Revolution. That's the term Brian Alvey, the man who built the software underlying three generations of digital publishers, uses to describe a buzz that has reached a crescendo over the last 12 months: Advertisers don't want to just make ads that run alongside other people's content anymore; a surging number of them want to be publishers themselves.
"The revolution occurred," Alvey says, "[because] the audience is now in charge."
Brands have been publishers for almost as long as publishers have been publishers. Tractor maker John Deere has been publishing a corporate magazine called The Furrow since 1895. But it was the late aughts when corporations like Coca-Cola and P&G started embracing the Internet's chant, "We're all publishers now." They began trading homepages for magazines, press releases for documentary-style storytelling, 30-second spots for web series.
Today, the chorus has become more frenzied. Because of social media's massive new influence, "publish or perish," is now no longer just the dreaded axiom of academics; brands -- and their agencies -- are saying that those who don't embrace the trend will be left behind.
Perhaps that's overdramatic. But the recent success of brand publishing (and long history) indicate that the practice is more than a fad, and that those that refuse to embrace it may find themselves in a difficult position in a few years.
If you're in marketing, you've likely heard the buzz: Red Bull's magazine circulates to two million people a month; American Express attracts millions of small business owners to its stories on OpenForum.com; Dove's "Real Beauty Sketches" video became the most viewed "ad" of all-time. In response, creative and PR agencies are adding "content marketing" to their lists of offerings and hiring away some of the traditional magazine world's best editors to run publications for their clients. Brands building newsrooms in house are doing the same.
In Contently's new report, "State of Content Marketing 2014," we examine which brands, vendors, and voices are driving the brand storytelling movement, and analyze the four key trends will decide the future of advertising. Check it out here.