How to Grow Content Marketing Dollars (Without Cannibalizing Traffic or Ad Spend)

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Content marketing is increasingly dominating the B2B conversation (according to a recent study from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, 76 percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing efforts in 2016). And with just 30 percent of B2B marketers considering themselves effective at content marketing (down from 38 percent in 2015), B2B publishers have a golden opportunity to tap into that hunger.

But with that opportunity comes some serious questions for publishers: do you have the enough resources in both content and sales? Can you scale your content marketing programs or will you be running in circles doing one-offs? And can you build a significant content marketing business without cannibalizing content traffic or advertising dollars?  

Chicago-based CFE Media, which serves commercial, manufacturing and industrial engineering markets, thinks it’s created a solution via Content Stream, a SaaS product that that takes existing publisher content and acts as a content feed for advertisers (CFE director of marketing Patrick Lynch gave a demonstration to Connectiv’s Digital Media Council last week, see that presentation here).  

How it works: as CFE develops editorial content, it’s stored in a cloud based content stream database—including text, video, research­—and catalogued by keywords, industries, even performance of the content. CFE sells advertisers a feed to that content which allows them to log in, select topics and preview content, which is initially streamed to the advertiser’s website but can also be repurposed for blogs, newsletters and social media. Publishers can license Content Stream in the same manner for their own markets (IEEE Spectrum is CFE’s initial publishing client).

Below Lynch outlines how CFE dealt with three of the biggest challenges facing publishers with content marketing. 

 1. Avoid Cannibalizing Ad Dollars

Content marketing dollars don’t just magically appear. Advertisers will need to divert those dollars from somewhere else and for publishers, it’s critical that “somewhere else” isn’t the advertising dollars it’s already getting from the client.

CFE requires that marketers who want to use Content Stream also be advertisers in other CFE products. “We won’t let marketers syndicate our content to their website if they don’t think its good enough to advertise in,” said Lynch.   

Content Stream features a tiered pricing plan in which marketers can get 50, 100 or 150 articles per year. The 100 article plan costs $5,000 per month, which breaks down to about $600 per article (the 150 article package costs $75,000 per year). Each tier requires a 12 month contract. “It’s not an ad campaign, you don’t turn the faucet on and get a bunch of content then turn it off,” said Lynch. “A 12 month effort is critical.”

Developing a deeper relationship with the client is also critical. While Content Stream can be completely turnkey for advertisers, CFE provides analytics on how content is performing, from open rates to referrals. “We can ask a client about their buy cycle, and work with them on different types of content to appeal throughout that buy cycle,” says Lynch. “We offer a lot of analytics but we’ve found clients want to share their analytics with us as well. You become a kind of consultant to them rather just an outlet for content. The relationship side of things is very important part of what content stream can do.”

It also exposes the publisher to new areas within the advertiser. “As revenue it becomes an annuity but with relationship building, it helps us to know our clients better. What’s key is identifying revenue buckets outside of the marcom spend—it can come out of the client’s design budget, social media budget, agency budget and so on,” said Lynch. “That’s access we haven’t had before. We didn’t want someone to take $60,000 out of advertising and put it into content stream. We’ve seen the total spend go up for both advertising and content marketing and that’s a testament to relationship building. We’re no longer just the publisher guys, we’re part of their planning.”

In the four years that Content Stream has been available, Lynch said that CFE is seeing renewal rates of 100 percent among marketing clients.

2. Avoid Cannibalizing Traffic

Another danger of re-purposing publisher content to other sites is that it will cannibalize traffic to CFE sites. CFE avoids that by including a syndication source tag in each piece of content that tells search engines that CFE is the original producer and that this content is syndicated. At the bottom of every syndicated article, a link back to the original content is featured. Since offering Content Stream, Lynch says that CFE sites have actually seen an uptick in traffic. 

 Protect Yourself on Rights Issues 

Copyright issues are being litigated more aggressively (many B2B publishers remember getting legal-sounding demands for payment last fall related to a decision in the decade-old New York Times Co. versus Tasini case in which a freelancer sued The New York Times and database providers such as Lexis Nexis and Dialog for re-using content). While content marketing may be a big revenue opportunity for publishers, it can also leave you exposed to future litigation if you don’t have all your ducks in a row.   

With the development of Content Stream, CFE reworked its content agreements with both internal authors and external contributors. “We needed to make sure that we were as buttoned up as possible,” said Lynch. “Each one clearly states that your article can be used in CFE products, but can also be syndicated to multiple websites. Any content or image that we have, it has to be signed off on, otherwise we could be liable for copyright.”

Content Stream is also offered as a non-exclusive product, so marketers can license the same content. “From a publisher side, that’s very attractive because you’re not cannibalizing your content because an advertiser wants them exclusively,” said Lynch. “We’ve actually had success telling advertisers that their competition has used ‘article x.’” 

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.