Is the race for owned media content sustainable?

One of the reasons public relations is in a sweet spot just now is because of the desire of brands to reach out to consumers and their networks through direct channels. There are numerous interesting examples of this owned content approach in action - including consumer brands like Red Bull and Nike through to the likes of MoneySuperMarket and B2B operators like Capgemini. Brand journalism seems to have turned a corner. No longer is it a phrase that is associated with journalists selling themselves out. Lots of brands spend lots of time producing lots of content. But how much of this owned content gets read? When I think about how I consume brand content, it is still mostly through the established media brands. Whether that is as a spokesperson on the breakfast sofa, an infographic on a website or a quote in an article. Personally do I read owned content from brands very often? Hardly ever in fact - and I'd suggest my media consumption habits are pretty normal. Why do I consume most of my media content through established media brands? I suspect within my subconscious I have a suspicion that there will be a conflict of interests. I do not trust the brand to tell me the truth. The third party endorsement from a journo is important to me. I also suspect that very often this owned branded content isn't sufficiently interesting to make me click on that link to visit the owned media site. It's different if I am already on a site, or I'm already reading a magazine. Then my interested eye finds the lighter stories. Clearly examples like Red Bull are an exception to this rule but it seems to me that to make sustainable, useful and interesting content is not easy for lots of brands. Sometimes brands are just not easily positioned to be able to create interesting content. Organisations like MoneySuperMarket are different – their business is all about helping consumers save money by choosing between different options. Likewise – consultants like Capgemini have a natural advice positioning angle that helps them to create content that fuels engagement of their network. But if you are a soft drinks manufacturer, other than taking the bigger, faster, higher approach of Red Bull – it seems to me they you are going to struggle to create content that is going to be of interest. Let alone entice me to buy the drink. Am I suggesting that owned content is a fad? Of course not but I suspect many brands will struggle to create sustained, interesting content that engages their customers in the long term.

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