In 2018, media companies and B2B organizations that are publishing high volumes of content are finding themselves experiencing a ‘content hangover’. The cost of content production is becoming prohibitive, understanding evolving reader tastes is a constant challenge, and Sales-Marketing misalignment is costing these firms at least 10% in lost revenue each year (according to IDC).
As Idio works to fix these problems with our Demand Orchestration platform, we also have the benefit of sitting down with other forward-thinking content leaders who are rectifying content’s biggest challenges this year.
Today, we’re speaking with John O’Donovan, CTO of the Financial Times. O’Donovan’s work spans from setting out the technology strategy for FT to looking after the engineering teams and “making sure the lights stay on all of our products”.
There’s large remit for innovation, too, meaning that O’Donovan has to keep abreast of the latest technologies and trends to make sure the FT is continually staying ahead when it comes to the process of content creation and delivery.
Jonny Rose: Brands are now trying to be ‘publishers’. What do you make of this ‘content marketing boom’?
John O’Donovan: I think it was inevitable.
Media used to own the distribution channels and the mechanisms for getting content out there but the internet has driven the costs and the amount of investment needed to build those mechanisms down. It has become pretty much zero.
This means everyone who wants to make content can do it. How you build an audience and product has changed.
The differentiators become quality and originality: there is a major difference between those that do content marketing and those that do content marketing well.
Rose: Can you give me an example of a brand doing it well?
O’Donovan: Well, look at Red Bull.
They are so good at investing in content that complements their brand they’ve become synonymous with extremely interesting sports. Most people know them as the F1 Team or through the Red Bull Air Race – they’ve become so good at content marketing people have almost forgotten what they sell!
It makes perfect sense that brands like this are investing in content: the content is ‘sticky’. If you are a brand that can benefit from building a community around what you do then content is the best way to do that. It enables them to have a more direct connection with their customers.
“In my experience, people don’t take metadata seriously. They like to produce content but they don’t like having to maintain and categorize stuff.”
Rose: Do you think news media has anything to fear? Could Mint.com or American Express could move into the space occupied by, say, The FT?
O’Donovan: A lot of it is down to investment in the amount of content you’re prepared to produce. We produce hundred and hundreds of articles, stories, videos – content – a day. There are many, many people dedicated to this job alone.
Compare that to the content team within a brand of 5-10 people. They will never be able to match that or the level of investment we dedicate to producing content.
When you’re a media company you have a content culture throughout the organization: editorial integrity and quality is ingrained into the FT and is recognized by our readership. This sort of credibility isn’t something that newer brand publications can achieve easily or quickly.
Rose: So, apart from editorial integrity, how else will media organizations keep on winning mindshare from brand publishers?
O’Donovan: There are things media organizations will continue to excel at simply through investment and innovation.
In the past ten years, in particular, the FT has invested heavily in data and creating a feedback loop that allows us to see what our audience really wants compared to what we thought they wanted for the first 115 years of our existence.
How we will keep on winning is by always thinking ahead about distribution. We have a policy of ‘universal publishing’: we want our content to be everywhere. A good example of this is Flipboard – it will never be a huge platform for us – but we know there are people with Flipboard subscriptions that think getting the FT on there is cool.
Media organizations need to keep on innovating: we’ve learnt that if we don’t take the initiative other contenders will emerge. Just look at Groupon: newspapers used to ‘own’ the local offers market and now sites like Groupon have taken that away from them.
“If you don’t have any information about what your content is about you might as well get rid of it. The business value is zero.”
Rose: What can learn reading habits teach you about people?
O’Donovan: It can tell you about trends and people’s behaviors.
We study this a lot: trying to identify the best time of day for content consumption and learning about which devices are most popular.
The nature of digital content means the publication cycles have changed: no longer are you constricted to a print deadline in the late evening. Data shows you which topics and types of content are resonating with the audience in the morning when they travel to work, when they are reading at their desk during lunchtime and then they are travelling home again.
If you are committed to being more data-driven with content, it means you have to put your generalizations aside. For us, investment in data has changed how we think about content, what we write about and the workflows around it.
Rose: You’re well known for speaking about digital content and metadata. What is the importance of metadata for publishers?
O’Donovan: Generally, most content companies and people in content marketing are not taking their content seriously enough in terms of metadata.
If you look at the content you produce, the archive you have and the way that you monetize it – if you don’t have any information about what that content is you might as well get rid of it. The business value is zero.
You can’t promote or recommend content to people: if someone likes a particular type of content, without metadata you won’t be able to link them to another piece of content on a similar topic.
Metadata is fundamental to delivering business and customer value through content.
People who use metadata to categorize their content will have the advantage over competitors who don’t have the mechanisms to expose relevant content and serve it to readers.
In the digital space, the metadata around your content is as important as the content itself.
“Organizations who use metadata have the advantage over competitors who don’t have the mechanisms to expose relevant content and serve it to readers.”
Idio works with B2B Technology, Information Services and Financial Services organizations that are looking to change their content from a cost center into a revenue-driver. Our Demand Orchestration platform is used to deliver 1:1 relevance at global scale.