What type of company is Red Bull?
The answer is obvious, right? They are an energy drink company, duh. Except they’re not. Red Bull isn’t really an energy drink company, or at least they certainly don’t act like one.
Red Bull is a media company. They create TV shows, magazines, movies, music, and host hundreds of events each year (to name a few of their media-like activities).
Even Facebook classifies Red Bull as a “Media/News Company.”
They sell energy drinks, but instead of just spending money on standard marketing channels, Red Bull was one of the first major brands to recognize that media companies shouldn’t be the only ones who benefit from long-term audience development.
While their competitors spent money on TV commercials, online ads, and radio spots, Red Bull went a different direction. They stopped thinking like a brand and started thinking like a media company.
A media company’s primary purpose is to create content to engage its target audience. That content establishes credibility and attracts a community. With an audience in place, they can then sell access to advertisers looking for exposure.
Red Bull decided it was better to invest in developing their own audience, and to put it mildly, they were really successful at it. As a private company, Red Bull boasts more than $8 billion in sales per year.
Over the years, Red Bull has transformed from an energy drink company to a fully diversified media organization that rivals the engagement and reach of conventional media companies.
But Red Bull isn’t the only brand to capitalize on this trend.
Computing giant Intel publishes regular content via its digital magazine IQ:
Venture capital firm First Round Capital publishes startup-focused content in its digital magazine First Round Review.
Airbnb runs its own magazine in print and digital.
As we move through 2019, here’s why brands of all sizes should begin thinking like a media company instead of just a brand.
The war for attention is always on.
Just twenty years ago, a small group of TV and radio companies were the gatekeepers between brands and the general public. If you wanted to reach an audience at scale, you had to go through these companies, and they seemingly had a monopoly on distributing information.
Then the internet came along and wrecked that monopoly. From a Youtube gamer in his mom’s basement to a corporate airline pilot, no one needs permission to create and distribute content anymore.
This opened the content floodgates — but there’s more competition for attention than ever before. Brands aren’t just competing against media companies and their competitors, but also against cat videos and viral memes.
You have to entertain and educate your target audience if you’re going to win the war for attention. Boring corporate blog posts don’t stand a chance against a video of a cat that thinks it’s a dog.
You need to shift your mindset. Stop trying to promote what your company does, and start thinking in terms of who your audience is, what matters to them, and what they would find most interesting.
When you have your own media property, it’s the ultimate platform for creating content that engages your target audience.
I was doing a customer journey workshop a few years ago. The instructor asked me to consider my ten most recent purchases of $1,000 or more. I documented every step of my customer journey, from my initial need to the “thank you” page after my purchase.
I learned that a majority of these purchases were software/SaaS-related, and I found them the same way: it began by actively searching for answers to a problem I needed solved. These searches eventually lead me to some kind of content about the solution — e-books, blog posts, or similar — which then lead to me becoming a customer.
When I believe a company truly understands my problems and speaks to me in an empathetic way, the more I will trust them and the more likely I am to become a customer.
When you have a media company mindset, your goal is to educate and provide value to your target audience.
Networking is critical to the success of any company. Having a media property gives you a unique way to network with the key players in your industry.
Let’s compare two different approaches:
“Hey super-busy influencer, I’d love to pick your brain. Can we grab coffee?”
“Hey super-busy influencer, I run a podcast with 100,000 listeners and would love to feature you on our show. Do you want to come on?”
Instead of asking for a favor when they don’t owe you one, your media company acts is a platform for beginning a meaningful conversation. It can be the ultimate door-opener. The bigger your platform becomes, the more doors you can you open.
If you’re paying a media company to run your ads or sponsored content, you are leasing access to the audience they’ve developed. The audience remains theirs when your lease it up — hopefully you had a positive ROI. If you want to access that audience again, you need to renew your lease.
When a brand develops their own media property, there’s no lease to contend with. They own the audience from day one.
But is it better to rent or own? Creating your own media site is like purchasing a home: both require an investment up front. When you compare the long-term cost of renting versus owning a home, it becomes clear that it pays to invest in building up your own asset instead of paying off someone else’s.
By developing a media property, your company gains a long-term asset.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
Though he never actually said these words, this quote attributed to car magnate Henry Ford contains a kernel of truth: believing you know better than your customers is the quickest way to ensure your company goes up in flames.
When you build a media platform, you create a community between your target audience and key industry players. This lets you have direct access to your audience’s thoughts and interests.
By shutting up and listening to your community, you can gain valuable insights to inform every aspect of your company — from future product development to the content you create. A media property can be the ultimate tool for insights into your target market.
Your media property is really a platform to build up and out. As you gain traction with your audience, you have endless possibilities to expand your reach and engagement with different forms of content.
Instead of simply publishing words online, you can harness different mediums:
Because you own the platform, you aren’t locked into producing one type of content. You can test and experiment with different content types constantly. Your reach will grow as you do.
Maybe you’re not established in your career or industry yet. If you surround yourself with top industry influencers, their credibility and trust will rub off on you over time.
A media property lets you build your thought leadership and brand by association.
Here’s some criteria you should consider when deciding if you should build your own media property.
What’s your lifetime value?
A high lifetime value is probably the number one reason to consider building a media property. Our average LTV is $80,000-100,000. While we’re spending anywhere from $20,000-30,000 per month on our media property investments, it only takes are a few clients per year to see a positive ROI.
How targeted can you get?
Understanding your audience and their motivations is critical to the success of your content creation (and your business in general). But it’s harder for some industries to identify a targeted audience. The audience might be too fragmented and broad, so the more targeted and niche you can get, the more likely you are to successfully develop an audience.
Can you afford the investment?
Building a media brand is not a short-term growth hack. It requires time and resources to get up to speed. If your company is running on fumes, don’t waste your time.
Who are you competing with?
You’re not going to compete with the CNBC and Business Insider. If that’s your goal, then good luck. You’re competing with smaller niche publishers and blogs. Niche is the future of media, so even if there are trade publications that have a loyal audience, you can simply go more niche.
How much does it cost to build a media company?
Well, how much does a car cost?
It’s a spectrum. A car can cost anywhere between $1 and $5,000,000, and the same is true for building a media company. There’s no set rate or average estimated cost because there are a lot of factors to consider:
We’re not just writing about this stuff. We’re aggressively investing in developing and acquiring our own media properties. These niche properties are transforming us from a service business into a vertically integrated media company. Our team of content creators, SEO specialists, and designers work on client projects and our media properties with complete synergy.
Last year I wrote about a two-way trend where media companies would continue to buy agencies and agencies would continue to buy media companies. This is still true in 2019.
Is this really the future of marketing? At end of the day, who knows. We believe this trend will stick, and we’re willing to place big bets that we’re right.
Check back with us ten years to see if we’re idiots or geniuses 😉