Customer choices

An opportunity to serve the media functions once owned by publishers

Hubspot, the inbound marketing platform that helps its clients host and offer targeted content, recently revamped and relaunched its blog as Inbound Hub. After it went live, Kat Meyer sent me a link to coverage on Openview Labs, written by Jonathan Crowe.

Crowe interviews Jay Acunzo, senior manager of content at Hubspot, who explained why the company felt a need to change its approach:

We’re really up against the known edge of what content can do to drive business right now — nobody knows what this stuff looks like at great scale. When I joined HubSpot to head up content, I saw how our scale — the volume, variety of post topics, different goals and formats, and a big network of contributors — was starting to break that standard single-column business blog. It’s totally new territory compared to a company struggling to publish weekly without going dark.

To address that content "glut", Inbound Hub was reorganized "to create more topic-specific and reader-friendly subscriber options". Moving away from a single-column presentation also meant that site navigation had to be rethought, so that it would balance simplicity and depth.

When it came to breaking down content to offer those topic-specific options, Acunzo described the reorganization as "a way to place more control back into the hands of our audience, since they can subscribe specifically to what they enjoy most. If sales-related content is irrelevant to you, then you don’t need to subscribe to it. You as the consumer hold the control — as it always should be."

Happily, this perspective explicitly considers choice, a core component of "Disaggregating supply". It also fits nicely with yesterday's post about the role of content strategists:

But content strategy is more than the activity formerly known as ... something else. It is organized around customers, not formats or functions. The messaging is a component of corporate strategy.

This is an area in which traditional publishers need to evolve, and quickly. Platforms like Hubspot increasingly provide marketers with an opportunity to serve the media functions once owned by periodical and even book publishers.

The lines between editorial and marketing content are already blurred, as marketers work to answer questions and solve problems for both current and prospective customers. If publishing incumbents can't establish a customer-facing legitimacy, marketers may become their new and even primary distribution channel.


Posted by David Briggs
Dec 05, 2013  at  08:40 AM


Your post prompted me to link back and reread Disaggregating supply.  I’m glad I did.  It’s one of your best posts.  While many of your readers are likely putting the finishing touches on their 2014 plans, it might be worthwhile to hold those plans up to the lens of Disaggregating supply. If some activity of the sort you are advocating is not in the plan, perhaps it should be.


Posted by Brian O'Leary
Dec 05, 2013  at  05:45 PM

Thanks for your comment and the second look at “disaggregating supply”. I’ve gave that presentation earlier this year in Berlin, and I had a chance to do that again for the Book Publishers Association of Alberta (Canada) in September. I think the content is challenging, but I also think the trends in other media are illustrative. I’d love for people to read (or re-read) the post. Maybe putting the visuals on Slideshare will help on that front - I will do that tomorrow.

Posted by Peter Turner
Dec 05, 2013  at  11:43 PM

I’m an avid follower of Hubspot. My eyebrow curled a bit when I saw your quote about how book publishers used to serve similar media functions. I wish that were true (in the past, present, or near future), but I’m not sure I see it.

Hubspot’s main focus is on B2B business and sales, providing small and medium sized businesses with the enterprise tools they need to turn leads into sales. Of course, they do a lot of other things too, some of which is more applicable to B2C business growth.

One of the features they rolled out recently is a responsive web design service that links contact list segments to pre-determined landing pages. In other words, a prospect, a lead, and an existing customer would all see landing pages pre-determined to suite where they are in the sales “funnel.” This is the sort of idea that’s been around for a while but Hubspot made it do-able for small and medium sized sales organizations. This sort of integration of content marketing, responsive design, and user experience is wonderful. Are you hearing or seeing traditional publishers really embracing this sort of thinking? If not, what might be done to provoke this shift of perspective?


Posted by Brian O'Leary
Dec 06, 2013  at  12:55 AM

We’re on the same page here. Publishers previously owned these kinds of niches because we were constrained by format (print) and scarcity. Those constraints no longer dominate.

Today, any marketer looking to carve out a presence in a desirable vertical can use content as a kind of Trojan horse. If you’re a food-product manufacturer, there’s little stopping you from entering the cooking space. If you’re a television network focused on house and garden, you already have an audience that is primed to discover and buy a print or digital companion.

That’s why I wrote “If publishing incumbents can’t establish a customer-facing legitimacy, marketers may become their new and even primary distribution channel.” I don’t think the trend is obvious or inevitable, but it’s worth considering.

Commenting is no longer available for this article.