The internet is filled with newsletters, endless Twitter threads, white papers and SEO-based blog posts that claim to be resources for marketers and organizations investing in content and subscription businesses.
But, at heart, most advice for how to create content isn’t authored by a respected writer in the space. And that content is often its own form of lead-gen marketing.
That opportunity inspired the launch of Toolkits, the media and strategy consultancy co-founded by Jack Marshall and Shareen Pathak, formerly Digiday’s managing director of subscription products and director of editorial products, respectively.
Marshall and Pathak have done consulting work under the Toolkits LLC for the past year, but this month the two released the “Subscription Publishing Toolkit,” a resource for companies creating subscription content.
The business of content production is gaining a higher profile as of late.
Even a few years ago, many companies considered content production a job for younger, low-level employees, who’d crank out un-bylined posts on blogs or social media, Marshall said. “That just doesn't cut it anymore. CEOs and senior management are really seeing the necessity to invest more heavily in content from a quote-unquote ‘journalism’ perspective.”
In many instances, writing or content production roles are now thought of as the face of the company, and an important part of hiring and thought leadership, he said.
Aside from digital media or news publishers, agencies, technology companies, brands and even sports leagues are “borrowing the habits of journalism” to create adjacent media operations, Pathak said.
For news publishers, the questions can be more complicated. They don’t just want more audience and exposure. A news company must juggle its commitment to subscriptions compared to losing potential new readers and ad inventory when readers are blocked by a paywall. Or they must decide whether newsletters are more valuable as a part of a pay-gated subscription, or as a free sign-up to gain more emails and sponsorship ad revenue.
“Everyone is trying to figure out what that balance looks like,” Marshall said.
The new publishing toolkit addresses common subscription conundrums, such as password sharing, onboarding subscribers and SEO strategies for paywalled content.
Unlike former ad tech practitioners who became independent consultants, Pathak and Marshall are former advertising trade reporters. They aren’t system integrator type consultants, Pathak said, but the Toolkits team does bring its experience covering the ecosystem to bear in helping to make vendor decisions. Two other Toolkits guides are “choosing between server-side or client-side paywall technology” and “evaluating paywall providers.”
Marshall and Pathak are hardly the only two former ad trade editors to capitalize on their experience in a switch to the consultant world.
The former Digiday president and editor-in-chief, Brian Morrissey, exited last year and now has a newsletter subscription called The Rebooting covering media business models. Mike Shields, who held senior advertising editorial roles at Adweek, Digiday, The Wall Street Journal and Business Insider, is now a communications consultant. And Zach Rodgers, until earlier this month the executive editor of AdExchanger, also left the newsroom for independent consulting.