If I had a nickel every time I heard someone scoff at brands’ publishing initiatives because they believe they’re bad for the “future of media” – well, I’d be somewhat well off.
The needlessly adversarial narrative around brand publishers vs. traditional publishers is moving on to what I think is a much more interesting discussion on how the consumption and creation of content has become more complex and “media” is changing dramatically.
Like it or loathe it, one result of the brand publishing movement has been an increase in the availability of information. One sector that’s been particularly active building “media companies” within their walls recently is investment banking. Consider:
- Goldman Sachs hired a new editor-in-chief: Quartz EIC Katherine Bell joined the investment bank, where, per a job posting, Bell will “play a key role in creating modern, best-in-class content.” At Goldman, the content team sits inside the global marketing division. Bell joined a handful of Quartz alums, including its membership editor Sam Grobart, who is the vp of content at Goldman. The bank creates videos and audio updates on what’s happening in finance, and produces content that repackages intelligence within the company into stories.
- Goldman’s consumer bank, Marcus, is also hiring an editor in chief who will drive commercial growth via thought leadership.
- On the internal side, Citi recently posted a role for an editorial executive who will strategize on content and storytelling for the bank’s 250,000 employees – driving attention and engagement for internal audiences. (That’s a lot of eyeballs.)
- JPMorgan Chase has been an active player in the publishing space, snapping up restaurant review site the Infatuation last year.
- As my former colleague Lucia Moses reported for Insider recently, JPM also hired David Moss, who oversaw Robinhood’s content efforts, to lead its publishing efforts for U.S. Wealth Management.
There are obvious reasons for banks getting deeper into content: An effort to increase favoribility scores among various audiences, including consumers and prospective employees, particularly during a time trust in these instiutitions remains low. (It’s not surprising that many of these content initiatives first actually began during the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. Remember “vampire squid”?)[
But what is interesting is how these entities are able to take advantage of operating in sectors that are difficult to understand in order to propel editorial content. Brand publishing can flourish when faced with difficult to parse, complicated topics. (It’s why web3 is a ripe content opportunity for brands, for example.) For financial services brands that operate in the increasingly complex global economy, being in a position to explain and go deep inside these types of topics can be a powerful differentiator..
Plus, most banks also already have a deep bench of expertise within their walls. At investment banks, content is already a core offering – analysts write detailed notes going deep inside companies and analyzing market trends – so translating this into an editorial-first opportunity feels a little bit like a no-brainer.
For banks, publishing isn’t as much a new muscle as much as a slightly new workout. There’s some historical precedent here that backs this up. So much of what financial-types do is create content, then figure out a way to make money out of it. The Diff, Byrne Hobart’s (excellent) newsletter about financial markets, made this point astutely in a post about newsletter economics, pointing out all the finance companies that started as content/newsletter offerings before turning into something different, including Bridgewater, Charles Schwab and Tudor, Pickering, Holt.
As Hobart writes: “asset management is really just making connections between people who have money and need investment opportunities and people who have opportunities and need money to take advantage of them.”
Financial services also generally have the problem of high CAC that publishing can help with. JP Morgan’s acquisition of The Infatuation (and Frank, an online portal that helps students research and apply for financial aid) is an effort to build an ongoing relationship with an audience in an effort to create more value for customers and retain them longer.
In financial services, customers generally have extremely high lifetime value – when was the last time you switched a bank? – but operate in highly competitive markets, making the customer acquisition costs also high. A site like The Infatuation can help a bank like JP Morgan Chase keep its customers by giving them more in exchange for being customers – content and experiences.
Content can also double up as a service internally. Publishing teams inside brands often do double duty: They act as reporters and editors, but also in-house consultants on editorial strategies and processes. For banks, brand publishing teams are often used as internal advisors for any client initiatives that have to do with content.
What’s next: As brand publishers get more serious about their content and publishing operations, they’re becoming more discerning about the editorial talent that they hire to power and grow their efforts. One group in their crosshairs: editors and reporters at business focused media companies.