Marketing Memos: Content, Commerce, and… Libraries?

Marketing Memos” is a weekly(ish) selection of 3-5 of the most interesting and insightful articles and podcast episodes—curated after I’ve had a chance to process them and identify the best. Follow Free Verse Media on LinkedIn or Twitter to receive notifications for each week’s post.


Joe Pulizzi Shares His 7 Laws of Content Marketing at CMWorld 2019
By Dennis Shiao

“A lot of B2B sales and marketing works like this, according to Pulizzi: run marketing programs to attract leads, then convert leads to opportunities and sales. When a sale happens, throw a party! And then move on to the next sale, leaving your customer in the lurch. In other words: a one night stand. Instead, said Pulizzi, aim to get married to your customers. Don’t have a party only to leave them. Think less about campaigns and more about ongoing content experiences that inspire and delight.”

Pulizzi’s perspective on content marketing is always interesting, even when I occasionally disagree with him or cringe at his archaic analogies, but his keynote at CMWorld included some useful takeaways for marketers fighting the content battle on either side. Whether in-house, advocating for content marketing as a critical aspect of an overall marketing strategy; on the media side, advocating for best practices with clients looking for the ephemeral “something new;” or in social media masquerading as audience development—his 7 laws are great food for thought as you develop your own unique content strategy.

As with so much in marketing nowadays, it was best summed up by Cluetrain 20 years ago: “Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.”

Publishers eye Google moves as potential threats to their growing commerce businesses
By Max Willens, Digiday

“Publisher commerce operations have been a bright spot as they seek to diversify from display advertising. In the space of just a few years, BuzzFeed built a commerce operation featuring nearly two dozen writers cranking out gift guides optimized for Facebook as well as Google. Smaller upstarts now see it as key to their futures. Overtime, a venture-backed publisher focused on high school sports, vows to build a nine-figure commerce and apparel business within the next five years.”

First things first, Digiday got the headline wrong. “Publishers eye Google moves as potential threats to their growing dependence on Amazon affiliate links” would have been more appropriate. Most publishers don’t have anything resembling actual “commerce businesses;” many are simply old-school affiliate programs, predominantly powered by Google (for discovery) and Amazon (for fulfillment), funneling traffic and revenue—not to mention editorial resources—to the latter in exchange for crumbs off Bezos’ overflowing plate. Similar to many other short-sighted digital pivots that centered ad revenue as the problem to solve, it “works” until the platform “partner” has the upper hand and their terms predictably change, requiring yet another desperate pivot. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Comparing Overtime’s branding and licensing plans to Buzzfeed’s algorithm-chasing gift guides does a disservice to both—the latter’s Tasty brand is a much better example of their “commerce” aspirations—and the article effectively buries the lede in favor of Google FUD: strong brands and credible content can drive diversified revenue streams, including bolstering advertising opportunities.

Embargoes Aren’t the Answer
By Rebecca T. Miller, Library Journal

“Publishers understand the importance of physical space when it comes to bookstores: they even pay for premium placement in them through coop dollars. When it comes to libraries, placement is free, but that doesn’t mean it is without value. Publishers should be embracing what libraries offer, not casting their shared lending as ‘cannibalizing’ a bottom line that will only diminish if book culture dissipates from lack of engagement.”

Imagine having literal thousands of publicly funded institutions offer 24/7 marketing of your products—from on-site and online discovery, to on-demand personalized recommendations—and deciding those institutions were your enemy? That’s effectively what’s happening in the book world as certain publishers have decided public libraries are “cannibalizing” their sales despite years of consumer research and anecdotal studies showing otherwise. My former colleague Rebecca Miller eloquently adds her voice to the conversation, and LJ‘s useful infographic makes libraries’ impact clear for even those who prefer seeing the world solely through spreadsheets.

Libraries are Engines for Book Sales
via Library Journal


What Do Big Five Publishers Do for Their Authors?
The Hot Sheet

“At the beginning of the session, Gonzalez said that all authors should have a fundamental understanding of marketing so they can make informed decisions. Regardless of what kind of platform they bring to the table, their publisher will find a way to leverage it, but the author’s willingness to collaborate with the publisher and adapt to changes in the marketing plan is key.”

I had the pleasure of putting together and moderating an insightful panel discussion for WDC19 focused on dispelling marketing myths in traditional publishing, and it got a nice write-up in The Hot Sheet—an excellent resource for authors, and other book publishing professionals who want a unique lens on what’s happening in the industry, produced by one of my favorite friends and colleagues, Jane Friedman. I also covered a few other marketing-related sessions for The Hot Sheet which will be appearing in upcoming issues, so go subscribe!

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