Tim Moran knows marketers. As the Editor-in-Chief of Adobe’s CMO.com, Tim has his fingers on the pulse of the marketing world, shining his editorial spotlight on trends long before they become mainstream. His work on CMO.com has helped build one of the strongest branded content platforms on the web today, creating a valuable resource for marketing leaders across all industries. We caught up with Tim to hear about how Adobe looks at this owned channel, and to get his opinion on the ways that content marketing will impact how brands build relationships online.
Five years ago there weren’t many non-publishing brands who had someone on staff with the title editor-in-chief. Can you talk about the genesis behind CMO.com?
The beginnings were much different than today and it was an entirely curated site. There was no original content except maybe an occasional blog or two that I would write, but it was purely curated content from mostly the main media sites; sites like MediaPost and AdAge and we did that for quite some time just to get off the ground. And then slowly, we began to sort of morph into a content creator as well as a content curator.
What were CMO.com’s objectives back when you started it and how are they different today? Have the objectives changed as the focus of your content has changed?
The main objectives have remained the same. The thinking has always been that the sale of this kind of software is made at a high level because we are selling enterprise tools and the target market is a large company. So it is an interesting balance to connect with our readers through content. On one hand, we have all of the same issues and metrics and challenges that any pure play media site would have. And then on the other side it’s about identifying how we connect our content to the business so that we become a marketing asset for Adobe without being purely a sales tool.
Who is the target audience for CMO.com? Are you looking for very targeted readership or broad readership?
I think it’s the same audience that any B2B publication would have. The editorial stance is one of “what is it that the senior level marketer in a global enterprise needs to know about digital marketing?” Nevertheless, we’re read by people who are not C level or SVP level. We’re read by agencies and we’re read by others in the industry, researches and what not. So we know that there’s a whole lot of people that we reach, but the editorial stance is one aimed at the head of marketing in a large corporation.
How does CMO.com accomplish ROI for Adobe?
That really is the trick, isn’t it? I think that one of the things companies that want to get into this need to accept is it is difficult to get the same kind of ROI on content as it is with direct lead gen. CMO.com is not a lead gen site.
We are here to connect Adobe to digital marketing insight by way of awareness and relationships. The more the senior level marketer knows about the trials and tribulations of digital marketing, the more they might have to consider Adobe and our products.
We don’t really have a direct ROI, although we do some things in the background with some of the tools that Adobe offers. Right now we’re as much measured on immediate goals as on long term metrics like traffic, reading time, subscribers, Twitter followers, etcetera.
Is thought leadership something that you can measure and report on? Is there a way for you to determine the value of the thought leadership that you’re generating for Adobe?
Well, we can certainly do that by looking at the engagement with readers. We have all of the tools that Adobe sells at our fingertips. We look at the analytics in a variety of different ways and see what topics are particularly of interest to the reader. [Looking at] what things are trending and which articles did well with the readership gives us a good overview of what the thinking is in the industry.
How do you determine which topics to cover? What type of content generates the most engagement?
We certainly do look at the statistics to see what is driving engagement, much like any media site would do. What was of interest yesterday may not be of interest a month from now. So one of the jobs we have is to try to see what’s coming along and what things are going to be interesting a month from now, two months from now, three months from now, so that the reader can get a heads up and be ready.
We also do a lot of media partnerships. We partner up with various conferences to go out and see what people are thinking, what they are talking about and what topics get the most interest so we can come back and put our heads together on what we think is going to be of importance over the next six months.
How does your target audience find CMO.com and its content? Do you build it and your target audience will find you, or do you have to bring the content to your target audience?
It’s probably a little bit of both. When we started, the audience was very small and it took quite a bit of time because we don’t do a lot of promotion or advertising.
We have some arrangements with other media sites to allow them to use our content and spread our reach. Adobe recently sponsored a ‘CMO Today’ area on The Wall Street Journal’s site and we are also working with Fox Business News.
What about social media? How does that fit into content distribution, or distributing CMO.com content?
We didn’t have a huge social media play until the last year and a half or so. We were up on Twitter and we had some Facebook stuff and it grew little by little, but over the past year we’ve really made a push in that direction and it has helped a lot. We have almost 36,000 Twitter followers. That’s up from 18,000 only six months ago. And that growth was all organic. We’ve only just begun to do a little more paid social.
You mentioned earlier that your focus is on senior level marketers at Fortune 1000 brands. Do you think a program like this is achievable for a smaller brand that lacks the resources you have behind your publication?
I think anybody could do this, and it’s just going to be a matter of scale. The reality is, we don’t have a lot of people. We have some good resources and we have a reasonable budget, but it’s nothing earthshaking by any means and it really has been a matter of just slowly grinding it out. I think a smaller brand could do that. I’m not sure how small or how big you have to be to do this, but I think any brand could certainly do it with a little bit of investment and the right people. In many ways, content publishing is really purely about the needs of the customer, not the needs of the company.
Given where CMO.com started from six years ago and what it looks like today, what do you think these types of branded content sites will look like three years from now?
I would hope that we continue to become more of a force in original content and the publishing of really important thought leadership, offering help and strategy to the digital marketer. The field is changing daily and one of the things we found out from Adobe’s research is that marketers are having a hell of a time keeping up. The transformation of marketing from what it used to be to our digital world is really a big change.
We would like to be the forerunners in that transformation and continue to bring more valuable content. In terms of scope, we want to continue to grow our base, continue to grow our subscribers, continue to grow our Twitter followers and our traffic, so we become a more well-read site.
I think it’s important to realize that the whole concept of content marketing is where the savvy marketer is headed. This really is the future.