We have all heard the oft-vocalized slogan “Content is king.” On the flip side, many of you digital publishers have also probably heard the saying “Distribution is king.” What do I say? Well, to stick with the “king” theme: “Hear ye, hear ye…in digital publishing there is no king.” That’s right, I said it, the king is dead! Ultimate success in digital publishing requires both good content and good distribution (i.e., there is no single king).
While most aspiring digital publishers believe they have the “good content” part of the equation down, how on earth are they (the people with a voice that spend their days pounding away at a keyboard in their basement) supposed to get access to good distribution? We all know that in the offline world getting broad distribution of your content is about as likely as Elvis Presley and Tupac reappearing to headline Coachella 2013 (and I mean in real life, not as some hologram…as cool as that was). Since distribution is so impossible, should aspiring publishers just give up?
Heck no…to the Internet we go. Keep pounding away at that keyboard folks because, on the Internet, distribution is not a closed club restricted to those with surnames like Spielberg and Spelling. On the Internet there are seemingly endless ways to push content out there in the hope that it will get discovered. Need some examples? Well, web publishers have been smartly using SEO techniques for years as a way of obtaining distribution of their content through search. Then came social media and web publishers have been leveraging the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest ever since as a way to get their content to go “viral” (a fancy new word for “distribution”). While there are volumes of articles written about how to leverage SEO and social media to drive audience/distribution (i.e., they are old news), publishers are still in the early stages of learning how to best leverage audience marketing platforms, which have emerged fairly recently as a powerful way to drive content distribution.
Audience marketing platforms vary in type. There are CPC content exchanges (see Outbrain), which allow publishers to seed their content across a network of sites on a cost-per-click payment basis, and there are audience exchange platforms (see Crowd Ignite), which organically seed content thumbnails from participating publishers across a co-op of relevant websites. Audience marketing platforms are a great method of obtaining distribution as they place a publisher’s content in front of a relevant reader who actually wants to read the content at the exact time it is put in front of them. Simple, but genius!
While it’s impossible to know exactly what a web user is thinking at any given time, audience exchange platforms give it their best shot by relying on data-driven algorithms and contextual matching engines to seed content to readers. Think about it, if I’m reading an article about Kanye West, how likely am I to want to read an article about “the ten most outrageous events at an awards show”? Or if I’m reading a recipe on how to bake chocolate chip cookies, isn’t it natural to think that I will be interested in an article about “the best type of chocolate chips for baking”? As exemplified in the preceding sentences, audience marketing platforms pool together content from thousands of websites and use data to try and seed the most relevant articles in front of readers at just the time when the reader is likely to want to read that article. Publishers have begun to leverage these new tools en masse, but smart publishers looking for distribution need to think through the best ways to leverage new tools like these.
Is content king or is distribution king? We can debate that topic for days, but I say that if there is a “king” at all it is the publisher who takes their content and leverages the many tools that exist online to get distribution of that content.