CASHING IN ON FINTECH
A Babel analysis into how the media is talking about the financial technology industry, what that means for PR & communications strategies, and how to address the opportunity
BACKGROUND – Cashing in on the fintech opportunity
While fintech investment figures for Q3 show some slowdown in the global market (Innovate Finance, and KPMG’s Pulse of Fintech report), overall investment remains high. With the market full of bright young sparks creating disruptive solutions, and with new regulations like Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) around the corner, and consumer demand for increasingly convenient, accessible and intelligent solutions showing no sign of slowing, successful fintech companies stand to gain a lot.
With this in mind, and with the US leg of Money 20/20 taking place last month, Babel PR undertook an in-depth analysis into how the media is talking about the fintech industry and what this means for our clients’ communications strategies, and the actions they can take to cash in on the fintech opportunity.
What does Google think?
With new technologies like robotics, IoT, and blockchain each having an impact on the fintech market, innovation is spreading beyond the realms of traditional financial services and encompassing new ventures, institutions and ideas. Great news for consumers who have a wealth of products to choose from, bad news for companies wanting to make their voices heard.
Unsurprisingly, fintech players put out huge volumes of information in the hope some of it will hit its target, reach influential media, gain traction and leave a lasting impression. Most press releases will run on newswire services and soon after will appear word for word on a myriad of news aggregator sites. A day or two later, however, all the evidence has gone. The original announcement may still be indexed by Google, but the company’s intelligent algorithms can distinguish between ‘real’ news and aggregator sites, and the latter just don’t make the cut. The vast majority of us find our news online and Google dominates this space. In some ways, if your news isn’t being indexed by Google it doesn’t exist. And if it isn’t there, it won’t be found, seen or shared to anything like the extent it could have been.
Given this situation, and the obvious importance of search visibility for all companies, we focused exclusively on fintech news articles that did make Google’s cut to see what could be learnt. Interestingly, while payments as an overall sub-sector is a hot area for investment, there is a big difference between the media’s receptiveness to different types of payments content. This report therefore focuses exclusively on the three most prolific: ‘card payments’, ‘mobile payments’ and ‘real-time payments’. We carried out a Google News search on these terms, compared media coverage and drew conclusions, identifying where vendors could get the best bang for their buck in relation to comms spend. To make the data manageable we placed the following restrictions on the search.
- Time period: 1st January 2016 to 14th October 2016
- Search: via google.com (rather than a localised Google search)
Of course, there are millions of other articles that could be found and analysed, but this is the content that Google’s algorithms have judged to be of the most relevance and interest and so continues to be indexed and delivered in the results despite the passing of time. Although the algorithms are fiendishly complex (and confidential) we do know that Google takes account of content, site authority and the number of times accessed, shared etc.
In the run-up to this year’s Money 20/20 – the self-proclaimed world’s largest payments and financial innovations event – in October, our analysis also looked at activity around these three search terms and how vendors can better structure their communications campaigns as a result.
The below charts illustrate a breakdown of coverage of the three search terms by time period; H1, and Q3 and October.
- Real-time payments (H1)
- Mobile payments (H1)
- Card payments (H1)
Q3 + Oct
- Real-time payments (Q3 + Oct)
- Mobile payments (Q3 + Oct)
- Card payments (Q3 + Oct)
Card payments was one of the search terms that saw a significant increase in coverage across all publications prior to the October event; 79% of all articles covering card payments appeared between July and October 2016.
Similarly, mobile payments as a term saw increased coverage in the run-up to Money 20/20, with 69% of articles appearing between July and October 2016. Interestingly, real-time payments bucked this trend. Unlike the other two search terms, it was covered in a much smaller number of articles in the second half of the year to date; only 45%, compared with 55% in H1.
The below charts illustrate the frequency of stories on card payments, mobile payments, and real-time payments, by publication.
What’s particularly interesting from this initial analysis is that a small subset of fintech titles represent a significant proportion of the total articles in our data set. This was most prevalent for the term ‘real-time payments’, as the top five publications represented 44% of the total number of stories which were focussed on this topic. The top five accounted for 30% and 15% of the total story count for mobile payments and card payments, respectively.
While newswire services make an appearance in the top five publications for all search terms, it is by far the dominant source of news related to card payments. This suggests this is not so much an industry buzzword, rather an integral part of the sector, used and repeated out of necessity rather than adding gravitas to a story. Card payments encompasses a broad range of transactions which are fundamental to the financial industry as a whole. Stuffed into vendor materials, the term has perhaps lost some weight – especially when compared with real-time and mobile payments, which reference developing technologies – and as such stories focussed on card payments can be found in volume on newswire sites in by-the-book vendor releases.
|Card payments||Mobile payments||Real-Time payments|
|1||Business Wire (40)||Mobile Payments Today (82)||Banking Technology (84)|
|2||Business Insider (26)||NFC World (72)||IBS Intelligence, blog (79)|
|3||Banking Technology (21)||Payment Week (42)||Business Wire (27)|
|4||Finextra, Finextra blog, Finextra press release (47)||Business Wire (17)||Payments Source (27)|
|5||Tech Crunch (11)||Business Insider (15)||Finextra, press release (24)|
What’s clear from the above is that depending on the type of technology you are promoting, the relevant publications differ. Excluding Business Wire, the dominant publications across all payments terms were Banking Technology, Business Insider and Finextra, but there are other more specialised outlets for each area of fintech.
What makes a good fintech story?
When it comes to communications and media relations, all fintech companies should be asking themselves (or should be asking their comms/PR teams) one important question: ‘What do the articles that have impact and longevity have in common?’ To answer that, you need to look in detail at the articles in question, and that’s what we did for our three fintech search terms.
When it comes to ‘mobile payments’, thought leadership content dominates the conversation. Whether that content takes the form of market intelligence, a company case study, or a contributed article, these types of opportunities are responsible for 46% of the articles we analysed for our report. When you add this to the percentage of articles covering company news or product/solution announcements (31%), it’s evident that ‘mobile payments’ is a powerful, although perhaps unsurprising, search term for broad exposure and profile raising opportunities.
Its position as a major fintech trend was in evidence at the US leg of Money 20/20, with a whole agenda track dedicated to developments in this area. This is also hardly a surprise, as the industry has been moving in this direction for some time now: on the consumer front, mobile payments technology is fast moving into the mainstream on a global scale, and mobile trading is also on the up, buoyed by advancements in app technology. It’s a point worth noting all the same though, as it should have a significant effect on any comms strategy. And it’s no wonder, then, that with traders, bankers and consumers moving to a model of banking on the move, it is opinion-led content – which gives vendors the opportunity to elaborate on the disruptive nature of mobile payments technology – that is covered frequently by the media.
Using thought leadership as an avenue for content output has a couple of additional bonuses for a vendor: they can control the message and direction of the content, and several major publications will allow a backlink within the article to the vendor’s website. For example, NFC World, which was the second most prolific publisher for stories on ‘mobile payments’, has a whole section of its online ‘Knowledge Sector’ dedicated to the topic, featuring a library of whitepapers on the subject. The business model here is based on the content providers paying an annual fee to gain access to services designed to help them build brand awareness and connect with customers. Vendors should consider thought leadership content such as whitepapers not only to disseminate their message and brand, but as a lead generation tool.
A look at ‘real-time payments’ as a search term reveals that case studies and contract wins top the media agenda. This demonstrates a significant interest in live examples of how real-time payments technology is changing the fintech landscape.
On the surface this presents a win-win opportunity: the media likes real-life stories which have a sense of immediacy, and for fintech firms, case studies offer a valuable opportunity to demonstrate success and include a client’s public endorsement. However, these types of articles are a mixed bag for the latter, as they are usually heavily dominated by the bigger players which are able to include the finer details of deals and partnerships which challengers often lack approval to report. Forty-eight per cent of the articles analysed from leading industry publication Banking Technology, for example, fell into the case study or product announcement category, and were mainly focused on well-known brands.
The popularity of case studies and product announcements may, on the surface, appear to be a good thing for vendors. However, this is a bit of a red herring. Lesser-known brands should only chase news-led coverage in titles like Banking Technology if they have either truly ground-breaking technology to announce or the sign-off to include weighty names and juicy details in their announcements, in order to rival those of the big players which are predominantly covered by such titles. If not, comms spend should focus on bundling product announcements into opinion pieces, thought leadership, or strategic piggy-backing on industry news developments to get information about a product launch out there.
Real-time payments is clearly a top term in the fintech industry now, but vendors need to carefully consider which type of publication will be the best receptacle for different types of content. Our research found that Payments Source, for instance, is more readily open to thought leadership and contributed articles (the second most popular category of stories on real-time payments) from challenger brands around this topic than business media are. This is perhaps because the brand focusses on changes in the payments business, and these changes are often driven by startups and challengers. In addition, Payment Source’s umbrella company Observer Capital has a diverse media portfolio, with other financial titles focussing on more established fintech firms.
Card payments was the term most frequently covered, with 817 stories discovered using our search criteria for the given period. This compares with 754 stories about mobile payments, and 543 about real-time payments. A look at media coverage from the year to date suggests that the term ‘card payments’ is most commonly seen on newswire sites – it’s a term that fintech companies are using to describe themselves in their corporate materials, but not necessarily one that is gaining traction with the media.
The high proportion of stories in Business Insider which focus on card payments may at first glance seem to disprove this point, as the publication was responsible for more than one third of the articles we analysed. However, on closer inspection more than half of those articles were promotional pieces for Business Insider’s own research arm BI Intelligence, which had 5,000 paying subscribers at the beginning of this year and is clearly hoping to attract more.
In the lead-up to Money 20/20 stories on card payments received a large amount of coverage by the same publication, yet it is worth pointing out that Business Insider was a media partner for Money 20/20, so likely aligned much of its content with that of the event in the months preceding.
Card payments as a search term is highly representative of how the media landscape is changing. Vendors need to start to think outside the box and identify new ways to target and reach the C-level audience they’re after, using language as a tool and getting behind search terms that offer the best support for their marcomms mix.
Of the search terms examined, ‘real-time payments’ and ‘mobile payments’ dominated media coverage in 2016 and were used three times as often throughout the time period analysed than ‘card payments’ was, reflecting media affinity with these terms.
Content that Google’s search algorithms delivers to anyone searching all three payments terms is dominated by articles on market intelligence/thought leadership, case study/contract wins, and product/solution announcements.
However, this does not mean that other types of content should be ignored; instead, there is great value in running a multipronged PR approach in order to make as much noise in the fintech space as possible. For example, there are not many industry reports on the sector (ie vendor-led or analyst-led research) within the three payments search terms we analysed. In fact, articles covering these topics represented only 5% of the total. Contrary to popular belief, this is not due to lack of media interest. In the fintech space, it appears to be due to the fact that there’s not a great number of these reports being commissioned, which offers a strong opportunity for brands to pursue. Challengers, in particular, should take note; this could be a perfect, cost-effective solution to get your message and brand into leading financial and business publications, which ordinarily reserve column inches for big players.
Articles on political/regulatory issues were also scarce in our results. There is, however, a strong industry focus on regulatory developments and changes to the fintech sector; the Money 20/20 agenda for instance, featured two tracks dedicated to legal and regulatory issues. If media interest on this topic could be stoked by vendors, it could open up a new – and unique – avenue to comment on market intelligence opportunities.
Fintech firms need to think outside the box and identify new ways to target and reach their audience. The market is growing, and that means more competition and less chance of getting your voice heard. To get noticed in the fintech space, companies need to:
- Be on top of the news agenda, regularly commenting on new developments
- Have a steady stream of thought leadership driven contributed content to help underpin the first point
- Bring it all together with interesting, issues-based analysis and reports
In our experience, unless funds are unlimited, there is no better way to gain and sustain attention and interest.
Barclays – Fast Growth research
Findings from the Fast Growth research received universal, positive coverage in the media, including more than numerous pieces of national and broadcast coverage, as well as extensive regional and trade coverage. The widespread media attention helped promote Barclays as a thought leader and leading financial partner with the target audience, and helped to showcase Barclays’ expertise in enabling fast growth technology companies to scale and grow.
Through a proactive thought leadership campaign that highlighted Factset’s opinions and expertise, coupled with an issues jump programme to provide quick, insightful and timely comment from Factset around breaking news stories, for example around the adoption of cloud and big data technologies within financial services and the culture of high street banks, Babel boosted Factset’s profile with its target audience, securing top tier coverage and opportunities with financial technology and business/national publications including The Sunday Times, Banking Technology, Waters, Future Banking, Finextra, The Hedge Fund Review, The Hedge Fund Journal, and Chartered Banker.
Combined thought leadership and corporate campaigns served to cement Cashflows’ position as a key player in the market and an industry thought leader. The coverage strongly reflected campaign messaging and positioning. This has allowed Cashflows to differentiate themselves in the emergent Fintech space, ensuring the media and target audiences understand Cashflows’ proposition.
Recommind made inroads into the financial services sector helped by byline and comment pieces secured in titles such as Banking Technology, FinExtra, Strategic Risk and Fraud Intelligence. Babel established Recommind as a key industry commentator on compliance and information risk, resulting in top tier opportunities with business publications such as The Economist, The Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Huffington Post.
Barclays – Biometric Reader
Working closely with Barclays, we were able to secure blanket national coverage not to mention a wide range of television and radio spots as well as numerous international outlets and trade, technical and vertical titles. In total, over 200 individual pieces of print, online and broadcast coverage were generated; a resounding success in anyone’s book.