Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Every Company Is A Media Company: Best Buy And Other Media Companies... Is It The Best Choice?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 3, 2011

[Hat tip Ike Piggot]

Natalie Zmuda, writes on Ad Age:

The press corps at this year's Consumer Electronics Show may find themselves jostling for soundbytes and product demos on the Vegas strip with video crews from Best Buy.

Yes, the retailer is now a publisher, rolling out a multichannel network filled with original editorial content spanning everything from how-to videos and gift guides to new-technology primers and behind-the-scenes looks at popular movies...

Execs say the intent is to be complementary to, not competitive with, publications like CNet, Engadget or Gizmodo, which cover consumer electronics. But while Best Buy says it's not looking to compete for eyeballs, media buyers say it will be competing with those publishers for ad dollars.

I've been writing a lot about how "Every company is a media company" and this is a good example of this trend.

I've argued that every company needs to develop some of the skills of a media company because every company is also a media publisher -- no matter what product it makes or service it offers.

But that doesn't mean that every company needs to do everything that a media company does? Some things are best left for a media company to do.

The Best Buy example is a good example why it should allow third party media to cover its business sector because they will impart trust, and a level of editorial independence, that Best Buy's own publication cannot -- even if it took all the steps necessary to guarantee editorial independence.

It is the perception of the reader that is important and anything coming from Best Buy about Best Buy's products will automatically be suspect and less trustworthy.

After all, Best Buy gets lots of marketing dollars from companies to advertise their products and to provide good placement in its stores. Intel, for example, pays out hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized advertising costs as part of its marketing support to companies using its chips.

Also: Best Buy is best at running Best Buy. Running a large online magazine about electronics products is a much different skill. Even if Best Buy hires the best journalists, its management won't know how to best manage such a resource, or recognize when it is succeeding or failing.

The above applies to other companies too. Publishing your own media publication is a long term commitment. Do you really want to be in that business?

Or would it be better if you supported a third-party media site that provided much of the same content but from an independent perspective?

Publishing is just one part of today's media world -- you need to listen too and cultivate a community. Again, that is better accomplished on an independent site.

Clearly, the second choice is the best. And this applies to many other companies too.

It's a sad fact that independent media is disappearing. However, if Best Buy invested its resources in sponsoring or advertising on independent media sites, rather than competing with them -- this trend might reverse. And it would be a much better use of its money.


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