Every business is now a media business. Smart and successful ones think and behave like media publishers even though their origins are miles away from content creation.

When you read a magazine, the selling has already taken place. You’ve paid for the rag and there’s an expectation that it will provide you with a wealth of stimulating articles and images.

This is starting to happen online too. Companies are starting to use their website to provide an engaging experience rather than a place to promote and sell stuff. They want their customers’ experience to be congruent with its ethos and brand values.

For such companies, the editorial mindset appears stronger than sales. The desire to connect with visitors via a ‘publishing’ approach comes from knowing that, when readers are emotionally and intellectually involved, they are more willing buyers. These companies are adapting to suit the needs of digital mindsets.

Three brands as media publishers

1. JamieOliver.com

Visit JamieOliver.com and you’ll see what I mean.  As soon as you arrive, you’re in magazine land. 

  • Recipes of the day
  • Video of the day
  • A Poll
  • A Forum
  • Jamie at home

There’s very little selling. Instead, the focus is on informing, educating or entertaining. It’s all about engagement. It brings traditional, behind the scenes people, such as the web master, front of house and gets them to present to camera.

Recipes function as articles or white papers. But, as examples of web copy, they are dense and hard to read. It’s as if they are less important than the overall visual feel of the site.

The intention is to emotionally engage with readers so they use strong imagery, video, user-generated content, guest bloggers and all the other ‘buzzy’ features associated with a magazine.  

2. WaitroseLive

Waitrose has also embraced the media publisher approach with offline and online magazines in the form of Waitrose WeekEnd and Waitrose Live.

The difference is that WaitroseLive unashamedly looks and feels like a magazine. Because it’s a hybrid of a website and a physical magazine, you’re not too sure how to use it.

Dhruv Baker, the 2010 Masterchef Winner, is the video frontman and, like JaimieOliver.com, there’s very little attempt to sell anything.  This site is all about engaging with the reader. So they use

  • Video as the ‘editorial’ on various pages
  • How-to videos for a selection of recipes
  • The Royal Wedding for topical culinary offers

Compare both approaches and you’ll see JamieOliver.com is more successful. This is because it’s not tying to create a new publishing format. It’s using an online format visitors are comfortable with and then enhancing it with a the right mix of media rich content.

3. The Concrete Network

When you visit the Concrete Network, you’ll see that a media publishing approach is not restricted to ‘foodies’. Yes, this niche market site is all about the wonders of concrete.

With over 1m visitors a month, the site makes a conscious effort to think and communicate like a publisher

  • Magazine Style approach to the Home Page – Weekly Feature, Design Ideas, Concrete Articles.
  • Concrete Calculator – calculators are popular as they get you actively involved.
  • Content Rich Pages – every topic provides a wealth of specific information using text, image, video and related links.
  • Credibility – it promotes experts within the community as authors or presenters.
  • ‘How to’ Videos – short, concise and professionally produced, their 160+ videos are mostly streamed via YouTube.

Look closely and you will discover a clearly defined content engagement strategy, lots of nuggets of information cleverly linked together. If concrete is your thing, this is obviously the place to visit.

Developing the ‘publishing’ mindset

The media publishing approach is about continuous content creation and social engagement.  It forces companies to think of their products and services topically and seasonally. For example, as the weather warms up and barbeques are dusted down, all these companies will start producing content that reflects this.

This is what magazine editors do. They are always alert to ‘topical and new’ so they can feed readers the right kind of stuff. Whatever size your company is, it needs a change of mindset. Move away from proactive selling via the site; start thinking like an editor. 

As The Editor, you want to

  • Publish interesting articles or features about your niche or expertise.
  • Align yourself with topical events and news.
  • Create ‘information’ and ‘how-to’ videos.
  • Come up with competitions and quizzes.
  • Provide helpful tools and tips.

This demonstrates your ability to think and write about what your customers want. It also stops you writing about yourself and how great you think your business is.

Copy JamieOliver.com. Take advantage of your in-house experts who are happy to talk in front of your camera. Over time, they have the potential to become your ‘features’ editors.

Many websites already do this. But they do it with a traditional, corporate mindset – one that is fearful of presenting too much personality. This is a wasted opportunity because personality is at the heart of each of these sites in the way their copy is written or how experts are used in videos.

The result is publications that engage. That’s the buzz…