Media Companies Are Learning They Need To Use Social Media Influencers, Now
For years, ad execs and editors at major publishing houses ferociously resisted any sort of relationship with influencers. And yet, over the past 18 months, we’ve seen the exact opposite happen: Publishers are now embracing influencer marketing and integrating influencers into their advertising and editorial operations in a big way. Publishers ranging from Hearst to Condé Nast to Univision (full disclosure: Hearst and Univision are partners of Reelio’s) and many more are now embracing influencers, and you shouldn’t expect the magnetism to stop anytime soon.
So what flipped? What was the original orientation that created such resistance between the two parties, and what is the new orientation that is generating such pull? From my perspective, after hundreds of conversations with dozens of publishing executives over the past several years, the single biggest shift has been that publishers have moved away from an orientation of quality to an orientation of scale. In other words, publishers have stopped seeing influencers as content creators who can’t pass editorial muster at Cosmopolitan and Esquire, and started seeing them as scaled distribution channels, ripe for monetization.
Advertisers care about engaged audiences. This puts media companies in a position where they must produce enough relevant content to draw attention and keep up with traffic and to ensure that the content earns a high watch or read time. The pressure is on to fulfill quantity and quality demands. Whereas influencers initially didn’t meet media companies’ quality standards, those companies eventually realized that they themselves were incapable of meeting their audience’s quantity standards.
In today’s content-saturated world, producing sufficient content flow can be difficult. In order to maintain an influx of readers, many media companies have chosen to adopt a contributor model that relies upon influencers to create content for the publication. In fact, Forbes has built a contributor base where content creators, who have their own individual audiences, are writing content for Forbes and bringing their audiences with them. By doing so, Forbes doubled their audience. While this contributor model is text-based, it can be applied to any kind of media and platform.
And more content leads us to higher watch/read time, a statistic that lots of advertisers care about. User-generated content in influencer marketing is proven to generate, on average, seven times the watch time of content created by advertisers themselves.
Surprisingly, media companies found that it is through the sheer volume of that content contributor models generate that enables them to create quality content that maximizes watch time. The more experimental content you publish on your site, the more data you’ll have around what is retaining audience’s attention and what isn’t. But of course, once you create the content, then you have to distribute it, and that’s where influencers’ value to media companies is most important.
Influencers Provide Additional Scaled Distribution Channels With Incredible Economic Value
Media companies are more than just the content they create. They also provide the channels through which that content is distributed. Today, that power has been eroded. And the channels through which media companies distribute content are no longer ones that they own or control. The previous dynamic was to fight this shift. Now they’re embracing it.
When you start to think of influencers as not only sources of content, but also as viable distribution channels themselves, then the win-win relationship between media companies (with their massive archives of owned content and other intellectual property like characters, brands, etc.) and influencers becomes even clearer.
Not only are content contributors more likely to republish the content they make for these media companies on their own channels, but the content they create can be used for various distribution efforts and see a better return on distribution.
Machine Zone, for example, used gaming influencers to create content around their new app and then used the YouTube video that had the highest watch time in a television commercial.
It’s a simple answer to the question of efficiency. Why try to produce higher watch time/read times on your own instead of using content creators who are already maximizing watch time/read time on the content they’re producing?
Repurposing Old Content And Leveraging Intellectual Property Also Helps Media Companies Scale
Content creators don’t always have to produce entirely original content either. Once you find a theme that has stuck with an audience (by looking at great watch time rates), content creators can work with it to remix and redistribute. This is a bit different than just re-sharing content.
On a large scale, how do you re-engage new audiences with Star Wars, a well-known classic? And how do you get more viewers to jump on the newest season Game of Thrones? You repurpose licensed content and distribute.
Media companies (sports networks and entertainment companies in particular) are remixing and leveraging intellectual content to drive more audiences. Take, for example, HBO’s Game of Thrones Beginner’s Guide video. The idea is to catch up new interested viewers quickly and easily using the original licensed content.
And it’s successful. One comment reads “I didn’t know I needed this in my life … but now I do.” You can assume this led to a lot more viewers trying out the show.
The YouTube channel Bad Lip Reading is also a good example of the engagement that can strike when licensed content is repurposed. The folks behind Bad Lip Reading are content creators, and franchises like Star Wars and the NFL have both earned shares, likes and comments from old and new fans alike on a remix of the licensed content — and earned coverage on other sites like SB Nation. That’s how you keep relevancy.
If you’re a media company, a diverse content creator pool can lead to more content that’s more relevant to your audience, more distribution and ultimately more engagement. And that’s a recipe that will make any advertiser happy.
Article written by: Pete Borum0