Acast Open launches to give brands an on-ramp to podcasting

The company is offering three different subscription levels, including a free “Starter” subscription.

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The podcasting platform Acast has launched Acast Open, making available its podcast production offerings to any brand or publisher wanting to start a podcast. Acast Open includes three subscription models — Starter, Influencer and Ace — that come with different levels of support and analytics.

Why we should care

Adobe Analytics reported that podcast app usage grew 60% over the past year. Not only does this translate to new advertising opportunities for brands — the increase in podcast popularity opens the door for any company or executive ready to take their content marketing to a new level via a branded podcast.

“Digital audio brings a new and untapped audience who are not reachable via traditional media,” says Sally Yu, director of research and insights for BBC Global News’ APAC division, during a recent event organized by BBC News and Campaign Asia, “It brings additive value to the traditional media reach.” Outside of music streaming, the top three forms of audio content consumed right now are music (67%), news (50%) and podcasts (37%), according to a study commissioned by BBC News that focused on the commercial opportunities of branded podcasts.

If your brand — or CEO — has value to add to a larger industry conversation, a branded podcast may be the piece of content marketing that sets you apart from your competition and helps you reach a whole new audience. Platforms like Acast and Spotify’s “create a podcast” app aim to make it easier for brands to join the ever-growing list of podcasters.

More on the news

  • Acast reports that any podcasts produced on its platform that appear to be attracting “a significant enough listenership” may be invited to join its premium network of podcast shows.
  • Acast’s current network includes a number of popular podcasts, such as “My Dad Wrote a Porno,” “Forever35,” and “Wahlgren & Wistam.”
  • Acast Open is the result of Acast’s acquisition of Pippa, a technology platform that provides hosting, analytics, and monetization capabilities for podcasters. Acast purchased Pippa in April.
  • The free Starter model includes a podcast RSS feed for distribution, basic analytics and a basic website for the podcast. The Influencer level is $14.99 a month and comes with advanced analytics and YouTube and Spotify support. Ace, the most expensive offering at $29.99 a month, is designed for companies in need of more advanced podcasting tools.

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Shutterstock’s new music subscription offers affordable music licensing for content creators

The $149 per month plan includes standard licensing to more than 11,000 music tracks, with hundreds of tracks added monthly.

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Shutterstock has launched an unlimited music subscription plan for content creators and digital marketers, offering more than 11,000 tracks that can be included in web-based content, including YouTube videos, podcasts and conference presentations.

The subscription fee is $149 per month, and includes access to the Shutterstock Music library with music tracks searchable by genre, mood or popularity. The company says its music selection has been curated by professional musicians, with hundreds of tracks added every month.

Why we should care

This latest offering from Shutterstock gives digital marketers and content creators the ability to spice up their content — putting a professional shine on things like podcast intros, YouTube ads or conference and trade show presentations. At $149 per month, it’s a cost-effective feature for marketers lacking the budget and resources to invest in high-end music productions for various projects.

“Our new unlimited licensing option empowers creators to license music as their needs arise and frees them to focus on the creative vision rather worrying about budget,” said Shutterstock VP of Product Christopher Cosentino.

Shutterstock is also adding “shorts” and “loops” music offerings to all of their licensing plans, making available shortened versions of a song (shorts) or segments of a longer song that repeats indefinitely (loops).

More on the news

  • The newly added shorts and loops come at no extra cost with all of Shutterstock plans. The shorts offer 15-second, 30-second and 60-second versions of songs.
  • Shutterstock now boasts a community of more than one million contributors, with hundreds of thousands of images added every week.
  • The image, video and now music licensing site has more than 280 million images and more than 16 million video clips available.

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It’s time to change your content marketing workflow

Enroll in the recently launched free academy.

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Think, write, design. Copy, paste, send, receive, call, chat, approve, feedback, edit, call, chat, copy, paste, click-click. 

Only the first three of the above activities — think, write, design – belong on a content marketer’s daily to-do list. This is what we should be spending our time on. Everything else takes up our workdays, evenings, and sometimes weekends. Why does that happen? First, we’ll convince you that your current workflow isn’t the way it has to be, and it definitely doesn’t come with the territory. 

When asked, “What does your current workflow look like?”, content marketers we talked to had similar replies. “We brainstorm in a meeting, create a spreadsheet, send briefs to the designer in an email, get the assets in a folder, put together the work in a presentation, send it to internal stakeholders through email and chats, get feedback within the threads, implement the feedback in spreadsheets, copy-paste the content in the final environment, and publish.” 

It’s not working

We can make do with this workflow, but it’s extremely hard work. We’re always rushing, but 60% of our projects still get delayed, our recent research discovered. We’re always innovating, but we found that 70% of brands and agencies still communicate through emails and showcase work in generic documents. We lose information, miscommunicate, and publish work that falls short. All these flaws in the way we work add up to creative professionals sorting emails and formatting spreadsheets rather than strategizing on new opportunities. These are not theoretical conclusions but the result of thorough research that revealed only 7% of marketers are truly happy with the way their team works. 

Better workflows

From brainstorming strategic approaches to hitting that publish button, we need clear guidelines. The hows, the whos, and the whats need to be decided, mapped, and followed to unlock serious productivity. We have to leverage new opportunities to stay ahead. Do we have the bandwidth to take them on? Right now, we don’t. With new processes, we will. 

Learn how

Raising standards in content collaboration and creative workflows begins with awareness and the deployment of technological resources that can help every content marketer out there produce better work. This is the founding premise for Planable’s Upgrade Your Content Marketing OS Academy. Planable has been around for over two years and has helped 5,000+ teams take their workflow to the next level. Planable’s collaboration software helps build seamless workflows, increases productivity and shifts the content marketers’ focus to what matters. By making it easy for teams to create, approve, schedule, and publish their content, Planable helps content teams take the first step toward real change. 

In looking to raise global standards in content marketing, Planable decided to share its knowledge by offering free video courses on content marketing workflows. Key industry experts contribute advice to help teams upgrade the way they work. The free courses consists of six chapters, all video. Xenia, Planable’s CEO, and the Academy lead, is joined by 20 rock star guests who are on the frontlines of content creation and workflow management. Marketers will discover insights from marketing experts such as Mitch Joel, Alex Khan, Josh Fechter, Oliver Yonchev and Emma Lyskava from Social Chain; Somi Arian and Tim Soulo from Ahrefs, and many more. 

Five things you’ll learn when you enroll in the Academy:

1. Great content wasn’t built in a day.

Great content can only be achieved with careful planning and research. The first part of the course dives deep into proper planning. Marketers will learn how to define their content goals and assign their resources. Understanding their audience takes time, but it is an essential part of the process of building relevant, engaging content.

The more you know about what you want to create and who will consume your content, the better. However, don’t overlook collecting information for each piece of content. Courtney Cormier, Content Marketing Manager at CPAP.com, encourages marketers to first consume content before creating content. 

2. The right approval process will not slow you down; it will make you stronger.

“It’s really about understanding the constant communication loop between the client and the customer,” states Alex Khan, CEO of Attractive Media.

The way marketers showcase work to their stakeholders is essential to the process. Anyone who reviews and approves content should visualize the work as it will look like live. Such details contribute to a stable line of communication, which will undeniably impact the relevancy of the feedback. 

Another key point addressed in the course is the tendency to blame this stage for delays. It doesn’t have to. The right approval process will ensure brand consistency, help the team align, act as a safety mechanism and unite everybody around the content.

3. It takes more than two to tango in a publishing flow.

Once marketing teams get approval, it’s time to publish the content. If publishing processes aren’t defined in time and there’s no coordination, the project usually gets delayed — resulting in chaos. 

When we’re ready to hit the publish button, last minute details come up. How many of these sound familiar? “We didn’t write the copy for social.” “We don’t have the image for the featured post.” “Alt texts.” “Meta descriptions.”

Teams can eliminate these last-minute roadblocks by keeping the following questions in mind:

  • What is needed? For example, videos need subtitles, articles need website uploading, imagery, maybe UTMs. Meta descriptions, author information, headshots, platform access, etc.  
  • Who is involved? Do you have a publisher? Does the content creator also publish the piece? Does the SEO team give input here? 
  • How do you align all the people? To make everybody involved and aware of their tasks, create a system that will work for your content every time.

4. Spread the word and clicks will follow.

“Brands are looking for unique ways to reach unique audiences,” says Academy guest Mitch Joel, founder of Six Pixels Group.

Many marketing teams consider hitting that publish button the finish line. But that’s only one lap of the race. After publishing, we have to spread the word. Our audience’s feeds get noisy and standing out becomes more difficult. 

To distribute your content, you need more than a mass email asking people to share. Focus on creative assets, proper repurposing calendars and clear distribution channels. These efforts to have everything in place shouldn’t start after the content is live. They must be part of the initial plan to accurately estimate your content’s potential.   

Marketers should be aware of how many forms their content can take. The insights you produce will fit one initial format: a video, blog post, or an infographic. Regardless of the way it’s first illustrated, it can then be transformed into alternative pieces of content to be distributed. 

5. Tool up your team to get the best results.

Technology serves as the foundation for anything you want to build, and it should be at the heart of your team’s efforts. The Academy drills down on exactly how technology can move things forward and achieve efficiency and alignment. From automation fighting burnout, to built-in visibility preventing a PR crisis, the right tools should be the glue that holds everything together. 


If you’re ready to dive deep into every step of the modern content workflow, check out how Planable Academy can help your team. Enroll for free.

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Taboola Trends launches to offer free ‘A/B insights’ into video, image, text creatives

The tool uses the company’s global traffic to show which creatives drive higher CTRs.

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Content discovery platform Taboola, which two weeks ago announced a merger with its primary competitor Outbrain, recently released a trends tool that offers insights about the performance of ad and content creative from its publisher network.  

The combined company has roughly 20,000 publisher customers and 10,000 advertisers in 50 countries. It also claims to reach 52% of all desktop users globally.

Slice and dice by country, platform and industry. That global traffic data informs Taboola Trends. It’s a free tool to gain A/B-style perspectives on image creative, video content performance, keywords and titles.

Marketers can look at image creative by industry, device category, language and country. You can then see how variables such as text, color, subject, model gender and image type impact click-through rates. In the example below, the black and white image somewhat surprisingly outperforms the color image with an 83% better CTR.

Source: Taboola Trends

Similarly, with video, marketers can see the video types that are more likely to be completed, by content category, country, device platform and duration.

There’s also trend data tied to keywords and phrases. In addition, marketers can test alternative headlines or image titles and see relative CTR performance estimates. Finally, the company also offers summaries of vertical-specific insights in industry benchmark reports (registration required). Though interesting, not all of this information is equally useful.

Source: Taboola Trends

Why we should care. Taboola Trends joins Google Trends, BuzzSumo, Answer the Public and other free tools that offer research and insights for marketers seeking ideas, inspiration and context as they plan campaigns. But other than the title analyzer, Taboola Trends is not a true A/B testing tool for your individual content or ad creative. It does provide, however, a kind of directional predictor of CTR performance that can be helpful in thinking about content and creative.

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Email-driven content marketing for SMBs

Learn which digital content types are most effective.

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You’ve probably heard plenty of talk about how email marketing is dying or even that it’s already dead. In fact, based on the insights gathered by SharpSpring and Ascend2, it seems the opposite is true. Marketing influencers at 145 businesses with 500 or fewer employees tell us email is alive and thriving.

Download this guide from Sharpspring to find out:

  • The top strategic priorities and the most common barriers to success
  • The most effective channels for marketing content
  • Which digital content types are most effective

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download ” Email-driven Content Marketing for SMBs.

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Are these 5 content marketing myths holding you back?

Although there may include a grain of truth, these myths ultimately stand in the way of content marketing success.

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Nowadays, most marketers understand the essentials of content marketing: know your audience, provide value, don’t sell aggressively. 

But content marketing is evolving quickly – and success is not always cut-and-dried. As a result, it’s easy for old ideas to outlive their usefulness, or for marketers to overreact to changes in the landscape. And when that happens, myths and misconceptions creep in. These myths may include a grain of truth, but ultimately they stand in the way of content marketing success. 

With that in mind, let’s clear away five myths that continue to haunt content marketing. 

#1: Your content speaks for itself

Myth: If your content hasn’t truly broken through with your audience, either your content isn’t good enough or you’re not producing enough of it. 

Reality: Content remains the heart of your marketing efforts, and there is no substitute for brilliant content. But it’s easy to fall into the cult of “more” or the cult of “better,” and fail to examine the role of amplification and distribution in content marketing success. Without support and validation from other marketing channels, even the best content can fail.  

#2: SEO is dead

Myth: Old-school SEO tactics – such as keyword stuffing and amassing low-quality backlinks – no longer work. Therefore, competing for organic rankings is impossible and a waste of time. 

Reality: SEO is as important as it’s ever been. It’s true that search engine algorithms have evolved, and there are no tactical shortcuts to the top of the rankings. As algorithm updates make search engines better at gauging whether content has value to actual humans, the focus has shifted to creating unique, rich and engaging content – while still optimizing so search engines can crawl and interpret content properly.

#3: RIP Facebook 

Myth: Young people are abandoning it in droves, “organic reach” is an oxymoron, and Mark Zuckerberg is seemingly in front of Congress every other day. The targeting tools might be nice for advertisers, but organically Facebook is over. 

Reality: Despite the bad press, Facebook is still the world’s largest social network. While it may not be the main social channel for every business, a decent Facebook presence is still a necessity for most well-rounded organic social strategies. An abandoned-looking Facebook page is a missed opportunity and may lead visitors to think less of your brand. 

#4: More content is better content

Myth: The more you throw at the wall, the more likely something is to stick, right? 

Reality: There is some truth to this myth. If you sink all your resources into one content masterpiece, you can’t iterate and learn – and if your piece doesn’t perform, you’ve got a problem. But the trouble with turning on the content fire hose is that your audience is already inundated – they’re seeing vast amounts of low-quality, unmemorable content every day. The soundest content strategy is a happy medium – a series of strategically chosen bets rather than trying to be everywhere at once.  

#5: More martech, more money

Myth: Technology solves problems. Therefore, marketing technology solves marketing problems. 

Reality: To be clear: great tech, used well, is a massive advantage. Martech solutions become problematic when you lack a clear strategy, or don’t have strong executional foundations. In those cases, you’re adding a whole new set of costs – in money, implementation time and ongoing effort – that can divert resources from doing the basics well. Also, marketers often underestimate the difficulty of mastering the new competencies that technology enables. Technology can help you personalize content, for example, but personalization is not a switch you can flip – it’s a capability that needs to be developed and nurtured over time.

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Shutterstock launches Smart Brief, collaborative tool for creative briefs

The tool employs automated technology to accelerate the traditional creative collaboration process.

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Visual content provider Shutterstock today announced the launch of ​Smart Brief – a new tool designed to simplify and improve the creative briefing process for marketers and creatives.

The new service is part of Shutterstock Custom, a premium content management solution that helps enterprise clients produce and scale branded content. Shutterstock Custom users will be able to access the Smart Brief tool, which employs automated technology to accelerate the traditional creative collaboration process.

Smart Brief in action.

According to the company, key highlights of the tool include:

Intelligence. Powered by machine learning, the tool guides users through the process with relevant prompts that capture accurate inputs while eliminating conflicting or unnecessary information

Improved collaboration. Users will have the ability to accept changes and recommendations from other team members, view or revert to previous versions, and clone existing briefs.

Flexibility. Users are able to make adjustments to controls, production value, and the service level per project as the scope of work evolves.

Why we should care

Creative collaboration is often a pain point for both marketers and creative professionals alike – and can be particularly challenging for agency teams managing high-volume client projects.

A tool like Smart Brief has the potential to streamline workflows, resulting in less time spent inputting briefs and obtaining approvals and more time dedicated to creating high-quality branded content.

“The traditional creative brief process is laborious, time-consuming, and leaves a lot open to interpretation… We set out to automate and simplify the experience,” said Sylvain Grande, SVP of product and UX at Shutterstock. “Smart Brief streamlines our clients’ workflow and in turn, allows them to receive content faster without compromising results or having to be on set.”

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Competitor content analysis: Here’s what you can learn

Understanding your competitors’ content strategies will help you outperform them where it matters most, in the search results.

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It’s 10 pm – do you know where your competitors are?

Like the effect those PSAs had on parents in the 80’s and 90’s, this message likely brings up feelings of concern and uncertainty, especially if you’re a brand fighting for your spot in the marketplace.

Competitor analysis is an integral part of running a successful business and this holds true for online brands as well, particularly when it comes to search marketing and SEO. While it may take quarterly or even annual studies to discover when you’re losing market share to the competition in terms of positioning or share of mind, you can see your competition start to outrank you in the search results immediately.

Since search engines largely rely on algorithms to determine the results they show searchers, these results are constantly updating, and if you’re standing pat with SEO, you’re losing ground.

To mitigate these losses – as well as find growth opportunities – you need to monitor competitor strategies, and one of the best places to start is with their content.

Analyzing competitor content to identify content gaps

Keeping an eye on the competition is important because it can help you find gaps within your own content strategy and where your pages might be missing the mark.

Start by identifying your competitors’ top pages. One way to find these pages is to use a tool like Screaming Frog to see which pages have the most internal links pointing to them. Internal links signal importance to search engines, so these are the pages your competitor has flagged as their most important. Review these pages to see if there are any relevant pages you need to add to your site.

Another great way to find missed opportunities through competitor content is to identify which pages are driving organic traffic to competitor sites. Tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs make it easy to identify top pages based on what percentage of organic traffic they earn. 

If you see a page that is responsible for a substantial percentage of your competitor’s traffic – and you don’t cover that subject on your site – it may be worth exploring what it would take to create your own page on the topic. Furthermore, if your competitor’s content is thin, poorly structured, or you are otherwise confident you can create something equal or better, you’ve just found a prime opportunity to capture more search visitors.

Analyze your competitors’ top pages, and the keywords associated with those pages, then examine your own content to see if there are any gaps you could fill to create new sources of organic traffic.

Competitor content analysis for content improvement

Analyzing competitor content can also empower you to improve your existing pages.

As you analyze your competitors’ top pages, don’t just focus on keywords – scrutinize the structure and organization of the page to understand why it might be performing so well.

Does the page go in-depth and perhaps it’s ranking based on thoroughness? Or is the page answering a specific question quickly and succinctly? Or does it do both?

These are important questions to answer if you want to understand why their page is ranking, and more importantly, how you can improve the performance of your pages.

You should also pay attention to the formats and types of content used. Is the content broken up with images or screenshots? Do they use bullet points and sub-headers to make the page easy to scan? Is video or audio present on the page? Again, these are your competitor’s top pages, and that short video they’ve embedded on their page might be the difference between their content’s performance and yours.

However, don’t stop at your competitor’s page. Go examine the corresponding search results where they rank and analyze the other pages featured there. While these pages might be from brands you don’t consider traditional competitors, these are the pages you’re competing with for visibility in search. Also, these pages can provide further insight into how you can tweak and improve your existing content.

Other information you can glean from competitor and current ranking pages includes:

  • Primary intent that search engines associate with the given topic.
  • Relevant and related sub-topics or questions.
  • Associated SERP features (rich snippets, knowledge graph, local packs, etc.)
  • And credible external sources and relevant citations.

With this information, you will have all the tools necessary to update your page to best answer the query you’re targeting. 

At this point, the only thing standing between your content and page one rankings might be backlinks. However, with backlink tools like Majestic and Moz you can identify the sites linking to those top pages – if you work to improve your page to the level of quality of the ranking pages, it’s likely these sites would be open to linking to your page as well.

Leveraging competitor content for linkable asset ideation

Speaking of backlinks, analyzing competitor content can help you generate ideas for link-worthy content too.

Before, you were scrutinizing competitor pages based on organic traffic, but many of the tools I’ve discussed here will also help you identify your competitors’ top pages based on backlinks. Just as you analyzed their top trafficked pages to understand why they rank so well; you can analyze these top linked pages to understand why they attract so many backlinks.

This analysis provides you with a host of topics that generate links and interest within your niche. You can also dig into the backlink profiles of these pages to learn how they are linked to gain insight into what types of pages and websites would want to link to this content.

For example, your competitor may have executed an original study that produced one interesting statistic that is being cited by numerous websites. It’s likely you won’t be able to replicate that study – and if you do, other sites are more likely to find your competitor’s site when searching for a citation – but you can analyze their study and identify what made it interesting to springboard ideas for tangential or supportive research.

Of course, improving on their idea, also known as the skyscraper technique, is an option as well, but this approach typically requires significant investment.

The key to this analysis is identifying linkable topics and pivoting them to be unique while maintaining the attributes that made your competitor’s pages link-worthy.

Benefits of competitor content analysis

Content marketing continues to be an integral part of successful digital marketing and SEO as search engines constantly provide the advice to “create good content.” However, consistently generating quality content ideas and executing them well is difficult, particularly if your goal is to rank your content in competitive SERPs.

Fortunately, your competitors are here to help! Through competitor content analysis you can learn:

  • Which pages and topics your competitors identify as important.
  • How your competitors earn organic traffic from search.
  • Where gaps exist within your current content marketing strategy.
  • Which low-investment content opportunities are available.
  • Ways to improve existing content for better search performance.
  • Which topics generate interest and backlinks within your niche.
  • And how and why websites link to content within your space.

Understanding your competitors’ content strategies will help you outperform them where it matters most, in the search results.

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Soapbox: Publishers, stop giving lucrative content away to Amazon and Facebook

In today’s Soapbox, the focus should be less on walled gardens and more on embracing the future as a forward-thinking digital brand.

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As Facebook once again rolls out its pitch to publishers, this time pledging publishers more money and promising to hire former journalists to evaluate the feed, the industry begins its seemingly never-ending, tired debate around Facebook’s trustworthiness.

But it’s not just Facebook trying to lure publishers, Amazon launched Onsite Associates program as an appeal to publishers to upload publisher’s lucrative product guides to the Amazon platform.

Are publishers really going to fall for it again?

Look to the precedent of their treatment of video creators on Prime Video, where they mirrored the classic moves of Facebook and Google and cut the returns for the actual creators of content.

Publishers need to protect their future by lessening reliance on any intermediary. Publishers recognize this which led to the recent craze in instituting paywalls. And already, there are incredible advancements in this area. Some companies are making use of the assets publishers exclusively have at their disposal (first-party data) to build models that aren’t reliant on platforms like Facebook and Amazon to create revenue.

By using all the data signals they have at their disposal, publishers can drive subscriptions effectively, thus lowering their dependence on the walled gardens for revenue. Publishers have a lot of weapons at their disposal but they’re still, by and large, thinking like a newspaper that gets read on a computer, not like a forward-thinking digital brand. Publishers should embrace all the data they have at their fingertips and invest in exploring how to cut out the intermediaries.

Soapbox is a special feature for marketers in our community to share their observations and opinions about our industry. You can submit your own here.

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