In a recent post, I explored the growing move by brand owners away from Paid Media towards Owned Media, highlighting how Brands and Publishers were exchanging roles – even as brand owners undertook greater interest in content marketing, their media counterparts were undertaking a reverse journey of extending their media franchise into consumer brands or even selling the very brands they were covering in their media vehicles. Prominent examples I cited of Brands becoming Publishers were Red Bull, Coke etc while examples of Publishers becoming Brands included Playboy, Cosmopolitan etc. 

Subsequently, I wrote on how Content Marketing in the context of social media has resulted in the origin of Real-time Marketing, where an ad is able to reference what is happening around it in the immediate social context and connect with consumers on a as-and-then basis. I also elaborated on the disruptive potential that Real-time Marketing held for Television, and looked at the rise of Social Media Command Centres, which enables tracking of brand references and enabled responses on social media on a real-time basis.

My present post builds on these earlier posts, and references an increasingly popular theory : for Brands to successfully engage in Real -time Marketing, they will need to master the newsroom mindset. What does this mean?  

Real-time Marketing with its resultant need to a) monitor content and react instantly to any brand references b) continually create content and engage with audiences or fans, is analogous to the news business. Both deal with continuously updating content, putting out newer forms of content or modifying existing content in response to viewer feedback, reacting instantaneously to external events etc. Hence the assertion that, for brands to be effective at Real-time Marketing they have to think like News Orgs – be agile and prolific, even at the risk of putting out unpolished raw content, as opposed to the earlier Campaign mindset which meant fewer output, but polished and perfect.

This need to master the newsroom mindset is forcing many brands to partner with media / news brands (typically those who have expertise in putting out lots of content, usually viral), who in turn see this as a lucrative business opportunity. While many of these partnerships are the usual attempts at content marketing, there are some well thought-out partnerships that deserve to be highlighted.

The Virgin Mobile Case Study + other examples

An oft-quoted partnership is the Virgin Mobile USA – Buzzfeed partnership. This has been covered in detail in Digiday and NYTimes, and I encourage you to check these articles out.

Virgin Mobile USA has a 11-member ‘newsroom’ which includes 4 members from its content partner Buzzfeed, who produce around 7 pieces of content a day. This content (typically blog posts in the form of listicles / slide shows) around the themes of entertainment, technology and youth behaviour is posted on its social channels, its site, and on Buzzfeed, with the objective of getting the content to go viral, and thereby keep the brand engaged with its core 18-30 year-old demographic.

What is Virgin’s interest in doing this? It seems Virgin’s content strategy is rather indirect – it is not concerned with getting any promotional message across so much as being seen as a purveyor of cool content, and thereby get accepted into the inner social circle of its target audience. “We want to be a more hyper-addicted version of your friend on FaceBook who you share stuff with” says Ron Faris, Head of Brand Marketing at Virgin Mobile USA. 

Digiday says in its article that “According to Faris, people who view Virgin’s content are 30% more likely to consider becoming a customer, because they have an affinity for what the brand represents”. So clearly the newsroom strategy seems to be working for Virgin Mobile USA.

There are numerous examples of such Brand + Media partnerships, though the Virgin – Buzzfeed partnership is possibly the newsiest of the lot. Forbes’ partnership with SAP titled SAPVoice as part of its larger BrandVoice initative is another relevant example. 

The most interesting and intriguing partnership though is The Creators Project where Intel has partnered with Vice. The Creators Project is possibly the biggest content marketing partnership thus far – the sponsorship is estimated to run into “tens of millions of dollars” annually, and comprises of a website and events. A good description of the partnership can be read here. 


What about India? Are there any examples of such Brand + Media partnerships? 

Content Marketing / Real-time marketing of the kind we have seen thus far are still nascent in India. This has to do with the fact that the Indian media market is still evolving, unlike in the West. In my post on Real-time Marketing I had cited Amul whose weekly hoardings are clearly examples of Real-time marketing, though clearly they do not use social media as much. 

Recently Unilever’s Tresemme launched a partnership with one of India’s leading blog networks Indiblogger around hair care. Tresemme also has a channel on Youtube with a number of DIY videos. Apart from Tresemme, I haven’t found any compelling examples of content marketing in India.

However if we consider MediaNet, which is the arm of the Times Group that enables content marketing through Bombay Times and other city supplements that are clearly labeled as advertorial supplements, then we do have a flourishing content marketing industry in India.

The tweet below captures it best.

Additional Readings

I recommend this wonderfully written HBR article by NewsBeast CEO Baba Shetty and Wharton marketing prof Jerry Wind; clearly a must-read for anyone interested in the Brands as Media meme.

 Shetty and Wind argue that to master the newsroom mindset, Brands will need to continuously create “an enormous amount of useful, appealing and timely content”.  They argue for Brands to move from their traditional campaign model with its “miserly output”, “ponderous slow-moving” decision making to one that emphasizes speed of output, volume and agility of response.

Whatever Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, this race will go to the swift!


Now onto a slightly different topic, a rather self-congratulatory one at that!

Yahoo recently acquired Summly, a news-summarizing app that I had reviewed in a previous post. I am delighted to point out that I had indeed highlighted Yahoo as a potential acquirer for these news-summarizing apps given their desire to stock up on Mobile UI talent smarts.  However I had not anticipated the rich (and clearly unjustifiable) valuation ($30m) that Summly could command. Circa and Wavii the other apps that I reviewed, are I am sure delighted at what now they are worth!