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Customizing custom publishing

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With the slogan “Everyone is a publisher” setting the tone, a group of marketers gathered in New York last Wednesday to discuss how custom publishing is affecting their approaches to marketing and media buys.

Dominating the conversation at the event, Custom Media Breakfast: B-to-B Leaders in Content, were examples of how marketers are offering their own custom content while also partnering with traditional publishers to extend the reach and credibility of their messages.

“The vehicle is channel-neutral,” said Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta42, an online marketplace for custom publishing solutions. (Junta42 and American Business Media were co-sponsors of the event.) “There are so many ways to communicate that custom publishing becomes part of an integrated marketing strategy. Marketing, in turn, is now about information.”

One example, provided by Martha Peterson, managing partner of agency Mediaedge:cia, is Genworth Financial, an insurance and financial advisory company spun off from GE in 2004. Genworth’s entire marketing approach, devised by Mediaedge:cia, became informational, not promotional.

The company partnered with Bloomberg Inc., Dow Jones & Co., Source Media and Time Inc. to create the Springboard Forum, an online “financial dialogue between media experts and producers” to reach out to key influencers, Peterson said. The company also developed sponsored informational landing pages with such publications as Money, SmartMoney and The Wall Street Journal’s “Forward Thinking” advertorial section.

Left behind, Peterson said, were general awareness TV spots “crowded with legal jargon.” The company’s new focus was on providing valuable information that would educate readers and prompt them to contact the independent brokers that offer Genworth products.

“These sections feature quizzes, takeaways, tips and tools, and all prompt the viewer to contact their financial adviser,” Peterson said.

By contrast, the U.S. Postal Service became its own publisher in 2005 with the creation of Delivermagazine. Its purpose is to promote direct mail campaigns by using such custom content as case studies, third-party columns and commentary. An online version introduced in 2007 added podcasts and video case studies of successful direct-mail campaigns.

This informational approach, Deliver Editor Cat Moriarty said, produced a 43% increase in readers’ intentions to use direct mail.

Another home-brewed effort, by Nuance Communications, blended custom publishing with direct mail to prompt companies to consider the company’s speech-recognition telephone system. Nuance produced a comic book featuring disgruntled customers lost in a “touch tone maze,” said Lynne Esparo, senior director of corporate marketing for Nuance.

“We won’t do ads anymore, unless it drives customers to content that addresses solutions,” Esparo said. Speaking of marketers in general, she added, “You’re the experts, and you have to find the best use of that expertise.”

Custom publishing is one area of print that is healthy and growing, said Pulizzi, who served as moderator of the panel. Generating revenue of as much as $5.5 billion, it exceeds the $3 billion invested in digital marketing, and is growing faster than its online marketing counterparts, he said.

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