John SanGiovanni: That is a great question. That was an interesting snapshot of how you are using Facebook. But I would characterize that style of marketing in many ways as an inversion of what we are doing. What we would do is figure out a way to bring brand-specific content and present it organically to the presentation of your blog itself, instead of syndicating your content out in that way, ingesting content that is being written by the brand agency or editorial team.
The content has to be true and high quality content. It can’t just be an ad campaign. My recommendation to creators of great content is that increasingly brands are consumers of content now in terms of licensing compelling content that resonates with an audience they are trying to attract. Content-based marketing typically falls into two buckets. In the case of the Chevy campaign, they have in-house writers and editorials, and they created that great content because they have exclusive access to engineers at Chevy, so they were able to put together exclusive and cool content. That is one example where brands are sophisticated enough to create their own content. That is rare, though.
Another scenario is where brands just know the audience the audience they are trying to speak to, and then they do a curating exercise, where they try and identify the voices in the wild that resonate in that audience. Then they license rights to that content. It is not necessarily content about the brand, but it is content they can serve and they can be adjacent to and that resonates with the audience they are trying to reach. For a great content creator, this is an entirely new channel of revenue, where they can figure out a way to syndicate their content in support of these native programs.
SM: And who is managing that syndication?
JS: There are a lot of practices within agencies themselves that are content curating exercise organizations. Most often that falls into an agency. But there are also companies like Federated Media, for example, which is a partner company of ours. Their practice is about connecting the dots between great bloggers and great plans, and figuring out how to create that perfectly fused messaging. The new field is this idea of content curation and pairing. We are riding that wave as a platform company, because the more that happens in the marketplace, the more there will be a demand for it on mobile and a demand for ZBi-style platforms.
SM: Federated Media has always been working with bloggers, but they were also focused on working with large blogs and putting advertisements on large blogs. Now you are telling me that they are managing this content syndication process as well.
JS: They do have access to some long-tail content. But if for example UPS comes to them and says, “We are trying to communicate with logistics professionals,” Federated Media would find which voice would most resonate with that type of consumer. In the same way, we have a huge audience of auto enthusiasts.
SM: Talk about the broad industry trends. What do you see on the horizon in this space?
JS: It is a very exciting time in mobile. We have been in the space for a long time, and we feel that 2012 was the year when mobile advertising budgets became their own line item on most major advertisers. It stopped being emerging media, and it started being a real advertising practice. That is great. But it also is a time when a tremendous refinement is happening to the mobile advertisement experience. We did this thing right out of the gate, where we tried to make mobile be exactly like the desktop web, where we all try to stand arm in arm and agree that the 320 x 50 banner was going to be the unit. Everybody created this unit, and then we put a 320 x 50 band aid at the bottom of every conceivable app. Not surprisingly, that unit has become incredibly commoditized.
The fact is that there is an increasing amount of mobile advertising spending – every analyst projects that this is going to increase dramatically in the years to come. We as a community need think about new ways of placing advertising into apps and into mobile in general. That is going to be a very popular trend in mobile. When you are trapped at a bus stop or you are sitting at the doctor’s office waiting in the waiting room, you have the luxury called time. You might read an article from a brand, if it is of interest to you. I contend that that type of content marketing is even more appropriate in mobile than it is on desktop. When you are sitting at your desk and doing different things, it is difficult to find the time to read an article. But when you are on your phone, interacting with a social or content app, you might consume long-form content.
Another trend I find interesting is how the phone is finally becoming the user’s personal content core. In many international markets it is the user’s only personal computer – all their other computers are shared or at work. The idea that this device is their central conduit not only for communication but consumption of video, media and web content, is a very interesting trend. We need to figure out a way how to be respectful of that from a user experience standpoint, and place the marketing or advertising in a way that is elegant, respects the user, and also celebrates the brand.