Mark Higginson

How attention flows on the web


21 December 2014

The company, like most brands venturing into content marketing, also struggled to articulate where a publication like SugarString fit in with the company’s overall marketing goals.

Brand lessons from Verizon’s failed publishing venture

Back in October I tweeted this:

Not. A. Clue. Another doomed corporate web publishing venture — this one from Verizon. They just don’t learn:

— Mark Higginson (@markhgn) October 29, 2014

I didn’t expect it to fold so quickly. What is amusing is the assessment of why this happened by those with an interest in selling this idea to ‘brands’:

“If you’re a media company, you’re making a long-term commitment to build an audience, that’s the difference between branded content and a content brand. They should have stuck with it.”

That quote is from Joe Pulizzi of the inappropriately named ‘Content Marketing Institute’. Of course he’s going to suggest this type of work should be a long-term commitment. In actual fact the real question is why, given the number of popular tech news sites that are already in existence, run by media companies, a censored corporate version from a telecommunications business could hope to attract a readership.

“Verizon put the corporate agenda ahead of the journalism agenda, when that happens, it gets out, discredits and ultimately kills the publication.”

So said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at Altimeter Group. This is incorrect. Sugarstring had zero credibility to begin with and was never going to gain any.

The same goes for Dell’s Tech Page One. Given the many other ostensibly independent choices available no one wants to visit a corporate clone. If no one is clicking then no one is reading or sharing and there is no likelihood of any contribution to sales. This is a waste of resources.

The quoted article mentions American Express’ Open Forum as a long running example of a similar effort; this is a site I’ve previously mentioned as being one I’m highly doubtful of having a significant readership.

Back over at the Content Marketing Institute they have decided they know what Verizon should have done. In the comments on that piece someone has said:

“Comcast Business is building a growing business community of content sharing.”

A cursory review of the Comcast Business Community site in Open Site Explorer reveals double-digit shares on posts and almost no incoming links. There is nothing going on here. Almost all of the posts have no comments.

Yet again content marketers are recommending activity that is provably ineffective.

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