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

SF PR Firm LaunchSquad Launches Premium Content Company

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 6, 2012

I like San Francisco based PR firm LaunchSquad because they tend to be a little bit ahead of the pack. This week it launched Original9 Media, a company combining content creation with online marketing.

Jason Mandell, co-founder of LaunchSquad tells me:

Over the past couple of years, we have been aggressively building our services in the content area, in both video and written/web content. In doing so, we have recognized and embraced the changing face of media, and the opportunity to help companies tell their stories in a direct, compelling manner to the people they want to reach and engage with.

The mission of Original9 is to help companies of all sizes engage audiences and grow their businesses through premium content creation, distribution and consulting expertise.

Original9 is a team of marketing and editorial experts with decades of experience in shaping content strategies to influence and engage audiences, including a former top editor from Business 2.0.

We will offer a full spectrum of premium content services including strategy, distribution, analytics, creative, web and mobile content and site/app development, infographic programs, blog creation and management and influencer recruitment, among others.

This is part of a reinvention plan that's been underway at LaunchSquad for several years. It's a new time for marketing and PR and we believe an amazing time to create new types of services based on the original creation and distribution of high quality content.

It's the middle ground between ad agencies and PR firms that everyone is acknowledging and running toward. We've got some early "beta" success stories (here's one example) under our belts and several major deals in our pipeline. We believe we have a huge and growing market and our excitement has only grown after engaging with prospects.

Foremski's Take: Many PR firms have become deeply involved in the preparation and creation of original content for their clients for several years now. As the number of magazines, and journalists able to write about companies has steadily declined "paid content" services have seen a big rise in popularity.

The creation of Original9 is interesting because it seems to split-off that work from the list of PR services that a PR firm such as LaunchSquad would offer.

Will clients notice the difference? Or is this a move to help add revenues that would normally be funneled through PR services?

In many respects, Original9 is acting as a publisher -- a media company. It is producing original content and then helping to promote, distribute it, and analyze responses. The promotion, distribution, and analytics can be very hard for companies to do well, so it's a very valuable service.

The main problem is that companies tend to think in terms of marketing campaigns, which have a finite term. But becoming a media publisher implies a long term commitment otherwise the value of engagement quickly fades away amid a very noisy media environment.

Will Original9's clients be able to understand the necessity of a long-term publishing strategy? Probably not, at least, not at first.

Another issue is: will the high cost of producing original content be worth the gains?

Great content doesn't guarantee great exposure. Unless that content can be pushed through a high traffic platform, its value will be a lot less than its costs of production.

Where will the original content be published? Will established newspapers or magazines accept such content for publication? Will clients build their own online publications and commit to a long editorial schedule? It typically takes a good two years to establish a media brand -- trust takes time.

Readers and viewers pay close attention to the publication platform. An article in the New York Times trumps one on an unknown site. Original9's articles and it's other paid content will lack weight and effectiveness unless there is a trusted brand association -- and that's not easy.

Standalone pieces of content distributed over the web is not much of a strategy. And publishing that content on a client's web site isn't going to get much attention.

This is why newspapers and magazine titles exist: to establish and build trust and act as a proxy for quality and reliability. They are not one-shot wonders. Getting your content into established publications through the use of PR firms pitching journalists is still a lot more effective than trying to write the article yourself -- no matter how good it is.

I welcome LaunchSquad's move because it is willing to take a risk and it just might be onto something very good. I'll be following its progress with much interest.

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Here is more info:

Veteran journalist Jeffrey Davis will lead Original9 Media's content efforts. Davis has been working with LaunchSquad as a Senior Vice President and will serve as the Editorial Director and strategic lead for Original9 Media. Davis brings 20+ years of technology and business journalism to the Original9 team.

Content continues to grow substantially as a percentage of overall marketing budgets across industries. However, many marketing organizations today are wasting time, money and energy on disjointed content efforts spread among various media such as online advertising, search engine marketing, blogs, social media and mobile marketing initiatives. What many of these campaigns lack beneath the surface is compelling original content that ties back to the narrative of the company.

Original9's mission is to cut through the clutter by putting the focus back on high-quality content creation while simultaneously matching that content to the right platform, distribution and audience.

Said Davis. "This is an amazing time in the world of online media and we see an opportunity to build a company dedicated to providing high-quality content married with distribution and analysis. Our goal is to help our clients connect and engage with specific target audiences through great content no matter where that audience is living online. It's that simple."

"As companies and brands become publishers, we see a very exciting and untapped opportunity to build a new, brand-name content services company," added Jesse Odell, co-founder of LaunchSquad and an advisor to Original9 Media.

"The marketers that I talk to are quickly realizing that now more than ever everything comes back to great content, and not just flashy tools and techniques. Original9 blends the art of storytelling with the science of distribution, platform and analysis to give companies content marketing strategies they can build their businesses around."



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