Why Successful Media Companies Win

In this module, we discuss:

  • The definition of a media company
  • Content supply chains and the audience-centric approach to producing and distributing content
  • An introduction to Content Marketing 3.0


  • Audience Depth - the levels of attention and engagement that people in an audience give to content
  • Audience Width - the number of people in an audience
  • Brand Identity - the mission, values, purpose, positioning, voice, tone, look and feel of a business

A former journalist turned technologist at a major media company defines a media company as "an organization whose core competency is the creation of information content which is sold as a ‘product’ and disseminated to information consumers via one or more publishing technologies, including print publishing, radio and TV broadcasting, and Internet publishing."

"I feel that creation is the key to defining a media company," he adds, "as creators and their content really define a media company’s position in the marketplace and their corporate culture."

As traditional media companies have transitioned into the digital age, they are adopting multiple formats of content. For example, the New York Times is historically known for being a newspaper, whereas today's offering of the New York Times features nytimes.com, videos, blogs and podcasts (modern-day radio), in addition to its print publication.

The Content Machine

Media companies have systematic content supply chains and workflows that facilitate the entire operation, which is important for everyday businesses to take note of. In other words, media companies are always in content production and distribution mode, as opposed to content that is driven by campaigns or other start-and-stop approaches.

“It’s not about creating good content. It’s about creating a system that ensures good content," SAP Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliot writes in his blog post It’s Time To Reinvent Marketing. "[Businesses] should instead make a hard separation between (and have different systems for) [marketing campaigns] and constantly-improved 'always on' content."

However, even if everyday businesses divide and conquer marketing campaigns and "always on" content, the key is understanding what exactly that "always on" content should comprise.

Giving Your Audience What It Wants

Media companies were historically successful because they created content that their audiences want to consume — content that consistently and continuously a combination of informative, useful, exciting, inspiring, entertaining, interesting, relevant and relatable.

As a result, their content cultivated ever-growing audience depth (attention and engagement) and width (number of people), exponentially increasing the value of the audience over time.

On the other hand, everyday businesses typically create content with traditional sales and marketing objectives in mind, as opposed to the personal, deep-seated, multidimensional interests of their target customers.

"The vast majority of today's marketing materials are professionally-produced, designed for a specific audience, and talk about customer concerns and problems," Elliot says. "But they typically aren't very engaging or interesting, and do little to differentiate from other vendors. These materials quickly fall into a vast sea of 'marketing mush' without making any impact on the market, while interesting content gets shared ... reaching a much larger audience."

Michael Oreskes, Senior Vice President of News and Editorial Director at NPR, refers to "marketing mush" as commodity content — content that consumers treat with no regard to who produces it, which effectively renders content marketing meaningless to the business behind it.

"There is a possibility that the value of commodity content will just so collapse such that only really distinctive content will actually have value," he says.

Cue: Content Marketing 3.0

Throughout this course, we will refer to what Elliot calls interesting content and what Oreskes calls distinctive content as Content Marketing 3.0.

The essence of Content Marketing 3.0 is content that combines meaningful topics and stories with the right formats used to make them come to life, resulting in content that your target customers inherently want on a daily basis.

In order for businesses to properly enact Content Marketing 3.0, they must create an intersection of their brand identity with the personal, deep-seated, multidimensional interests of their target customers.

Also called lifestyle content marketing, Content Marketing 3.0 is significantly more effective than traditional content marketing because it approaches consumers as sophisticated people, rather than as simple-minded customers.

"When you create content that shows a deep understanding of someone's life experience," writes Te-Erika Patterson on Entrepreneur.com, "they're more likely to share the content with others because we share content that represents who we are."

The Business of Media is presented by yarn, a collective of talent across media, journalism, marketing and design that helps brands create, distribute and monetize memorable content experiences.

For more insights and observations about the future of marketing, check out our publication and podcast.