Though it started out as a news site, then syndicated content for publishers, the future of New York startup NewsCred, according to its CEO, will be in selling articles and content to the world's biggest brands.
Current clients include Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson, and Orange Telecom.
But what on earth are giant companies doing paying for journalism?
For corporate brands, there's a very visible return, says NewsCred CEO Shafqat Islam:
"...our service is being used to generate leads, to educate customers, to educate employees, and to drive people down the sales funnel, so there's really a tangible ROI. Take Zurich Insurance, they're a perfect example. They use our content on specific risk and insurance topics to educate their customers, that's number one. Number two is to provide thought leadership, a customer will read content that's useful for their business, then hopefully pick up the phone and call the Zurich financial advisor who's listed.
They also push content through email marketing channels. If they can be useful and provide a valuable, authentic service to their customers, which is why they like licensing content from The Economist or Bloomberg, they found that the engagement and open rates for emails are significantly higher. That's how corporate brands are using it, and I feel like that's a very sustainable long-term play for us. It's not a fad even though, when it comes to content marketing, there's been an explosion of interest. For corporate brands, this is here to stay because it really generates positive business results."
The consumer side is entirely different, Islam says:
"On the consumer side, for Pepsi, they're not trying to sell products, they're not trying to sell services, they're using it more as a way to talk to their customers and have something to say now that they've engaged this audience, whether it's on their website, on Twitter, or on other social media.
Pepsi has these huge fan bases that are now having a direct dialog with them, and we just help them figure out what to say. For the Pepsi home page, instead of a corporate page, they decided they wanted to talk to their customers about pop culture. That's something that Pepsi's stood for, for a long time, so they licensed content from us that's entertainment related; pop culture, music and movie-related and we helped them scale their content efforts because they're not a newsroom, that's not their expertise. We provide them with the content and the technology to power that home page."
In both cases, there's real value. Having a homepage that's full of interesting articles, draws customers in, and creates exactly the kind of conversation they want is extremely useful to consumer brands.
For corporate brands, the return is even easier to see. According to Islam, corporate clients are seeing 30 to 40 percent open rates for their email marketing campaigns in certain channels, which he says is "unheard of for these kind of corporate B2B campaigns."
By being a one-stop shop for the content, providing the technology to use it, helping craft strategy, and dealing with all of the legal and licensing issues, the company hopes to make this decision very easy.
That's paying dividends. At first, NewsCred constantly had to make the case to brands about what they could do with content. Now, companies are coming to them.
Syndication is going to be cheaper, faster, more flexible, and easier to scale than creating content in house. That's what companies look for when they spend marketing dollars. Because it comes from prominent third parties, it has an impartiality and credibility that's very difficult to imitate.
The content's already there and there's a lot of it. What businesses do with it is limited only by their imagination and strategic vision.
Islam's biggest regret? That they didn't start pursuing brands sooner.
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