Mar 082012

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Over the past few years I’ve written on the growing prominence of brand journalism in the b2b and b2g markets. In brand journalism (sometimes referred to as sponsored content) a company takes on the role of publisher, distributing content relating to their particular area of expertise. This gives them total control of the message and allows for targeting directly to identified audiences of influence.

The big challenge companies have faced is to truly think like a publisher, and create compelling, quality content on a regular basis to achieve their marketing objectives. Who better to help with this challenge than a well known B2B publishing company? That must have been the thinking that led Juniper to team up with United Business Media (UBM) to create The Champion Community.

It might seem strange at first that UBM, owner of PR Newswire and publisher of titles like InformationWeek and Light Reading would want to enable corporations to become their own publishers. Wouldn’t this just accelerate the erosion of the technology trade press, and make their properties worth less?

UBM obviously feels that horse is out of the barn, since they have created a subsidiary, UBM DeusM, that specializes it what the company calls business social media. They’ve already built online communities for IBM and Dell, using a specific service called Community in a Box.

I really like the approach, as it’s similar to what my agency has been counseling clients to do for about three years now. And I’m sure I’d envy the Champion budget. I also have a lot of respect for the ability of journalists to turn technology into a compelling story line.

By focusing so much on community building however, their business model may have a flaw. That’s the take of someone I highly respect, someone who has built a highly influential online technology community of his own over more than a decade. He shared this with me via email regarding the Champion Community and its structure:

What I have seen with such efforts in the past is that most lose traction along the way because while they are created with a sense of “community” in mind, they are primarily run by traditional editors that eventually drive the source into micro magazines.

It is interesting that most community type platforms that end up being successful are started not buy journalists or people from the publishing world but technical people (like slashdot, civilbeat, facebook, digg, techcrunch, etc.)

Is he right? I’d love to know what performance metrics Juniper is putting around this effort, exactly how they are defining success. I’m going to register on the Community, and check out the community vibe from the user perspective.

UPDATE 1/15/13 – Looks like Juniper pulled the plug on this effort. I received this notification — all traffic is being redirected to Juniper’s corporate site. Ouch:

As of today, January 14, The Champion Community site will be redirecting to Juniper Networks’ Learning Academy. To access the site, partners registered for the Juniper Networks Partner Center must use their Partner Center ID and password. For questions on creating a Partner Center account or logging in, go here.

  3 Responses to “Juniper Goes All In With UBM Powered Brand Journalism”

  1. Well, as an ex-journalist, I don’t consider this to be brand “journalism” (surely a misnomer), but merely intelligent and informed marketing copy. Juniper’s new “social community” seems, to me, to be the latest iteration of the old bulletin board systems, private chat fora (remember CompuServe?) and extranets, which all were early baby steps on the online private-community continuum. What Juniper’s doing is no different, in terms of resources, utility and value, to starting a new industry association. Both concepts offer exclusive editorial content, events, professional education materials, resources, certification, and networking/peer-sharing opportunities.

    Like Christopher, I frequently urge clients and employers to do this sort of thing, since it’s an excellent method of increasing brand visibility, reputation and, even, sales. Establishing a successful online platform also adds weight to the corporation’s offline branding, such as at speaking appearances, conferences, trade shows, etc. And, with luck, its content might attract trade media looking to find or flesh out a story, or a writer seeking expert sources for quotes and comments–which would place the brand, through its CEO, executives and/or spokespeople, in larger stories not specifically about the company itself.

    • Steven — thank you for the excellent comment. You’re exactly right on the additional branding benefits of a well executed content marketing strategy. I just published a post sharing the “traditional” PR benefits one of my clients is enjoying from a content marketing campaign designed to support lead generation.

  2. How is this conceptually different from the years of info-mercials that newsrooms have played for years?

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