The Shift From Rented Content to Owned Media, and How it Impacts Your Business

Cole Wiebe
January 24, 2014
Read time: 4 minutes

For decades, advertising and marketing centred around thrusting a persuasive ad in front of eyeballs. We relied on media companies to develop interesting and informative content, and build their audience, and then we rented ad space on their content platform. The media companies owned the audience.

What changed

As a society suffering from serious information overload, we no longer have time to listen to, view or read all those ads, and we’re sick of filtering them out.

Traditional television is on the decline. People are opting for Netflix, iTunes, Tivo, Shaw on Demand and satellite TV, to name a few.

The same thing has happened with radio. We’re choosing iTunes Radio, or SirriusXM to experience only our chosen programming, free of disruptive, time-wasting ads.

The Yellow Pages were once our 'bible' for business phone numbers. Today, it’s just a whole lot more efficient to Google it, then check out a company’s website and reputation online.

Magazines and newspapers are either going out of business or scrambling to go digital. Initially, the surviving periodicals started out with exact digital replicas of their print publications. But more recently, many are selling out an issue to a single sponsor. A single pop-up ad displays when the publication opens on a tablet, and once closed, gives the reader an ad-free reading experience, often enhanced with video and other special features. The cost of publishing has gone way down. Publishers are not churning out pulp any more or covering the costs of distribution, so the need for heavy advertiser support no longer exists. Writers for these publications create free content in exchange for a credit link to their website, and the credibility they will receive as an authority in their industry.

Taking ownership

Google, Yahoo! and Bing were established to index and deliver the best “links” to high quality, relevant content. Google has openly declared war on SEO practices that manipulate search engine results through clever keyword tactics, on-page over-optimization and contrived linking strategies. To rank well today, we must actually give the search engines and natural link partners what they have always wanted, a steady supply of quality, relevant “content worth linking to”, published on a reliable basis.

Despite its decline, some businesses have tried to adapt the traditional advertising model to the Internet, with limited success. Google AdWords and banner ads are popular examples. Studies by marketing analysts indicate that only 8% of Internet users account for 85% of clicks on web display ads, including banners and pay-per-click*. Most of us have learned to ignore Internet ads just as effectively as in other media. The average clickthrough rate of display ads is a paltry 0.1%**, but just under 50% of your traffic will come from natural search***. That means most of your web traffic will come from organic SERPs (search engine result pages) and other inbound links from websites, blogs and social media mentions that recommend your site.

The bottom line: Almost all inbound traffic comes from links. Quality, interesting and relevant content is what attracts links, including the ones on the first page of search engine results.

Search engines monitor social media mentions and engagement, so these influence rankings. And social media can be used to promote blog posts. But there’s a much bigger picture. Discovering where your buyer personas are hanging out online, then engaging with these people, without “selling”, builds real relationships. Nothing beats good old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising, and content marketing allows you to turn it on and off like a faucet.

Old school SEO was convenient, and for the most part simple, even if it was risky and expensive. Business owners handed over fistfuls of money and let the gurus practice their mysterious art. If the ranking and traffic reports showed an upward trend, it was assumed they were doing their job. And then Google introduced their algorithm counter measures.

Many business owners are upset by the shift from rented content to owned media. Others have embraced the new direction enthusiastically. There are definite advantages:

  1. Owning your own media, instead of renting space on an external media company's content, gives you control. Companies will generally hire local copywriters for part of the content, and experts in social media engagement, while handling some of the workload themselves with professional coaching.
  2. Owning your media also adds sustainability. Your marketing doesn't evaporate if you have a tight month and can't afford to cover your AdWords and Facebook Ads budget for a few weeks. With rented media, you could lose your marketing when you need it most.
  3. When you rent, you're throwing your money away instead of building equity.

The question of the hour: Do you believe that in 2014 we must publish or perish, creating regular “epic” (the best article on the Internet for the keywords and topic) content in order to survive and build your brand online? If you’re skeptical, you will never "buy in", investing the money or time required to get fully behind content creation and social engagement the way you need to.

Final thoughts

We're all content developers and media companies now, like it or not. We must "out content" our competition to win and hold market share. Ridiculously valuable, relevant content has become today's marketing currency.

Are you embracing "owned media/content", or still struggling with it? Do you miss the good old days when marketing meant buying ads, and creating the content was a media company's problem?

* comScore

 ** DoubleClick
*** conductor 

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6 comments on “The Shift From Rented Content to Owned Media, and How it Impacts Your Business”

  1. Hey Cole
    A nice wake up call!
    It is interesting about the click through rates. I was just quoting the same stat in my affiliate marketing article yesterday when talking about ads on your blog for products being more or less - a waste of time.
    People need to know and trust before they buy these days. ANd they are expecting content to attract them. In fact a restaurant I was at on Saturday is/was a butcher selling prime argentinian beef for years. My girl told me they also give info on their site about beef cuts, preparing and cooking the beef. They care about their customers and they are super popular.
    The result: the restaurant opened and it's already one week in and almost impossible to get a seat! They have raving fans.
    Great stuff

  2. Cole- I couldn't agree with you more. When I was using Ad Words all I could see what a big expense. I was paying $145,000.00 a year. Some of the key words were running $8.00-$10.00 a click. I realized that Google was the one making out in this not me. I know a lot of the clicks come from competitors. Today I am doing social media and I am getting backward links and have seen an improvement in business.

    1. Hi Arleen,

      AdWords are an attractive option for online businesses just starting out, desperate to get some initial sales under their belts. It's pretty much all they've got until organic search results, social media and linking strategies kick in. But, as you've indicated, over the long term, the cost of those ads can be brutal.

      - Cole

  3. Great post Cole. It was thought-provoking and educational on a topic that everyone can learn more about. I tend not to add to many links to our blog posts, but that is mainly because I am just not a big fan of links, and more links.

    Like anything in business, creating back-links has to be done per situation and not across the board.

  4. Hi,

    Awesome Post Cole. I think that Owned content is always good instead of a rented content. In rented content some times we actually not get what exactly we want. But in our owned content we can write what we want and our worked is improve through that.

    Thank Cole for sharing this post. When I was create my first blog I hire the content writer for that and after couple of months working I fire her and working on my own.

    1. Hi Bhavesh,

      Yours was a common path. Hiring a professional to write for the first while can provide a valuable blueprint to follow, when the owner of the blog takes over one day.

      - Cole

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