Custom media playing a bigger role for publishers, marketers

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CME Group, the world’s largest derivatives exchange, introduced CME Group Magazine in 2005. But it’s only been in the last year that it has started turning to its advertising customers as sounding boards for the content of the quarterly publication (15,000 circ).

“We talk to customers because they know what’s relevant. They don’t set editorial, but we want their input,” said Pamela Plehn, associate director of strategic communications for CME Group. The magazine “has good writing and good design; and tying the product to our overall marketing efforts makes the content valuable.”

Plehn discussed how custom media is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for CME Group during the recent Custom Media Day: Growing Your Custom Media Business in a Social Media Age.

The one-day event was put together by American Business Media, the Custom Publishing Council and Junta42, a vertical search site for content marketing. It drew about 100 executives who work in custom media (up from about 70 who attended a similar gathering in 2008).

“This is what I call a ‘fight for content,’ ” Joe Pulizzi, chief content officer of Junta42, who hosted the event, said in reference to the growing appetite among media companies for a larger share of custom media.

“Think of how your competition has changed: SEO companies, social media, traditional ad agencies, traditional publishers. They’re all getting into custom media.”

Custom media products, which are designed to strengthen the relationship between marketers and a given audience, are often used as branding tools. But amid the economic slump, b-to-b marketers are more often looking to custom media to generate sales leads.

Take the case of software company HubSpot. In 2007 it launched, which measures the marketing effectiveness of a Web site, and since then has added more than 100,000 opt-in e-mails to its database, said Mike Volpe, VP-inbound marketing for HubSpot, who participated in a panel discussion titled “Hear What The Clients Are Saying.”

Volpe said online custom media products work well with the proliferation of social media. “It’s another interactive tool, just like blogs, and is something people can use, share and promote,” he said. “Publishers have the assets to create more content, which is real important in terms of search engine optimization.”

A study released earlier this year by the Custom Publishing Council illustrated the growing appeal of custom media. Based on a phone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Roper Public Affairs and Media, the study found that custom publications have a positive effect on purchasing behavior.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said the companies that provide information about their products in custom publications help them make better purchase decisions; 63% said they have bought something they saw mentioned or advertised in a custom publication.

“There’s definitely been an increase in demand for [digital] custom products,” said Marcus Grimm, marketing director for Nxtbook Media, which produces digital publications. “The problem you run into with microsites is they look just like Web sites, and advertisers want something different.”

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