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Opportunities & Threats: Customer Media

What does the future hold for customer media? CPL One’s Sarah Simpson, looks ahead.

By Sarah Simpson

Opportunities & Threats: Customer Media
Sarah Simpson.

A decade or so ago, agencies in our sector tended to refer to themselves as ‘customer magazine specialists’. Now we are more likely to use terms like ‘content marketing’ or ‘customer media’ to describe our offering.

We have evolved to offer a multi-platform, multi-channel service – an approach that in many cases has been essential to reflect changing audience expectations. In other cases, we were the ones urging customers to adopt a more rounded, 360-degree approach to their communications.

In the past, innovative suggestions by agencies sometimes fell on deaf ears. However, during 2023, we saw many clients, perhaps driven by the desire to reduce costs following the pandemic, adopt a more creative attitude to different ways of doing things. They have become braver and bolder with their content, requiring agencies to be creative with how that content is distributed and how income is generated from it.

I believe print will remain a premium product, although on a like-for-like basis, CPL One now prints fewer magazine editions a year compared with 2020. However, the amount of content we produce is higher, because of the continuing growth in digital output.

Despite benefiting from the cost savings from the move to digital, clients still expect commercial revenue to be unaffected. The successful agency must be nimble to achieve this.

CPL One has grasped the opportunity to truly consolidate our position as a customer media specialist, as opposed to a customer publishing agency. Our heritage centres on combining great journalism and great design with strong income generation – and it will continue to do so.

Now, however, we need to apply the same level of expertise and resource to content distribution. Content creation, content distribution and income generation must be of equal importance, and the agencies that pivot effectively to support this approach will be the ones that thrive.

Creating great content is all very well, but if it’s not distributed with a well thought-through campaign, it will not get the visibility it deserves. There are so many strands to effective distribution (including audience research; appropriate channels; performance assessment; data tracking; and conversions) that it requires specialist attention.

This change should not be underestimated. A decade ago, an agency’s distribution responsibility often ended when the magazines were delivered to the mailing fulfilment house. Nowadays, agencies work with clients to create channels that deliver the content directly to the end user.

Building an effective content distribution strategy is crucial for long-term success. That’s why almost a quarter of CPL One’s employees are dedicated to implementing distribution strategies.

For our sector to excel, content creators, marketers and strong commercial teams must work together. Regard it as a symbiotic relationship. There is the opportunity for 2024 and beyond.

This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide (PPG) 2024, which is published and distributed by InPublishing. You can register to receive InPublishing magazine here