The last few years has seen the rise of what are known as “acqhires,” where start-ups are bought for their talent and tech, rather than the product itself.
The most recent and impressive example of this was the decision by Yahoo! to pay a rumoured $30 million to buy Summly, an app with less than a million downloads and its team of five — led by its photogenic founder, 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio.
Whilst this will undoubtedly inspire any number of teenagers to develop their own app, it also highlights other trends around how content is being created and consumed, which will have important consequences for brands.
Social Reading Apps Impact News Consumption
Summly is like a cooler, more intelligent Flipboard. It aggregates content that you’re likely to be interested in, and also summarises the content to make it easier to decide whether or not you want to read, watch or look at it.
What all of this represents is a sea-change from the days when news companies, such as the New York Times (whose motto I’ve re-imagined for this post), would decide exactly what was important for people to read or watch. Now, decisions that used to be made by human editors are made by computer algorithms.
Brand PR Strategies
What this means for brands is that PR strategies are going to have to adapt, as they no longer need to create content or events that will get them published, but rather make things that will get them shared.
Whilst PR has always been about creating talkability, this is an important change, as it is likely to impact the types of things that generate this. So, events where you invite all the top journalists are likely to be less shared than interesting infographics that appeal to a particular audience.
Consumer Reading Habits
At the same time, as these reader apps change the way that we read articles and posts. Changes to the business models of the traditional news companies are also likely to have a similar impact.
Many news businesses have followed The New York Times to models that ask some people to pay for access, therefore changing the balance between advertising and subscription revenue. Therefore, these businesses will become less concerned with simply generating as many page impressions as possible and more concerned with creating truly engaging content that people would want to pay for. This example of a truly absorbing story about an avalanche highlights this perfectly.
What all this means is the sort of churnalism that has created an awful lot of news content over the last decade should become less prevalent, at least on quality sites. Instead of just spamming press releases to journalists desperate to hit copy deadlines, brands will need to think about how they can create stories of real interest and depth.
As I explained last month, one way to do this is to make use of existing media budgets so the news companies themselves generate and promote that content for you.
Brands Need Social-PR Strategy
In summary, brands need to reconsider what constitutes PR, but also what constitutes social. Whilst many brands have spent huge amounts of time trying to find ways to talk to customers, and to get customers to talk to them (which is to be applauded), the rise of the readers highlights the fact that it’s equally relevant to think of ways to get customers to talk about you, or to enable existing conversations with truly share-able content.
Real people don’t necessarily want to talk about the products that brands make; however, thinking about what they might want to talk about and getting professionals to create it might mean people end up talking about you, anyway. And, as this fantastic presentation from Martin Weigel (Head of Planning at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam) highlights, remembering exactly this is the best way of ensuring that your brand doesn’t end up failing.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.