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Selling Something Other than Ads

I have a joke about brands creating content that starts by explaining that Red Bull is actually one of the largest (if not the largest) producer of action sports content in the world. That fact is quickly followed by the punchline: Turns out it’s a lot easier to be a publisher that sells highly-caffeinated soda instead of ads.

Interestingly, it looks like Bloomberg thinks the same way:

[Paul] Bascobert [president of Bloomberg Businessweek] told me, “I was asked, ‘Would you charge for BW.com?’ I said maybe, someday. But the advantage of our model, with the terminal business helping to support the other content businesses, we don’t have to charge for the website. We don’t have to fund our business in that way. That said, the magazine’s job within Bloomberg is to create added value to the terminal business. And that’s part of what the formation of the Bloomberg Media Group is meant to reflect.”

I think of this as crazy-guy-in-the-room-syndrome. It’s the idea that you never want to fight the guy with nothing to lose and essentially a company like Bloomberg, or even further Red Bull, are dangerous to the media industry because they’re playing by a completely different set of rules. In case you don’t believe Bloomberg fits this, check out what The New York Times reported Mr. Bloomberg himself had to say as the company that bears his name was considering the BusinessWeek purchase, “At the time, Mr. Bloomberg cast aside the warnings of consultants and executives who told him that the magazine was a financial millstone that would cost the company, at best, $25 million a year. ‘Do I look like a guy worried about losing $25 million?’ Mr. Bloomberg asked the naysayers.”

[Via James Gross]

April 5, 2011

Comments

  • barbara says:

    I think of that quote whenever I see/hear Bloomberg now. The idea of ‘nothing to lose’ is interesting when you think of him as a businessman, but fascinating when you think of him as a politician …

  • Doug Schumacher says:

    Nice post, Noah. It really does show how the content marketing game is reshaping the advertiser-publisher relationship.

    Bloomberg could be any number of marketers accustomed to spending 100-500m on advertising, who see publishing as something to try instead of all push messaging they’ve been doing.

  • Joshua Dance says:

    Great post. I think that a lot of people don’t recognize the “free lunch” problem. Someone is paying for everything. Red Bull can compete with and even beat other action spots publishers, because they are not competing for ads. They are selling sugar water.

    Thanks for the post.

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