If a brand is going to spend a lot of energy and money on content, it really ought to consider a couple of things:
- make sure the content is something the world, or some specific segment of the world, will really appreciate and think is special;
- create content that leverages what the brand knows or does.
This week I learned about a branded journalism site operated by chip maker Intel, called Intel Free Press. I heard that it’s a tech news site, and I got a little excited. I’ve known a lot of the Intel communications team for a very long time, and they tend to be thoughtful and insightful people geared toward the long term. A lot of tech news on the web has become quick-hit stories, how-tos, and shallow analysis. I had hopes that Intel might’ve funded something different — maybe a site of really interesting, longer-form stories exploring new ideas or issues in technology.
Instead I found a site of…more of the same. I’m not saying that Intel Free Press is bad. It’s got some good stuff. But it’s not different. It does what most other tech news sites do. And given that other tech news sites are in the tech news business and Intel is in the chip business, it’s a good bet that other tech news sites do it better than Intel.
A sure sign that Intel is not doing anything special is that I — a big consumer of tech news — just now realized Intel Free Press existed. It launched in the fall of 2010.
As for point No. 2 above, Intel makes the microprocessors that drive most of the planet’s PCs, laptops and servers. It has a huge R&D lab. Intel inherently knows a lot of inside stuff no web news editor will ever know. I wish Intel Free Press would tap into that and tell me things no one else can.
(When the site launched, the editors did an interview with blogger Tom Foremski. They told Tom: “Our goal isn’t to compete with other news sites, we aren’t going to do a deep dive into the technology or benchmarking our chips. It’s about telling stories that haven’t been told yet. For example, a story on our VP of Investor Relations.” Hm. It’s one thing to tell a story that hasn’t been told, and another tell a story that really doesn’t need to be told.)
I don’t mean to hammer on Intel Free Press — it’s just a handy example of what a lot of brands are doing in content. Many seem to want to create web sites or publications that are a lot like existing web sites or publications. And they don’t understand that what they know — what they are experts in — is valuable, especially if presented in a credible, authentic, non-salesy way.
Earlier posts cited newcomers such as Rapha and old-timers such as Merck as examples of great branded content. High-end cycling apparel company Rapha funded great storytelling about hard-core cycling. Drug company Merck funded a guide to drugs a century ago when no such credible guide existed.
In each case, the project was great because because the company found a hole in the market, and threw its expertise into the mix to help bring the public something of unique value.