Sometimes, Publishers Need to Give Content Away to Get

Although our target (Z Squared Media) as a media company is corporate marketers, I get the opportunity to talk with publishers on a consistent basis. There is one constant that I find with publishers, no matter the size or industry – They don’t like to share.

Let me explain. Publishers love to leverage content from editors to position as their own … that’s basically what publishers do. We leverage great content from multiple sources and sell against it (advertising or paid content). It’s been a great strategy for years, and should continue to be so. But if you asked publishers to promote content that is not theirs and does not reside in their print magazines or websites, you better put away the knives and torches.

But that’s exactly what publishers need to do more of.

Here’s the rationale. To excel, a publisher needs to be the industry expert. They do this through content. BUT, there are hundreds, if not thousands of experts in our industries that bang the industry drum through blogs, white papers, webinars and more. There is no possible way, in my opinion, that a publisher (or magazine) can position themselves as the industry expert without bringing those industry experts into consideration.

Let me give you an example. Our goal at Junta42, from the beginning, was to be the leading source of content marketing information on the planet. No matter how much great content in multiple formats we produced, there was always someone, somewhere producing great content marketing information as well. So, we decided to create the Junta42 Top Content Marketing Blogs.

The idea of the Junta42 Top 42 was to develop a list of the top content producers in our industry (content marketing) and keep it updated. We developed a rationale for judging, and every quarter we release a new list. We started with 81 blogs three years ago, and now have almost 400 blogs that we review. As you’ll see, we promote the best blogs in the industry and link out to those blogs. Yes, we actually send people away from our site, with no strings attached.

Why would any publisher in their right mind do that?

Since launching the list, that web page has been our most popular, with over 20,000 unique visitors to that page alone. The list also gets over 1,000 inbound links directly to that page. It has single handedly been responsible for the majority of our enewsletter and RSS signups, as well as signups to our matching service (our main revenue driver). Simply put, it’s a traffic magnet and core to our business model. It also positions us as the experts in the content marketing industry by highlighting the best content in the industry (even though it’s not ours).

You might say, “Joe, this has been done for years with directories” and you would be right. Except that directories are direct revenue generators. Our top blog list is definitely indirect. We give this information away freely.

Yes, this strategy drives business for us, but it also has driven opportunity. Junta42 now has relationships with the majority of the top industry bloggers simply because of the list. They love the fact that we promote them, and they always take our calls or open our emails.

My advice is this … if your goal is to be the industry expert, you’ll need help from freelancers, bloggers, associations and more. By helping the other content producers in your industry, you can solve a lot of your own web problems as well as reach your own goals.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO of Z Squared Media, LLC, LLC, whose brands include Junta42, the Content Marketing Institute and SocialTract. Joe also speaks around the world about content marketing and sometimes promotes his book, Get Content Get Customers , called THE handbook for content marketing. You can reach Joe at joe[at]junta42.com.

To Blog or Not to Blog, That Is the Question

By Tonie Auer
DFW Chapter President

Occasionally, other bloggers can say things so much better than I can. This time, it’s Joe Pulizzi. The author, speaker and strategist for content marketing and founder of content matching site Junta42 marked his 37th birthday with 37 reasons to blog. And, they’re good ones.

Here’s a sampling:

5. You can’t be taken seriously in social media unless you have a robust, consistent blog. That’s the truth. Deal with it.

7. A blog is search engine candy. Google loves blogs and Google is hungry. Feed the beast.

8. A blog is an industry game changer. When the buying decision comes down to three or four companies, the company website with consistent, relevant content is 60% more likely to win (Custom Content Council stats).

11. How can you be successful with Twitter, Facebook and other social media without generating consistently relevant content through a blog? Remember, content strategy comes before social media. That content strategy can be executed through the blog.

13. A blog can serve as the content hub for your enewsletter, print newsletter and company magazine.

14. Your customers want and need to be inspired. Is there a better way to inspire customers than through consistent content gifts through a blog.

So, go forth and be inspired by Joe. He gave me this great idea for a blog post.

No Solid Answer to ‘What’s Next for B2B?’

By Marisa Palmieri
Cleveland ASBPE Vice President

There was lively discussion and many interesting ideas shared at the Cleveland chapter of American Society of Business Publication Editors’ meeting this week. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there weren’t any concrete answers to the panel topic of the day: “What’s next for B2B?”

Panelists included:

  • Nathan Kievman, a social media strategist and trainer who cofounded Woovertise, a social media marketing company.

  • Richard Jones, group editor for Meister Media Worldwide’s ornamental publications, including Greenhouse Grower, Today’s Garden Center and Ornamental Outlook.
  • Joe Pulizzi, founder and chief content officer of Junta42, a content marketing/custom publishing community, search engine and resource, including Junta42 Match – a free Web service that helps businesses and marketing professionals connect with publishing vendors to produce content projects. He’s coauthor of Get Content Get Customers.
  • Mike Malley, a veteran publisher, sales manager and editor at two Cleveland-based B2B publishing companies; he’s currently director of advertising sales for Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Much of the discussion focused on social media and how editors and publishing companies are and can be using these tools to leverage their brands.

Kievman acknowledged that the return-on-investment figures for social media are still unknown, but he said it’s all about moving traffic. Any effort that goes into social media should be part of an organization’s larger strategy. Establish a goal and drive the traffic generated from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other tools to one destination.

“Funnel it all to one place where you can capture whatever it is you’re going for, whether that’s eyeballs on a message, traffic to a landing page or a spot where you’re capturing e-mail addresses,” Kievman says.

Jones described Meister’s recent Web and social media developments as “deliberate” rather than “cutting edge,” because many of the publications’ readers are rural and have only recently converted from dial-up Internet to high-speed services.

Over the last year, Meister publications like Greenhouse Grower have upgraded their sites to include Web 2.0 features like video and podcasts. Editors also are exploring social media. They’ve established a social network for readers via Ning.com, and they’re Twittering, too.

The biggest challenge, he says, is staying on top of all the new efforts. To do so, each magazine group has named one editor as an online editor.

“Though it’s not a management-level position, we’re treating this as a leadership position,” Jones said. “It’s more than just data-entry and the mechanics of it.”

Ultimately, it’s taking some effort to get print-minded editors to adapt to the Web, but with some encouraging, they’re coming along, he said. Though they’re not making money off social media directly, the goal is engagement and driving traffic to their Web site.

Pulizzi challenged attendees to think of their top five customers as their competitors. If customers are not already creating content that competes with the industry’s trade magazines, they soon will be, he says. Marketers are realizing their Web sites have to be more than virtual storefronts – they need to provide resources to their customers, whether that includes discussion forums or blogs with best-practices information.

“Fifty percent of the advertising dollars they’re pulling back on are going into creating their own content,” Pulizzi said. “Right now 30 percent of customers’ marketing budgets are going to their own content and 70 percent is spent on paid placement. Over the next decade, that will flip.”

Malley shared that Crain’s Cleveland Business, which sees itself more as a weekly newspaper than a traditional B2B publication, is primarily in cost-control mode due to the economy. The big question is, “What does Crain’s want to be when we emerge?”

Malley doesn’t have the answer, but he says at some point the publication will go all digital – whether that’s in three, five or 10 years, he’s not sure, especially because digital sales currently only make up 1 percent of the magazine’s top-line revenue.

One trend Malley sees is a continued focus on aggregators. For example, Crain’s Morning News Roundup e-newsletter is one of its most successful digital products. It typically only includes a few Crain’s stories and it aggregates all of the business news from around the state.

What does that prove? Regardless of who’s creating the content, it’s incumbent upon B2B publications to deliver what their readers want. As Malley says, “Relevancy matters.”

Highlights from New-Media Webinar

Photo: Martha SpizziriBy Martha Spizziri
ASBPE Web Editor

“Anyone can launch a media brand. The time is right now, especially because buying behavior has changed.” That’s the judgment of Joe Pulizzi, who copresented the ASBPE webinar “A B2B Journalist’s Guide to Creating the Next New-Media Resource” on Monday.

Pulizzi is founder and chief content officer of the content-marketing community Junta42. He also launched Junta42Match, a service for matching up buyers and sellers of custom publishing services. Presenting with Pulizzi was Harry McCracken, the former editor-in-chief of PC World, who left that publication to start the personal technology blog Technologizer. The site launched this year with zero traffic, but was getting 950,000 monthly page views and 400,000 unique visitors per month by its second full month of operation.

Although both presenters offered advice for editors who want to start their own ventures, most of their suggestions would be just as helpful to existing media companies planning to introduce a new-media property. Pulizzi explained how buying behavior has changed, and what that means for those who want to provide B2B information online. “More than 90% of business purchases begin online. So you have to find out how they’re using that information and become part of that process.” Here are some of the other tips he and McCracken shared during the webcast:

Know where the money will be coming from before you start. Joe Pulizzi says a three-tier revenue model works in any market – that is, a new enterprise should be able to get revenue from at least three groups of people. Usually there are a main group or audience and a few ancillary groups.

Copy a model from another industry. Pulizzi used Digg as a model in starting Junta42. eHarmony and AgencyFinder were the models for Junta42Match.

Leave your job with a job. If you’re striking out on your own, Pulizzi advised, continue to write or consult for their old companies while getting a new project started. Harry McCracken seconded this advice, noting that he’s still a contributor to PC World. The writing he’s done for that publishing franchise not only helped keep money coming in as the site ramped up, but it’s great publicity for Technologizer.

Get more advice from the presenters

See all the posts by and about McCracken and Pulizzi on our blog.

Partner with other companies. You can’t do it all yourself, Pulizzi stressed. In getting Junta42 started, Pulizzi partnered with American Business Media, BtoB Magazine, and the Custom Publishing Council. Working with established companies adds credibility to a new venture, and many of those companies will be willing to work with you because they need help figuring out how to build online products.

Treat your audience like editorial staff. Your audience contributes to your site in the form of blog comments and discussion forum posts, McCracken notes, and many of those participants may know more than you do about certain topics. What’s more, based on their input to your site, you might even get to know users you’ll want to hire to write for you. “Don’t think of your community as a database that you can sell to people. Do lots of polls and surveys. Find the best people and highlight their work – and even pay them,” McCracken said.

Use free tools, even if you’re a big media company. Big companies often bog themselves down in processes or tools. McCracken noted that there are many free tools now that are easy to use and comparable to products companies used to pay tens of thousands of dollars for. (For how to avoid getting burned when dealing with free web services, see this post from Technologizer.)

Don’t bother with traditional search engine optimization. That’s Harry McCracken’s advice, and he admits it’s unorthodox. But in his opinion, if you write good content and promote it via the social web, you’ll rank high on Google. (For more, see this post from the blog McCracken on Media.)

McCracken and Pulizzi also discussed specific tools and marketing strategies they used, how to find writers when you’re on a tight budget, and revenue streams beyond advertising. An archived version of this webcast will be available to attendees. Watch ASBPE’s webinar page for updates on availability of the archived version, as well as updates on upcoming webinars.

Getting into the Custom Game

By Joe Pulizzi

I get approached at least once a week by freelancer writers trying to get involved in custom publishing. For those of you not familiar with custom publishing, it’s the business of corporations creating and distributing their own content, much like media companies. Sometimes called content marketing or branded content, custom publishing is challenging for writers to break into because it’s becoming a “reseller” or “distributor” based business.

Learn more from Joe Pulizzi at our Nov. 17 webinar

Joe will share tips on how writers and editors can start their own media ventures at our webinar, A B2B Journalist’s Guide to Creating the Next New-Media Resource. former PC World editor-in-chief (and ASBPE guest blogger) Harry McCracken will also be a presenter.

If you are looking to develop a relationship with a media property, it’s pretty easy to find out who the contact is. Depending on the company’s size, your contact will most likely be a managing editor, editorial assistant or chief editor. If only custom were that easy…

If you are searching for custom business, there are two different organizations to target. One would be the corporation doing the custom publishing, the other would be the custom publisher, which produces the turnkey content project on behalf of the client.

ContentWise (formerly Publications Management) recently found that over 80% of companies produce custom content projects (mostly custom magazines and newsletters) internally. That comprises a $30+ billion dollar industry alone. If you were smart, you’d think to target companies in your expert industries for editorial projects. Titles to contact would be the marketing director, marketing communications manager, PR manager or sometimes even the human resources manager (for employee projects).

The problem with focusing on companies includes three things. First, you are limited in the amount of projects you can get from one single company. Second, the trend is toward nonmedia companies outsourcing to custom publishers. And finally, most marketing types don’t have a good understanding of the publishing process, so getting them to understand that you are needed is hit or miss.

Because of these challenges, more and more freelancers are targeting custom publishers. The upside to getting “in” with custom publishers is that once you develop a long-term relationship, the opportunity for more projects increases significantly. While I was at Penton Custom Media, we used to rely on about six to 10 freelancers for the majority of our projects.

The problem is getting to the “in” part. Custom publishers like using journalists they are familiar with, and usually only go outside when there is a topic they don’t have in their editorial database. Custom publishers literally get tens of calls and packages each week from writers looking for work. Those packages usually end up in the “pile of good intentions” and nothing happens.

That said, the potential will continue to be with custom publishers, since more and more corporations are outsourcing their content, and because of the fact that content marketing is becoming increasingly important to the overall integrated marketing program for businesses in general.

Here are some tips for getting an opportunity with a custom publisher:

1. Specific expertise is key. If you are a generalist, you’ll have a tough time with a custom publisher. Figure out what your “key content expertise” areas are and then find custom publishers that align with that expertise. Once you figure out the companies that match your strengths, the pitch will be that much better.

2. How’s your website? You can send the best welcome package in the world, but today’s editorial directors for custom publishers check out the web first. If they’re at all interested, they Google you or view your website. How’s your web presence? If it needs some work, get moving. [Editor's note: See Joe's previous post, "You Are What the Web Says You Are: Writers and Social Media," for some ideas for beefing up your web presence.]

3. Can we meet? Busy custom editors have trouble making the time to review anything you’ve sent, or even take your call. If there is a way you can swing it that you’ll be in town, future business is more likely. I would say we ended up doing business with almost every editor that paid us a visit.

4. Do your research. Before you give the editor a call, make sure you know the publications they work on. Maybe there is a new section you can recommend for their client’s magazine or website that they haven’t thought of. Sure, some editors might be taken aback, but the ones who aren’t will love you and hire you.

For more, check out this post from the Junta42 blog by guest contributor Tom Peric on the relationship between editors and freelance writers.

Joe Pulizzi is a writer, speaker and evangelist for content marketing and recently named American Business Media’s “Custom Media Innovator of the Year.” He is coauthor of the book Get Content. Get Customers. and founder of Junta42 Match, a marketplace for matching custom publishers and writers with corporations looking to launch content-based projects.

The Freelance Writing Retirement Plan: Create an Asset

By Joe Pulizzi
Founder and Chief Content Officer for Junta42

The writing-services business is anything but easy. Whether you are freelance writing for a traditional publication or writing for a corporate magazine or website, the pay scale is usually the same: You get money for the time you spend. This works out to X dollars per word, per page, per story or per hour. The formula rarely changes.

Good freelancers can increase their pay scale by doing any of the following:
  • Spend more time getting jobs or work, and thus get more money.

  • Raise the profile of your work and talent and charge more on a per-word, per-page, per-story or per-hour basis. Most freelancers I know don’t charge enough (but don’t tell them that).
  • Get multiple stories in the same field, which combines research efforts and can limit the amount of time you spend on your stories (which comes out to more money per hours worked).
  • Do quality work faster and with less revision, thus making more money per hour.
  • Add consulting as an additional line of services in addition to your writing skills.

I’m sure there are a few more, but if you notice, each formula above is all about you, the freelancer, working more or less for more or less money. This type of formula sets all writers up for a glass ceiling, where ultimately it becomes extremely difficult to create a higher standard of living.

I’m sure you’ve heard the idea of making money while you sleep a thousand times. Well, if you aren’t trying to get there, you need to hear it a thousand more times. Look, you have clients and talent and work hard for your money … congratulations. What I would suggest is for you, the freelance writer, to start thinking about your retirement plan. How can you start to do things now that will enable you to work less and make more money for your talents in the future?

The Freelance Writing Retirement Plan is all about creating an asset — creating something that some person or business will see as valuable outside of just yourself and your reputation. Here are some ideas on how to get you there. (Note: The obvious is to create a writing business and start farming our writing work, and possibly hiring writers to work for you. This is the most natural extension of freelance writing. I don’t include this in the recommendations below because, almost exclusively, writers cannot separate themselves from the business. This means you could never leave the business because you have to always stay involved with clients or projects. The examples below, at some point, could survive without you in the business.)
  • Choose a niche topic and begin creating content. Ultimately, you could start by creating a blog. This will get you traffic and build your expertise in that industry (it will also get you additional writing work). The ultimate goal will be to morph your blog into a true media resource site. Once that happens, you’ll start to build an asset outside your own name. When choosing a topic, the more niche the better. Search engines like Google work best for niche blogs and media sites that focus on peculiar and odd keywords. Don’t worry about making money on the site until you build up enough traffic and readership to generate revenue. A couple of options would then be to sell advertising, sponsorship (the best) or products (see below). This should be started while you are working on your real job, which is freelance writing.
  • Create and distribute content products. Most freelancers have thought of this, but have failed to follow through. Using the same rationale as above (niche topic), begin to build your list of opt-in subscribers to your information. The best way to do this is to begin creating free white papers or eBooks that people have to subscribe to in order to receive. You exchange your white paper for their subscriber information. Once they subscribe, you can then email them a monthly or weekly eZine or eNewsletter. Starting to sell products before you have a list is a pretty tough way to go, so build the list first. Make sure that your giveaways are the absolute best they can be. In my experience, most free products are better than the paid products. If the free products are that good, people will end up paying for your other offerings.
  • Create a service that is unfulfilled in your niche topic/industry. Niche industries start out small and under served. As you begin to become an expert, you’ll begin to see opportunities to fill the gap. Consider developing an online service that links buyers and sellers, or offers a very unique service/product that people can’t get anywhere else. Once you’ve created the niche media presence, offering new services will seem more natural. Just think about how Google has launched services such as AdWords, Gmail, Calendar and others as part of its original search service.

There are probably many other directions you can go in, but hopefully this will get you thinking about what can be done. Working for the “man” is a needed service and craft, and if you love it, then do it forever. But most freelancers I talk to are usually searching for something else. That something else for you could be a true asset that can make you money while you sleep or that you can sell to another organization once you generate enough revenue. Now that’s what I call the Freelance Writing Retirement Plan. Good luck!

Joe Pulizzi is founder and chief content officer for Junta42, the leading media/bookmarking site for content marketing and custom publishing. Junta42 Match is the industry’s only buyer/seller marketplace for custom publishing solutions. Contact Joe at joe[at]junta42.com.

You Are What the Web Says You Are: Writers and Social Media

By Joe Pulizzi
Founder and Chief Content Officer for Junta42

My expertise is in content marketing — custom publishing to most of you reading here. When I was asked to submit a blog post, I started to think about all the things you may not know about the content marketing industry … the opportunities for writers in the corporate world, the growth of the industry (now $56 billion and bigger than magazines), and that the stigma that used to surround writing for a corporate publication is now gone. Where it used to be looked down upon, writing for a company like Microsoft is regarded as a pretty cool thing in today’s environment.

Learn more from Joe Pulizzi at our Nov. 17 webinar

Joe will share tips on how writers and editors can start their own media ventures at our webinar, A B2B Journalist’s Guide to Creating the Next New-Media Resource. former PC World editor-in-chief (and ASBPE guest blogger) Harry McCracken will also be a presenter.

All those things are very important, especially to me, since I live and breathe this industry. But, even though all those opportunities are reality, there are some very important social media elements that I believe most writers are missing out on.

Let me explain. Starting back in 2000 when I was with Penton Media, and now with Junta42, I would continually get solicited by freelance writers, at least two to three per week. I don’t mind at all. I need good writers all the time, and you never know when a business relationship makes sense, but I do have a litmus test. Here is what I do when I get an email from a writer looking for work.

1. First I check their website. If they have no website, that’s a problem.

2. Then I check to see if they have a blog. A freelance writer without a blog makes no sense to me. It is the ultimate promotional tool for a qualified writer, yet I find that most writers don’t have one. (For those without a lot of money to spend on a website, use the blog as your website. It costs nothing.) And yes, even those of you with steady gigs should have blogs.

3. Then I check their LinkedIn profile. How many contacts to they have? (Fifty should be a minimum.) This shows me that they really know how to network, which can help with sources for any story. In reality, 100 contacts is probably the minimum.

4. If they pass the first three tests, that’s a great sign. For other references, I Google their name to see if anything interesting comes up. Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg profiles all help. Those tell me that this person has a clear understanding of the benefits of social media, and knows how to use it.

This whole process takes all of five minutes … five minutes well spent. It helps me figure out who I should really talk to, whose work I should evaluate. Fewer than 5% of all the writers I come in contact with pass these four tests. Those are the ones I’m interested in working with. They understand networking, social media, the value of writing as a form of marketing, and that the way you get new business in the writing world has forever changed. You are what the web says you are — and you have almost 100% control over that message. Very powerful.

There is an opportunity here for any writer to take the necessary steps toward a more successful future. Start now, while it still is an opportunity.

Joe Pulizzi is founder and chief content officer for Junta42, the leading media/bookmarking site for content marketing and custom publishing. Junta42 Match is the industry’s only buyer/seller marketplace for custom publishing solutions. Contact Joe at joe[at]junta42.com.