The days of the company blog on the company website may be slowly coming to an end.
Some brands are finding that their company-hosted blogs—a bedrock of B2B content marketing —are better off on third-party content platforms like Medium. Fueled by changing content discovery habits (namely, social media and mobile devices), some B2B companies are closing up shop on their natively hosted blogs and migrating content to sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Medium.
Given the time and money associated with making and maintaining a superior blog system, the third-party option makes a lot of sense. It’s an approach we’ll likely see more of as users turn to social media instead of the web to discover content.
Content discovery isn’t like it used to be. To get a sense of the changes, look no further than viral content generator BuzzFeed. Only 23 percent of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes directly to its site or owned apps. The rest arrives via Facebook native video and images (27 percent and 4 percent), YouTube (14 percent), Snapchat (21 percent), and “other distributed platforms,” Re/code reports.
In other words, don’t think of Buzzfeed as dominated by a single, owned website. “It’s a ‘fully integrated social platform’ whose Snapchat and Instagram channels are as important as—if not more important than—its natively hosted stuff,” Noah Kulwin of Re/code writes.
Patrick Armitage, director of marketing at BlogMutt, calls this the post-dot-com era of content. Instead of navigating from one website to the next, users today discover content from a lot of different sources via a few social media platforms—and increasingly with mobile devices. Indeed, people spend roughly one in five minutes of all digital media time on social sites or social media apps, and nearly 80 percent of social media time is spent on mobile, comScore reports.
With features like Facebook Instant Articles, which makes publishers’ news content fast-loading and mobile-friendly, users have even less of a reason to leave their favorite social network.
Of course, all of this social media activity means less traditional web activity for the average company blog, or at least potentially less. Some businesses have responded to the changes by opting out of a traditional website entirely in favor of a social-only presence. Or, a company might launch first on social media alone, with a website to follow later.
The shifts are also forcing B2B companies to rethink the traditional, owned blog as the right vehicle for content distribution. Marketers want to distribute content where their intended audience will see it; that may or may not be a company-hosted blog site anymore. For some B2B companies, the social media and mobile imperatives have led them to move blogs and other hosted content entirely to third-party sites.
Cost, ease of use, and audience are primary reasons B2B companies should consider moving content to a third-party platform.
B2B company Basecamp moved its 15-year-old blog Signal v. Noise to Medium after it realized it could gain more eyeballs while eliminating the time, resources, and expenses associated with creating and maintaining its own blog system. With Medium, the company gets a great-looking interface with a built-in audience, wrote Basecamp founder David Heinemeier Hansson when explaining the shift.
“Yes, we’re well capable of technically making a great blog system, keeping it updated, and keeping the design fresh, but it falls to the bottom of the list of priorities against making Basecamp better. So we don’t, and it languishes. Why not just use something off-the-shelve that others have as their sole mission to make the best?” he wrote.
Moreover, users know how to interact with Medium, Armitage noted. Like with Facebook Instant Articles, users get a consistent content experience when they interact with the platform. There’s no need for the user to spend time relearning a specific brand’s blog interface; they can easily engage with content because they already understand Medium.
Most importantly for marketers, Medium has a built-in community. Basecamp saw its engagement numbers jump—as high as 500,000 people saw a pair of blog posts.
Free Code Camp recorded a similar experience, receiving more views in 90 days on Medium than it did in 18 months on its blog, Free Code Camp teacher Quincy Larsen wrote.
The engagement bump is pretty simple to explain: Instead of going it alone, brands gain readers from Medium’s community of 25-30 million monthly visitors, according to CNN. Instead of putting content out into the void and hoping it sticks, Medium—and others like Facebook and LinkedIn—allow brands to tap into groups of people interested in specific topics.
Moving a B2B content marketing blog off the official website isn’t without some drawbacks, however. For one, the brand loses ownership of engagement data. Instead of managing all engagement data via Google Analytics, companies end up relying on whatever the third-party platform might offer (whether that’s LinkedIn, Medium, Facebook or another site).
Then there’s the ownership of the content itself. If Medium doesn’t last forever, what happens to the content housed there? Basecamp says its concerns were assuaged by Medium’s promise to make sure no permalink ever breaks (even if the company leaves the platform), and Medium’s commitment to never showing advertising unless the publisher consents. “Between these two facts, we feel confident about owning our content and our legacy, regardless of where Medium-The-$82M-VC-Funded-Company goes,” noted David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp.
Could Medium, Facebook, or another platform shut down a company’s content if it wants? It’s happened at least to one brand, apparently. When celebrity news publisher The Shade Room ran afoul of Facebook policies with alleged copyright violations, Facebook shuttered the account, NiemanLab reported. (Fortunately for The Shade Room, the loss was mitigated since much of the publisher’s content lives on its owned site).
Still, for many companies, the benefits of moving to a third-party site outweigh the potential concerns.
“I believe that content marketers will be willing to sacrifice owned media and continue transitioning to third-party channels if it allows for access to a larger readership, intuitive UI, faster load times, cheaper design and a more consistent reading experience—especially when the switching costs are practically nil,” Armitage affirms.
With content discovery so linked to apps and social media these days, it’s a switch we’ll likely see more and more B2B companies making.