Condé Nast on How Digital Has Changed the Concept of In-House Agency - eMarketer
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Condé Nast on How Digital Has Changed the Concept of In-House Agency

June 12, 2015


Pat Connolly
Vice President, Marketing Solutions
Condé Nast

Earlier this year, Condé Nast launched a branded content studio, 23 Stories, which aims to help its advertising partners reach users, as well as ramp up engagement through content that’s been developed and distributed by the publisher’s editorial team. Pat Connolly, vice president of marketing solutions at Condé Nast, recently spoke with eMarketer’s Rimma Kats about the 23 Stories initiative and the future of content marketing.

eMarketer: What was the strategy with 23 Stories? What are you hoping to accomplish with it?

Pat Connolly: 23 Stories was a new entity that we launched based on three product pillars that we think are creating an extraordinary new offering in the market. Those three pillars are data, content and distribution.

Historically we might’ve looked into syndicated research sources or traditional advertising data sets to understand consumer behavior, but now we’re actually looking at the editorial-level data where we can understand the likes and dislikes of individuals at a pretty granular level.

The second piece is the creation of the content. At Condé Nast, and most other media companies, you have the business side and the editorial side of the equation. At a creative agency, that offering is obviously all-in-one. You work with an agency, and you’re leaning on their best and brightest from a creative and strategy standpoint. We want 23 Stories to be an offering for clients that resembles the type of a strategy dynamic that they have with an agency. This isn’t about a media relationship—this is about us being a creative partner to a client.

“The participation of the editorial teams is something that we have access to now that we haven’t had access to before.”

The last piece is distribution. We’re a creative partner that also happens to have distribution. When we talk about the breadth and strength of our creative offering, we also talk about the fact that not only can we build great content for you, and that content can live across your owned and earned channels, but we also can provide that paid footprint, the ability to distribute that content across all of our platforms.

eMarketer: You mention that old-school mentality where the editorial and business side are different. Now they are fused together. Are the lines blurring?

Connolly: The lines are being redefined. In the print space, that understanding of the distinction between the two was very clear because you could understand you had a physical product that you held in your hands. In the digital space, those boundaries are ill-defined. Looking at digital, we’re seeing more modern models for how we make sure that a consumer understands what’s underwritten or paid content vs. editorial content.

Also, the participation of the editorial teams is something that we have access to now that we haven’t had access to before. We need to make sure we have distribution models that identify content as paid so that a consumer knows that it’s paid. However, that shouldn’t stop us from creating the best possible content for that brand.

“For brands to compete in the digital space, they have to be as interesting as or more interesting than everything else out there.”

eMarketer: How will you go about differentiating that?

Connolly: We have general guidelines for all the brands, and some of the brands interpret them differently. We’re looking to roll out more consistent guidelines and standards across the portfolio. Right now we basically use the phrase “sponsored content” for any content that’s underwritten or created by an advertising partner.

eMarketer: Will native advertising be intrusive to readers?

Connolly: Traditional advertising models are struggling in the digital environment because of people’s ability to tune those messages out. For brands to compete in the digital space, they have to be as interesting as or more interesting than everything else out there. Brands are committing more to try and create higher-quality, interesting content. Even if it’s marked “sponsored content” so that the reader knows what it is, that doesn’t limit the level of engagement. If it’s great content, it transcends the label.

eMarketer: Is content marketing the future—is that where everything is shifting to?

Connolly: Not everything is shifting to that. There will still be a role for traditional media in the same way there is a role for broadcast television and print and even display advertising. However, [sponsored content] will be a much bigger share of the communication strategies of clients. There will never be a shortage of inventory; there will never be a shortage of exposure or contact points. What there is a shortage of is attention. We will never have more than 24 hours in a day, so that amount of time will stay finite regardless of how much content is created.

Brands are starting to figure out that they’re in a battle for attention. Unlike traditional, more interruptive media models, those models are less relevant because they ultimately need a consumer to go out and seek their brand as opposed to saying we’re going to interrupt some other experience. Because of that, content marketing is really the best shot advertising has.

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