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Interview with Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at NewsCred

Megan Headley
Megan Headley
August 26, 2015

Interview with Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at NewsCred

NewsCred is a content marketing platform and content marketplace. TrustRadius talked to Alicianne Rand, VP of Marketing at NewsCred, to learn about their approach to content marketing and their innovations around measuring the “content journey” across the full customer experience.

NewsCred has gone through some interesting changes over the past few years. Can you give us some background on NewsCred and your current value proposition?

NewsCred has about 220 people in three offices globally. We’ve been around for about seven years, but for the first three years, we had a different business model. As a B2B marketing company we’ve been around for four and a half years. There are two core pieces to our product. The first is our software: we provide a platform that enables global brands to source content and manage the entire content marketing process. It can help them simplify and scale the process from start to finish: from building a content strategy, to sourcing quality content, to editorial calendars, workflows, and planning, to publishing and distribution, to measuring and analyzing the success of their content. That entire process happens within a single platform.

The second part of our product value is our content marketplace. NewsCred is the world’s largest content marketplace. We have licensed content, and this is where NewsCred originally started out about 5 or 6 years ago. We’ve built individual relationships with publishers, and we license their existing content and streamline it to our platform via our API, so thousands of articles surface in the software itself. Customers can access that content based on their goals, audiences, or common topics and filters. We filter millions of articles and images to be able to find the right piece of content with the right source.

We also have an original content network staffed by 500 writers. It is intentionally very small, and we pay our journalists well, which enables us to attract high-quality writers. We firmly believe that our customers should build long-term relationships with a few writers, not with hundreds. We can also partner with other content providers for our clients. For example, we helped Prudential access private photography services to do a custom photo shoot. The combination of our content management software and our content marketplace is what differentiates us. It makes us unique compared to competitors in the space.

We consider the direction of our R&D team, which is focused on analytics, to be a third part of our value proposition. They’re innovating on our Audience Insights offer —working towards understanding who is reading and sharing your content, and why that is important to your brand.

Who is your customer base?

We work primarily with Fortune 2,000 brands, both B2B and B2C. We have a couple hundred customers, who are leveraging us at a global scale for the most part. For example, we work with IBM, Pepsi, Spotify, Dell, JP Morgan Chase, etc. These companies have different specific needs, but they are all trying to solve three major pain points:

  1. They need content to engage customers and stay relevant.
  2. They need a way to efficiently operationalize their strategy and streamline the content process.
  3. They need to be able to measure the impact and make sure they’re reaching the right people at right time and place. They need to make sure it’s impacting their conversion and sales.

Are all of your customers utilizing both the software and the marketplace?

100% of our customers use our software. Not all of our customers purchase content, but most do. Usually, they’re trying to scale, and our marketplace addresses that first customer pain point: the need for high-quality content, and a lot of it.

How do you address #2, the content distribution pain point?

Unlike most of our competitors, we don’t just publish to social. Our platform enables customers to publish to any distribution point, any channel or “spoke.” I believe that’s incredibly important since content is at the heart of all marketing. Customers can publish to their own hub, which becomes important later for measuring the success of their content marketing strategy, when it comes to conversion. They can publish to WordPress, to Tumblr, to any feed or any CMS out there, and to all major social networks —TwitterLinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. We also have some niche publication tools, like video advertising for our B2C customers. In addition, we have integrations with platforms like Marketo and Salesforce, and we are going to scale integration as a strategy over the next six months.

Do you still address native advertising through a partnership with Sharethrough?

Yes. We partner with Sharethrough, Nativo, and OneSpot. Anywhere a customer might try to derive value from distribution, we want them to be able to click publish via the NewsCred platform.

We really want our customers to be able to play with distribution points on a massive scale because we believe that the more a customer can get their content out into the world, the more successful they are going to be.

Where is NewsCred headed with the integrations to Marketo and Salesforce?

To give you some context, two Marketo board members are also on our board, so we have a very close relationship with the company. Marketo customers say their biggest problem is that they don’t have enough content to be able to scale their campaigns. So Marketo opened up its content API in May, and once users tap into our content network through their email campaigns, they’ll be able to scale up their email strategy. The integration will also enable better analytics. By driving data from Marketo into NewsCred (and vice versa), we will help B2B customers better map the content journey in order to understand which content is being spread and shared by which leads. It will be a better, more complete system of attribution. The Salesforce integration will be similar. You’ll look at a contact and see all of the content they’re sharing on which platform and when, alongside their topics of interest.

How does NewsCred incorporate analytics into the content management process?

NewsCred offers a robust analytics package: social analytics, content analytics, and information on how your content is performing compared to previous cycles. But we believe the future is in understanding how real people are engaging with your content. Ultimately, it’s about reaching the right people with the right message at the right place. Today’s traffic and engagement metrics don’t really answer the question, “Who is your audience and what do they care about?”

The NewsCred platform surfaces all the people on an individual level who are engaging with your content. It will show you exactly the content that they’re reading and sharing, on which platform, what topics they’re interested in. This is the “content journey,” which helps to map engagement across different touch points. We’re able to show this on a macro level, and customers can use it to understand segments. For example, Pepsi is a big sponsor of Beyoncé. If they can understand who their Beyoncé fans are, they can target that audience in a much smarter way. We’re leveraging analytics and tying it to distribution so that our customers can know where to spend their ad dollars.

On the demand generation side, we not only show what people are reading and sharing for your own brand, but also for your competitors’ content. This info is a culmination of 16 different public-facing data sources, including Twitter and Facebook. Often this is everything happening before the funnel, before they fill out a form and you have the key to their activity history. We’re just matching data, very intelligently, in the customer content profile, which completely complies with privacy and data laws.

How did you decide to focus on the “content journey,” and how will your approach differ from the data monitoring offered by other marketing vendors?

Understanding the entire customer lifecycle as it applies to content is the future of the industry. Yes, content marketing is defined today by production, publishing, distribution, etc.—these are the necessities. But we want to move toward powering the customer experience with a better understanding of who your customers are, so that you can deliver the content that’s most valuable to them. Marketing technology is converging, but we look at the world with content at the core, which will be our differentiator.

In the NewsCred Hub, do you have the ability to personalize content based on visitor ID?

Yes, based on data in Audience Insights, which helps you understand who your visitors are and how often they are sharing your content. Insights can trigger recommendations for you to create more content for those people, based on what they’re reading and sharing.

How are your customers thinking about ROI for content marketing efforts?

We actually have an upcoming webinar about this. Essentially, they measure ROI in three buckets:

  1. How is content impacting their share of voice? They want to measure their reach against themselves historically and against their competitors.
  2. What part does content play in the buyer’s journey? They want to measure engagement as it relates to their business goals and conversion.
  3. How does content accelerate deals? They want to understand how much content at what point in the pipeline helps them close deals or sales.

Many of our customers think about the value of content marketing in terms of KPIs, not strictly ROI. They’re not actually measuring the dollars they put into content marketing vs. the dollars they get out. But as our customers become more mature, they can use our distribution partnerships with companies like Twitter, for example, to measure the effectiveness of shared content compared to advertising opportunities. That is where they will be able to measure true ROI.

How do your customers think about the value of a piece of content?

Overall the industry hasn’t matured enough to think in that way yet. Because we work with such large global brands, most of our customers don’t put value on a single piece of content (yet). They are looking at the overall impact of their content and digital marketing on their business growth overall. At NewsCred, though, we do think that way, and we aim to educate our customers on how to prove content marketing ROI. For our own marketing team, we look at the value of a lead or subscriber compared to other leads that come from other sources that are not content-driven. On the B2B side we also look at acceleration, the impact of a piece of content within the pipeline. On the B2C side we look at how many pieces of content equal a sale, and which pieces of content are driving sales or behavioral conversions that are meaningful to that brand. We’re able to show a company how its different marketing and advertising techniques compare to each other.

Who are NewsCred’s competitors?

The industry is changing really quickly. We were an early leader in the content marketing space, but now there are hundreds of companies out there that offer content marketing point solutions. We do compete against some of the older content players, like Contently and Kapost, but these are smaller point solutions with fewer capabilities than NewsCred. In addition, sometimes we run up against the social players like Sprinklr and Percolate, which aren’t focused on providing content marketing solutions.

Our last competitor set includes the big guys,  Oracle and Salesforce, who offer marketing clouds. They’re realizing that content is the missing piece across all of their solutions, so they’re buying out the smaller players, like Compendium, or trying to build content solutions themselves. The problem is that these players are late to the market and don’t provide a focused solution or real expertise.

Where are your new customers coming from?

Most of our prospective customers are not using any solution at all. They are moving away from ad-hoc point solutions like FTP sites, Basecamp, and email, and they’re building their content marketing strategy from scratch.

Or, they’re moving away from social media management platforms and instead of buying content marketing platforms. This group is realizing they don’t need to pay so much money just for organic social publishing, which has become commoditized. What they actually need is content calendaring, asset management, global workflows and collaboration tools — this is the foundation is needed in order to create content at scale and easily publish across channels

How do you leverage content marketing in your own marketing program?

Every single customer engages with at least one piece of content. Before becoming a customer, 90% of our prospects engage with 22 of our newsletters, download 1 white paper, and attend one event and one webinar. That’s a pretty amazing testament to the power of content marketing in influencing the buyer’s journey. The bottom line is that content is the fuel of NewsCred’s own marketing engine. We want to be the biggest champions for our customers, which means we need to educate and inspire them to become the best marketers they can be.

To share your own user insights about NewsCred, write a review on TrustRadius.

About the Author

Megan Headley
Megan Headley
Megan leads Research at TrustRadius, whose mission is to ensure TrustRadius delivers high quality, useful and, above all, trustworthy user feedback to help prospective software buyers make more informed decisions. Before joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at Stratfor, where she was in charge of growing the company’s B2C revenue stream through email marketing and other channels. She enjoys traveling, reading, and hiking.

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