Every content product promotes itself through previews, and this is most evident in the movie industry.

This weekend Tolkien fans were joined by a legion of trekkies in IMAX cinemas, as record breaking numbers flocked to special screenings of The Hobbit that featured an exclusive preview of the new Star Trek film.

Nine minutes of footage from upcoming sci-fi blockbuster Star Trek: Into Darkness appeared before The Lord of the Rings prequel, using the opportunity to entice a targeted audience of fantasy film fanatics with a taste of the content of a film which won’t be released until May 2013.

In an age where consumers have been conditioned to skip over traditional advertising, digital content marketers need to emulate Star Trek’s strategy of “non-interruption”, and provide previews that deliver a valued glimpse of content in formats that consumers are comfortable with.

Creating and distributing previews around the web attracts consumers that are interested and open to interacting with online content. Doing so via non-intrusive mechanics also nets those casual browsers who might otherwise be indifferent or avoidant of advertising formats.
Of course, promoting content via previews is nothing new. The film industry uses trailers, TV interviews, teasers and advanced previews to promote blockbuster film content. Books use descriptions on the jacket and sometimes even advanced chapters in the author’s other work.

The oldest form of marketing via previews is something that everyone’s so used to that it’s barely even thought of as a form of content marketing, the front page headline.

Since the beginning of the news industry front page headlines have been designed to not only convey the subject of the major story, but also to entice people into buying content to read more.

The way people access the content is through the massive distribution network of newsagents and corner stalls that sell the papers. The online content industry should be little different, but content promotion is not being addressed strategically

Formats to promote content can be dull, and are often no more than hyperlinked keywords.

Comprehensive content previews can be presented through a variety of mediums, but the most successful are images with associated relevant headlines. This creates a virtual “front page” in a thumbnail format, an abbreviated, visual source of reference that lets the viewer decide if they have a desire to see more of what is being offered.

To effectively market content via previews, digital marketers and online publishers must:

  • Ensure contextual relevance – The relevance of a preview’s subject matter to the viewer is key for success, as is being as clear as possible about the purpose of the content that will be presented to the consumer after they click through. Including attractive keywords, phrases and as much specificity as possible draws consumers to articles, as well as attaining benefits from more prominence in search engine rankings.
  • Use relevant images – Associating images that relate to both the preview’s headline and the content being promoted piques consumers’ curiosity and makes the consumer’s click as informed as possible.
  • Use unusual, newsworthy or even controversial content – Previews need to entice the viewer into clicking through the preview for more. Generally, celebrity images and headlines that draw from current news events work at a broad level, but more refined audiences often need more directly relevant content.
  • Use familiar formats like thumbnails – As a commonly used gateway to articles and information thumbnails are much more trusted than paid search hyperlinks, banners, MPUs or even direct emails and social media shares, which can quickly be dismissed as marketing pitches, rather than the content consumers really want. Thumbnails carry perceived qualities of content – when consumers click on them, they are expecting to be taken to articles, not adverts –  so they are more likely to draw in and capture consumers’ interest.
  • Distribute via relevant channels – After the preview has been created, the next challenge for advertisers is finding the best possible avenue for distribution. MGID has emerged as a leader in this regard given its ability to generate traffic for thousands of websites around the world and its reach of 120 million Internet users. Contextual relevancy is achieved by placing the previews in pages of MGID’s relevant content channels – including news and current affairs, entertainment, technology, sports, health and fitness.

As “content marketing” is becoming more of “a thing”, people seem to forget that actually it’s quite familiar. That’s because content marketers aren’t thinking about the previews they’re used to seeing. Digital marketers and online publishers can learn a great deal from the more established content industries like movies, books and newspapers.

The preview motivators the traditional media industry has refined over decades need to be translated into digital, and content marketers need to find the distribution channels that’ll ensure their articles and content get consumed.