Every Marketer Is an Online Publisher

Congratulations on your new job: you’re now an online publisher! You may think you’re a marketer merchandising a non-media product. Think again. Every company with a Web site is, at least in part, a media company. As a marketer, this means you must think differently about your brand, consumers, and job.

Kraftfoods.com epitomizes this perspective. It’s one of Nielsen//NetRatings’s top five food and cooking sites, along with media-company-run sites such as Food Network and About.com Food. In April 2006, over 7 million visitors spent over 8.5 minutes on Kraftfoods.com. This brand experience had no associated media buy or competition from other brands!

Now that you’re an online publisher, here are some things you need to consider above and beyond the latest sales figures.

Target Audience

As a marketer, you control your brand’s or company’s Web site. This is your public face. Your audience extends beyond current customers to include all potential users of your product, your distributors and other sales channels, your employees, your investors, the media, the government (particularly if your product is a regulated one), the local community, and the broader public. With a public Web site, your content’s available to a broader audience, including those who love your product, those who hate it, and those who never heard of it.

Content Creation

Corporate content extends beyond advertising, on-product labeling, and related marketing documentation. It includes all collateral, press releases, and public financial information. This content may live on your company Web site or exist on a third-party site, such as Wikipedia, MySpace.com, or a on a blog that may not always be friendly to your brand. It may not even be owned by your marketing department or company.

In addition to monitoring the variety of content touch points that can interact with your Web site and drive users, consideration should be given to keeping content fresh. Like any media company, you should have an editorial calendar, user-generated content, and other techniques to guide content creation. You must also provide guidelines regarding copy and design to assure a consistent corporate message and look.

Consider which media formats are best suited for reaching your target market. Web site content extends beyond text to include podcasts, Webcasts, and video. These may vary based upon your specific target audience and marketing objective. For example, email may be best for distributing ongoing information such as recipes, while a podcast may be best for investor relations.

Driving Traffic

Consider the essentials of Web site marketing to organize and promote content and to drive traffic. This can dramatically differ from traditional product marketing. Here are some ways to keep traffic levels up:

  • Search. Use both site optimization and keyword buys, particularly those related to your brand.
  • E-mail. Develop tailored content for distribution to your house file, or sponsor related content from a media company.
  • PR. Extend the impact of press releases by posting them on your site to enhance organic search. Also consider using and distributing company-developed audio and video content as a part of PR efforts.
  • Advertising. Ensure all advertising drives users back to your site. Consider creating dedicated landing pages to provide targeted visitors with a customized side door to your site.
  • Blogs. Use corporate blogs to provide a human face for your company, and be careful about using corporate-speak.
  • Other sites. Use content on other sites or shopping engines to attract visitors. At a minimum, check to see if your product has a Wikipedia entry.
  • Other corporate resources. Include your message and URL on product labeling, offline advertising, retail signage, customer service, employee correspondence, and annual reports as part of your effort.

Building Relationships

Getting visitors to the site is only the first step. You must engage them to build relationships that turn casual visitors into repeat visitors or purchasers:

  • Navigation. Consider how content is organized on your site. It should relate to how visitors look for your most popular information categories. It should also encourage casual visitors to discover the depth of information on the site.
  • House file. Build a house email file to romance prospects and customers. Follow CAN-SPAM guidelines. Develop an email newsletter that provides customers with value, not a repetitive promotion.
  • Engagement. Use your site to engage with your customers. Include forward-to-a-friend functionality, solicitations for consumer input and surveys, viral promotions, and sweepstakes or contests.


Key success indicators to evaluate include:

  • Traffic. Measure total visitors, unique visitors, and page views per month. Remember, you’re looking at a company site, not a media site, so numbers may be relatively low.
  • Time on site. Assess visitor time on your site and related interactions as an indicator of brand involvement and relationship building.
  • House file. Track the size of your house email file if you’re trying to build the list.
  • Buzz. Track PR impact. Also, monitor the Web for corporate mentions and related trends. Use tools such as Technorati, PubSub, Google Alerts, IceRocket, Bloglines, and Nielsen BuzzMetrics.
  • Branding. Include your Web site in your ongoing branding metrics monitoring to assess its contribution.

A Web site provides marketers with a great way to engage directly with consumers and prospects and to build and extend relationships. You must think like an online media publisher to maximize the opportunity. Consider what content you’ll provide, where you’ll provide it, when you’ll provide it, the context it’ll be in, how you’ll promote it, and what it’ll look like. Consumers, at least the younger ones, turn to the Internet as the first step in their research and purchase process. Be there when they do.

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