"Content Must Offer A Valuable Experience"

We sat down with Diane di Costanzo, VP/Editorial Director of The Foundry, to discuss the digital publishing industry


As brands fully begin to buy into the power of content marketing, we are reaching a point at which it can be incredibly difficult to cut through the noise. Engagement is at a premium, brands are creating all forms of media to garner clicks, and technology is changing how audiences expect to consume content. Content producers are constantly having to balance mastering existing mediums and forms of content with exploring new technology and the opportunities it presents.

It's a hostile environment for those looking to establish an audience and build up a value exchange through creating quality content, with click-bait and copycat content rife across different distribution platforms. If brands can get it right, though, they can generate some highly sought organic traffic. GDPR is set to tighten the leash on data usage, making engaged, organic visitors the holy grail for digital publishers in any industry going forward.

Diane di Costanzo is VP/Editorial Director of The Foundry, Meredith’s Branded Content studio (formerly Time Inc.) One of the media industry's largest, The Foundry produces content for all advertisers across the Meredith network, as well as “white label” content for enterprise clients to run on their owned and operated channels. Diane has led creative teams for content strategy, development and distribution for dozens of companies and organizations across all industry sectors, from finance to pharma and from fashion to food. Diane is also an award-winning journalist and has held editorial staff positions at Esquire, Self, Martha Stewart and Hearst’s Healthy Living.

Ahead of her presentation at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit this July 18 - 19 in New York, we spoke with Diane to discuss the state of digital publishing in an age where every brand is a publisher.

What can brands do to cut through the clutter to get their content read and, ideally, shared?

It’s critical that brands think of the value exchange when offering content to consumers. In exchange for the consumer’s time and attention, the content must offer a valuable experience—which means content that's truly educational or entertaining or both. The bar is even higher if the brand wants consumers to share the content or give the brand personal data, like an email address. The fact is, branded content must work harder than traditional media because you’re asking consumers to trust the experience is something more than just an advertisement.

What are some good examples of brands getting it right— high-value content that educates and/or entertains while still driving business goals?

I loved Reebok’s sly commentary in response to President Trump’s awkward compliment to the First Lady of France, Brigitte Macron, directed to President Macron: “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful!” Reebok responded with this infographic detailing when it’s appropriate to comment on another woman’s body. In a word, never. High marks for humor that meshes with Reebok’s right to voice (around body positivity) and is also super timely.

What are some good examples of brands getting it wrong—straying from their “right to voice,” for example, or confusing a content experience with advertising?

John Hancock partnered with Fast Company to create a video series about “Ultimate Retirement”—trying for humor, education and thought leadership all at once. These goals were too lofty and the looong videos (~3 minutes) were puzzling in their attempts at Portlandia-style commentary. More puzzling still: the hosts look to be about 30. A failing grade results in an unclear intent across far too much content that insulted its (senior) audience with actors who were clearly closer to millennial.

Hear more from Diane, along with many other industry-leading digital publishing executives, at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit this July 18 - 19 in New York City.

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