Content marketing has been all the rage in the last 12 to 18 months. As consumers are spending increasing amounts of time online, and increasingly interacting with brands through social media, it’s become critical to deliver brand messaging through informative or entertaining content. For many brands, publishers, and agencies, one of the top tools for doing so is cloud-based content marketing platform PublishThis, which recently rolled out an updated third version of its product.
Founded in 2009 by two former Edmunds.com executives, Matt Kumin and Scott Decker, PublishThis utilizes semantic search technology to discover relevant and trending content within over 250,000 topics across industries such Sports, Politics, Entertainment, Business, Health, Travel, and Autos. Brands then publish or share this content through social media or their own blog – either as a supplement to original content or independently – with the goal being to “engage customers, amplify website traffic, build thought-leadership, improve competitive intelligence, and increase lead conversion.”
PublishThis currently has hundreds of clients, including such high profile names as Viacom, MTV, Cox, Ziff Davis, PaidContent, Sporting News, Skift, FIJI, and LegalZoom. Through its agency clients, the product reaches an entire second level of brands such as 3M, Microsoft, General Mills, and Target, which are managed by The SocialWendy Group in Minneapolis.
One category where Kumin hopes to increase its presence is in ecommerce. This makes sense given the trend of connecting content with commerce.
“Ecommerce is struggling at the moment to find a way not just to monetize that moment of clicking the ‘buy’ button, but about how to create an ongoing relationship,” Kumin told ContentPing. “Customers don’t want to be in a one-sided relationship with brands.”
In today’s 24/7, instant gratification world, it’s incumbent on brands to always be communicating with their consumers. Thus automating content marketing and reduce digital publishing costs are attractive concepts. PublishThis’ newest product update adds a social monitoring algorithm which monitors what’s being shared in real-time across the major social networks in the topics most relevant to each client. The platform’s updated analytics tools measure conversion of original and third-party curated content.
The company offers curation tools which allow companies to customize this curated content, through adding annotations, highlights, comments, and meta tage, before republishing it on a company website, in email newsletter, or through social media feeds. Another new feature is PublishThis’ wordpress plugin which acts as a white-labeled hosting widget allowing companies to feature real-time curated content on their Web pages. This may take the form of a “related content,” “trending,” or “elsewhere on the Web” section alongside original content created by the brand.
Brands pay an annual license to access the PublishThis software. Three tiers of pricing range from the “tens of thousands of dollars” to “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to Kumin, depending on the number of topics and sites a company is managing, the frequency with which they publish curated content, and other volume measures.
PublishThis is not alone in the content curation sector, but competitors like CurationSoft and Curata lack the semantic search technology available through this latest update, Kumin says. It’s one thing to monitor keywords, but to deliver contextual relevancy around common words and phrases that can have dozens of meanings is where the real value lays.
For example, in a given piece of content, the word Apple could mean the technology company, the Beatles’ record label, and the fruit. Similarly, news on a particular actor could refer to their latest film, their philanthropic efforts, their family life, or a product that they’re hawking. In either example, a single topic among these various instances may be relevant to a brand, while the others would not. If a software package is going to enable brands to automate content curation, it needs to be able to differentiate among them. This is where PublishThis excels.
The biggest limitation of the software currently is that it only surfaces editorial content (aka, text). Today, so much of content marketing by brands is done through images and video shared on social networks – Instagram and Pinterest anyone? For PublishThis to offer a comprehensive solution, it will eventually need to surface content in these forms as well.
Publish this raised $5 million in Series A financing in January 2011 primarily from angel investors, including undisclosed partners at the private equity firms Great Hill Partners and Silver Lake Partners. The company has been investing heavily in its team since raising this round, with a focus on those data scientists capable of developing today’s improved semantic search engine.
Take a look at recent trends and it’s no stretch to conclude that brands will increasingly have to deliver their messaging online. Magazines and newspapers are going the way of the dodo. Consumers are increasingly cutting the cable television cord and sourcing their video content online. Social media is the new water cooler, barber shop, and wine bar. If brands want to be a part of consumers’ everyday conversations, they need to do so in the locations where they’re congregating (whether that’s physically or virtually).
The challenge is that it’s expensive and difficult to create high quality content. There is enormous value in tools like PublishThis that can add efficiency to the process. Kumin’s company has already added several premium clients and is well funded by several deep pocketed backers. The challenge now is to press the accelerator and do all of this at scale.