Why are brands still “renting” audiences?

Darren Herman from kbs+p had a though provoking post this morning about the “Golden Age of Ad and Marketing Technology.”  He wrote that:

Gone are the days where we continually rent audiences from media companies and pay them significant dollars time and time again.  We should not have to do that continuously if we have platforms that allow us to engage with audiences, have them opt-in to participate with us (as a brand) and interact with them over time.

This very topic was one I was talking yesterday around the halls of Rockfish.  I personally think we are the beginning stages of a new trend in digital marketing when it comes to where brands invest their dollars.  In the early dot com days, brands spent the majority of their digital dollars on building their own dot com site and driving folks towards it with big display and search buys.  As click through rates declined and social media came to the forefront, brands increasingly invested in building out their social outposts on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others places where audiences were gathering.  Today I think the third phase is coming where brands return to building their own audiences through a central hub, using the latest social and mobile technologies to usher in a new era of content marketing.

Content Marketing is not a new topic by any means.  P&G has been in the game for over 80 years since introducing the first soap opera and General Mills has been at it just as long with the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  And J&J has shown the tremendous upside in recent years as they bought BabyCenter after the dot com bubble and turned it into a valuable media powerhouse.  But I think the embrace of “brands as publishers” is gaining speed thanks to the confluence of several trends:

  • Rise of Social Technology:  The advantage of big media in the past was their built in audiences.  Thanks to social channels, it has never been easier to engage audiences and spread your content through these audiences.  In fact, content platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, and Viddy have placed social at their very core in order to more effectively promote sharing.
  • Availability of Talent:  The recession of the past few years has been especially hard for people in the media business.  Newspapers are trimming their staff across the country and magazines are doing the same.  The silver lining is that there has never been a better time to find amazing editorial talent to help a brand move towards content marketing.  At Rockfish, we are constantly on the search for Content Strategists and Social Content Developers for this very reason.
  • Increase in Content Consumption:  With the proliferation of tablets, mobile and other digital devices, content consumption is on the rise across the board.  Long gone are the days where the only source of information came from the daily newspaper or the evening news on TV.  This has created a new willingness from consumers to seek information from alternative sources, including those curated or created by brands.
 This shift towards content marketing is still at the early stages for brands, but the trends driving this change are showing no signs of slowing down.  Marketers need to start putting the building blocks in place today to embrace this next wave of digital marketing.


  1. Mike Lewis says

    Dave, it's been a while since we saw you in the Techstars bunker in 2010. Our media platform that was Grogger (and turned into Kapost) has turned into a content marketing platform that is powering many of these large brands. Many brands we talk to haven't yet come to understand the renting vs. owning model. The b2b brands often think of content as just a way to nurture opportunities through their sales funnel. But content, in the model you describe can also fill up the top of the funnel. That's a big change for them and an exciting one (for Kapost and) as a consumer as it's much more authentic.

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