing content is optimized for the platform.

When we take a look at what readers think will be important to them over the next three-to-four years, we see a switch. Websites and e-newsletters remain at the top, while print magazines and print newsletters plunge to the bottom. Readers also expect mobile optimized websites and mobile apps to supplant digital editions in importance.

The data shows that apps and mobile-optimized websites increasing …

Increasing app use

However, looking at the importance of channels over the next three to four years …

Channel importance

If we combine the percentage of end-users who expect the importance of each platform to stay the same with those who expect it to increase, we can get a better sense that readers expect to use those platforms.

Mobile optimized websites, digital editions and mobile apps shoot up to between 75 percent and 78 percent. But notice what’s still at the top: websites, product information from manufacturers and our perennial favorite, e-newsletters.

What Do Users Want From Mobile?

As part of the study, we asked readers with smartphones or tablets what publishers could do to make them engage more with b2b content on mobile platforms.

Many of those who use a smartphone or tablet or tablet for business would engage with industry content more if …

Increasing mobile engagement

The number one concern? Create an optimized version of their website that is easily viewed or navigated on a smartphone or tablet. I’m not going to say if you build it they will come, but one of the biggest stumbling blocks is getting useable mobile products to our customers and that should be fixable.

Give it away for free was the second highest response, but that doesn’t really help us as publishers unless there is a strong advertising model, which is few and far between with mobile publishing. B2B end-users have shown a willingness to pay for content that’s repackaged and delivered in a way that serves a need, even if that content is free elsewhere. In 2012, ABM and Outsell produced a report on Mobile Content and Delivery in which 20 percent of ABM publishers we spoke to say they are moving from free mobile products to paid mobile products—zero are going from paid to free.

Next on the must-have list: Rich media and functionality. What is the purpose of the mobile product, what are you giving them that’s different? News Corp.’s The Daily was a good iPad app, but it folded in large part because it didn’t serve a specific need.

As you assess your market, what’s the purpose of your mobile edition? What’s the need that you’re serving? A lot of time we get caught up in defining mobile as an app or as a gorgeous digital edition. There is certainly a need and a demand for it, and many publishers are doing terrific work.

IEEE’s “Robots for iPad” won the Best Use of Mobile Category in ABM’s 2013 Neal Awards, which recognizes the best in b2b editorial. “Robots for iPad” let’s users check out the most advanced robots with 360 degrees views, interactive images, detailed specs, exclusive articles and hundreds of photos and videos. It’s fun, it’s informative, it’s engaging, it’s everything an iPad app should be and it can stand with anything being published by the major consumer media companies.

But … it’s a pretty serious production. Do you have the subject matter that lends itself to this type of treatment? Do you have the resources to execute? Most of all, does something like this serve a need for your audience?

If not, there are other ways to serve your audience over mobile.

Serving a mobile audience

This is a screen grab for Farm Journal Pulse—Farm Journal serves the agri market and Pulse is a service that texts farmers and ranchers with poll questions and crop progress updates. Participants receive two questions per month and can see how their answers stack up against the rest of the country. The texts do not count toward the user’s message plan and revenue comes from sponsorship.

Why Text?

97% of Farm Journal’s audience have cell phones with them every day. Less than half own smartphones, even fewer use tablets. They typically aren’t deskbound during the day, they’re outside working.

Meeting the demand of that market has led to Farm Journal creating several different solutions specific to text and cell phones including,

• Commodity Update: Offers real-time commodity pricing, corn wheat.
• Commodity Update Targeted Mobile Messaging
• Farm Journal Pulse: Poll questions with social tie-in
• Mobile4Media:
Text-to-Learn: Allows readers to obtain info on products
Text-to-Win: Contest entries
Text-to-Answer: Allows readers to participate in polls
Text-to-Offer: Giveaways, coupon codes, mobile coupons

Farm Journal is doing plenty with iPad apps and more advanced mobile strategies but they’ve also developed one of the most aggressive mobile platforms in b2b media by understanding what their customers wanted and how they want it.

That’s key—before you spend six months of work and thousands of dollars on mobile (and $25,000 isn’t an outrageous price for app development depending on what you’re trying to do), understand what your customers want and how they want it. Mobile isn’t just redefining how customers want our content, it’s changing the idea of what relevant, valuable content actually is.

By Matt Kinsman