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Content, content, and content: Everything we learned on day 1 of Mx3 Innovation in Media, Barcelona

Mx3 Innovation in Media Barcelona kicked off with one overarching message: audiences will always need information they value. In the media world it’s called content, and without good content, your business is doomed.

Mx3 Barcelona, a gathering of high-profile media-curious delegates, is an off-the-record event on 12 and 13 March. This format allows media leaders to share industry insider information – and secrets – without being identified and quoted directly. The trends on Day 1 represent repeated industry insights over the day. Anyone quoted directly has given their permission.

Community is a loyalty engine

Creating focused and engaging content is a way to acquire “super fans” who are exponentially more valuable than people who engage casually with random content. However, it is crucial to distinguish between “audience” and “community”. Community members engage and feel heard and understood. As one speaker noted: “If you can we can get them to leave one comment, they are more likely to subscribe to your publication.”

Delegates agreed that subscribers who feel part of a community become brand advocates and ambassadors.

To grow loyal communities, publishers should ask what value they bring to audiences. Even then, content is not enough. For example, content could be tailored to different audience moments during the day. Publishers could provide content to someone waiting two minutes for a train or sitting behind a desk for twenty minutes.

Another advantage of having engaged community members is that they give feedback and provide information.

If you ignore content in the B2B events landscape your business is doomed

Having B2B events and no proper content creation is an investment in failure. While several speakers emphasised the core function of content, one noted that it is actually pointless to bring people together for two or three days a year without serving them relevant content all year round, giving them information to make important and good decisions and build awareness around the vertical you serve. Decisions to cut costs on content are often financial. However, ignoring a potentially loyal community is never financially viable.

“In the long run, that’s a scary business model,” an industry heavyweight warned. 

AI steals publisher content

Publishers who invested huge resources into creating good content now see how AI steals it. Even the companies behind AI know this, delegates said. They speculated that the contracts allowing for commercial deals for AI development and content usage with larger publishers will include clauses to ensure AI companies are not held accountable for anything they did before those deals. 

Some speakers welcomed the New York Times’ lawsuit against Open AI. They did not want to speculate about the outcome but stressed that it could have a huge impact on publishers and AI developers alike. 

Natasha Christie-Miller, the former CEO of Ascential Intelligence and senior advisor to TED conferences and Bayy Agency, said she was incredibly concerned about the impact of Large Language Models (LLMs) on all content providers, regardless of whether they are B2B or B2C.

“Essentially, the work, the cost, the expertise has been stolen. It’s been stolen for use in another organisation. And the traceability is incredibly difficult. And certainly being able to credit back is impossible,” she said in an interview with Mx3.

She said she is watching the lawsuits, such as the New York Times example, “with massive interest”.

“I hope we can come to the right arrangements because otherwise, I fear for the free quality content industry globally,” Natasha said.

AI can create good content – if used correctly

One delegate referred to how the travel industry news site Skift uses AI to produce trusted content, noting: “If output is a function and you are putting in good information, theoretically, the information that comes out is also good.” The LLM is only allowed to use trusted content produced and vetted by Skift to aggregate information that would normally take hours for reporters to pull together.

There are still opportunities for print, provided you find the right segment

Although the event focussed heavily on digital innovation, there was evidence of print success. One speaker from France shared the roaring success of Harper’s Bazaar’s new French print edition. While the title owner, Hearst, was apparently highly sceptical of the title competing in the French market where Vogue had a strong footing, the young magazine is already profitable. Advertisers pay premium prices to feature on its high-end pages.

Arguably, its success can be attributed to local content and “finding the right market segment”. The magazine also had the advantage of a strong brand. It is popular with under 25s and readers over 48 alike.

Print magazines focussed on luxury items, health, and younger readers are successful in the French market. Unlike Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar unashamedly and exclusively targets the French audience. It may also benefit from “digital fatigue”, which is creating renewed opportunities for print. 

Publishers have entered a post social era

Social platforms deliberately make it difficult for publishers to drive content to their own publisher sites. This is because the platforms only make money if people stay on their platforms. This means the social media party for publishers is well and truly over.

Publishers must invest in alternative ways to distribute content and improve content discovery. In most cases, they will need to spend significant amounts to “find their audience”. This could entail buying ads across a range of platforms, and other tools for lead generation. This will be a valuable investment, especially if the content is good and you gain subscribers.