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Why brands need publishers more than ever in the digital age

It’s clear that content marketing remains flavour of the month, and B2B brands are in an arms race to ramp up the content quality and quantity.

What’s less clear is the role that publishers, who were traditionally responsible for the majority of content and information in B2B markets, are playing in this content revolution. This is something very much in my mind having spoken at the SIIA Digital Media Innovation Conference earlier this week.

How things have changed. In the days before the advent of search-enabled inbound marketing, publishers were one of the primary conduits for B2B brands seeking to reach their target audiences – through either PR-enabled editorial or advertising. The alternatives were few and far between, and brands recognised the need to ‘court’ the media.

But the perfect storm of the credit crunch, combined with the arrival of new digital technologies, has switched the power in the information exchange around purchases from seller to buyer, cutting out the publishing middleman… or at least profoundly changing the intermediary role.

Brand journalism is flavour of the month, with B2B brands increasingly publishing their own content in an effort to drive more effective, integrated marketing, and develop closer customer relationships. What brand content often lacks, however, is objectivity and integrity – ultimately buyers know vendor-originated content has an agenda.

This presents publishers with the challenge to evolve and innovate, to develop new types of services and deliver them in new ways to new audiences – or risk oblivion. This demands a deep level of collaboration around content that is a world away from that required for old-school advertising.

But this realignment cuts both ways: publishers need to be more flexible and work in ways that they might not previously have considered; brands need to respect and embrace the different dynamics inherent in working with entities a different levels of integrity and closer relationships with audiences. Publishers are not agencies, and should not be treated as such.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but if both parties can get it right, there is much to gain in terms of increased revenues for publishers and more resonant communications for brands. Get it wrong, and both sides risk losing out as the content revolution gathers pace.