Curated Content Gives Brands a Helping Hand

Marketers sate their social needs with repurposed news from outlets

Hungry for content to push out into social feeds, a growing number of marketers are adopting strategies that include repackaging articles from news sites on their own sites.

For example, in April Pepsi launched Pepsi Pulse, an online “pop culture cheat sheet” populated by a mix of crowdsourced fan tweets and photos, original content like live streams of sponsored concerts, and the full text of articles from outlets including, Complex and the Associated Press.

Intel’s iQ, an online tech and culture magazine that launched in May, has a notably similar design aesthetic to Pepsi’s site, featuring a mix of original reporting from Intel employees like “The Technology Behind Dolphin Tale & Other Prosthetics,” along with aggregated content from sites like Mashable.

Why provide another platform for a publisher’s content? For one, it lets consumers share articles via social networks, amplifying a brand’s presence on those channels.

Pepsi Pulse allows “for people to come here, snack on the content, and share it and publish it…into the news feeds of their friends, so in a sense they become the marketers and the advocates for us,” said Shiv Singh, head of global digital for PepsiCo beverages.

Or, as Bryan Rhoads, iQ’s editor in chief and Intel’s global content strategy lead, put it, “The whole goal of [iQ] is to develop interesting content that will live on Facebook, live on Twitter and Google Plus,” he said. “The strategy…is not necessarily to create a destination but to have a vehicle that’s more of a content engine to feed social networks.”

Intel’s technology uses public RSS feeds to pull in the content it reposts and an algorithm based on employees’ sharing habits to determine what stories surface on the iQ homepage. Pepsi also uses a social ranking algorithm to determine which broadly trending stories to display and pays to license the full text of articles through NewsCred, a content-syndication startup that is increasingly playing middleman between advertisers and publishers.

“The consumer and corporate brand side of things has grown exponentially faster over the past six months,” said Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred, which is also pairing Zurich Insurance with publishers such as The Economist, Bloomberg and Reuters, and which last month helped Johnson & Johnson launch the beta of an iPhone app with health content for doctors.

Of course, there are potential pitfalls. Publishers, happy to get the revenue and increased exposure, want to make sure their content is being used “in an editorial format,” Islam said. Pictures accompanying stories in a branded context, for example, can be particularly tricky territory to navigate. “If [Pepsi] shows Jay-Z’s image, someone might think that Jay-Z is endorsing Pepsi, and then all of a sudden the lines get blurred,” he said.

Going from five- or eight-month planning cycles to publishing and republishing by the hour or minute also poses challenges, said Singh. “It’s a big mind-set shift for a brand…that requires structural changes. For example, what does legal really need to approve?”

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