Full Circle: Agencies are Publishers and Publishers are Agencies

Full Circle: Agencies are Publishers and Publishers are Agencies

Do you ever come across an article that you need to read a few times before you fully grasp the thesis or argument? I enjoy content that gives me pause and makes me think long and hard about whether or not I agree with its point-of-view. This post from Digiday, “Publishers Must Think Like Agencies,” accomplished just that.

In the article, writer Josh Sternberg interviews Paul Rossi, managing director for The Economist, about the profound shifts the publishing industry has experienced over the last 25 years--specifically, how the digital age has forced media companies to completely transform not only their business models but their entire existences. In the Q&A, Rossi makes some interesting statements, specifically:

  • Media companies have become brands, while publishers have morphed into agencies: Rossi reiterates an argument we’re seeing more and more frequently: the lines between media companies and digital agencies are becoming increasingly blurred. Take, for instance, the news that Advance Publications has acquired POP, a Seattle-based ad agency. This move makes sense in a content-driven era where direct marketing through social channels provides brands with 1:1 interaction with their target audiences. While publishers may want and need to act “agency like” for their brand customers, as Sternberg notes, our view is that agency expertise and delivery is still necessary. This hybrid approach may be the solution.
  • Publishers must create “native advertising” on behalf of their advertisers: Again, this speaks to the rise of content marketing and both B2C and B2B brands' reliance on social media marketing. Advertisers seek creative means and methods for reaching their target audiences directly. Rossi equates this to compelling storytelling, which underscores the power of video. Whether or not publishers are teaming up with agencies or making a solo effort to develop advertising content for customers, when pursuing native advertising video is the content marketing medium to consider.
  • Authenticity is key when it comes to content marketing: Whether it’s driven by a brand, a publisher, an agency or some hybrid form, content marketing designed to build brand awareness and foster goodwill must convey an aura of authenticity. Rossi notes that, for B2B brands, while audiences may understand and expect that content is promotional, it must also be useful (i.e. tutorial, thought-provoking, data-driven and insightful). Again, video is ideal in this category because it allows brands to visually represent messaging with precision, humor and emotion.

As the publishing and agency worlds continue to converge and, concurrently, online video ads continue to dominate, another matter that arises is advertising delivery. Independently, both brands and media companies must contend with countless formats and delivery platforms as they work to share video content online--be it editorial or advertising. I look forward to witnessing these players work together to confront some of these challenges. As to whether or not I agree with Rossi’s argument? I'm mixed. I do believe that publishers and agencies increasingly have the same goals, and are “getting smart” in each other's traditional areas of expertise; however, each has their own important role in the branding ecosystem and in empowering organizations to reach critical target audiences. Ultimately, they should continue to work in tandem.