Standing out in the Media of Things
Creating relevance in your IoT story
A little research will quickly reveal that the Internet of Things (IoT) market is primed for considerable growth. Just how much it grows is open to an active industry debate but if you take the figures from IDC's Worldwide and Regional Internet of Things (IoT) 2014–2020 Forecast, we can look forward to a market worth $7.1 trillion in 2020. Those trillions of dollars represent an environment in which 28.1 billion 'things' that will be monitoring and communicating with something or somebody, somewhere at some time.
So, let's just agree, it's a big market and with big markets come big opportunities so it's little wonder that, all of sudden, everyone seems to be in the IoT business. From a communications perspective it's one of the noisiest markets of them all with everyone from tiny start-ups to major international corporations vying for the eyes and ears of media, analysts, partners and customers. At Babel we see this 'one in, all in' situation all the time – mobile, big data, cloud, gamification, artificial intelligence and robotics are just a few of the technology trends that everyone seems to want to get involved in.
Of course it can make a lot of sense to follow the hype cycle (and the money!) but if you do so, as well as having a viable commercial proposition, you have to remember that you are not alone. For your voice to be heard you have to shout loud (£££££££££££) or box clever (£). With that in mind we've undertaken a detailed analysis of one aspect of the IoT communications mix to try and establish what approach needs to be adopted for media outreach to shine a light on companies operating in the IoT sector.
WHAT DOES GOOGLE THINK?
Every single day companies around the world are generating content they hope will find its way to the influential media. Some of it will hit the target to a greater or lesser extent but relatively little will gain any real traction and have lasting impact. You can see that clearly with the vast majority of announcements distributed via newswire services. Soon after distribution those announcements will be seen word for word on myriad news aggregator sites but just a day or two later all the evidence has gone. If you are lucky the original announcement might still be indexed by Google but the world's biggest search engine knows what news really is and those aggregator sites just don't make the cut.
This is an important point. The vast majority of us find our news online and, whether we like it or not, Google dominates search in all its formats. 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 might have been.
Given that situation, and the obvious importance of search visibility for all companies, we looked at the IoT news articles that did make Google's cut to see what could be learnt. To do so we carried out a Google News search on ‘Internet of Things’ and to make the data manageable we placed the following restrictions on the search:
- Search via google.co.uk (rather than google.com)
- Country: the UK
- 1st Jan 2016 – 31st Aug 2016
That gave us just over 300 individual news articles to analyse. Of course there are millions of others that could be found and analysed if you looked for them but these are articles that Google's algorithms have judged to be most relevant. 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 and shared etc. What this news search delivers is the really 'sticky' news articles – articles that have been judged to be of the most relevance and interest and so continue to be indexed and delivered in the results despite the passing of time.
The chart below provides us with the first piece of intelligence. It shows those media titles responsible for publishing four or more of the articles included with the results.
Media by category (those responsible for 4 or more articles within the sample)
Why is this interesting? Because it reveals a range of media titles that have some authority. They have an interest in the IoT and are actively and regularly publishing related content. In fact, the top ten titles, in terms of the number of articles represented within the search, account for more than 40% of the total; a small number of titles have a disproportionately high influence factor. At the very least, these are titles that ought to be on the list of key targets for outreach for many companies operating in the IoT sector. Theirs is content that is definitely being consumed by those with an interest in the topic.
Next we looked at which categories of media were responsible for the bulk of the articles within the sample. Tech media obviously dominates as would be expected with a developing technology; however, the other categories are also important:
- National and internal business media can have very wide reach and significant authority
- If you're aiming for C-level decision makers and influencers who aren't necessarily technically minded (ie most of them), their relevant vertical sector titles are much more likely to have a share of their attention than a tech outlet
- Consumer titles are obviously important for products aimed at consumers but they shouldn't be ignored for the B2B environment. Like the business media, these titles can have significant reach, including to the eyeballs of the C-level execs you are targeting
Media by category (those responsible for four or more articles within the sample)
The message here is that you should be looking at a broad spectrum of media in all your communications outreach. Technology titles will deliver the bulk of high ranking coverage and that's fine if decisions about your products and solutions are only ever made and influenced by individuals who consume technology media, but in our experience, that's rarely the case. The other media categories may well get your message to an audience who will be initiators and influencers of new IoT implementations and so it makes sense to talk to them through their chosen media.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD IoT STORY THEN?
The question all companies should be asking themselves (or their communications/PR support teams) is, '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 exactly what we did for the sample.
Shown below is the number of articles (those within titles publishing four or more in the sample) arranged according to which category of story they represent:
Articles by category
The thing that stands out most in this chart is the value that Google (and presumably the audience) clearly places on articles that focus on market intelligence, issues and trends and the content appears to be sourced from a wide range of companies; small, medium and large. Articles in this category represent nearly half (48%) of the total and provide a very good indication of what companies ought to be thinking about when defining what they are going to be talking about and how they are going to do it. Separately identified, and representing close to a third (32%) of all articles within this broad category, are contributed articles – 'putting pen to paper' yourself (or having the piece ghost written) can clearly pay dividends.
The next largest category of articles identified within the sample is product and solution announcements. That will perhaps reassure the thousands of companies consistently pumping out news of their 'next big thing' but a word of caution is worthwhile. This category represents just 21% of the total and every one of the articles in question were reporting on products and solutions from major, universally known, international brands. Smaller brands can achieve that sort of reach and prominence but the product or solution in question typically needs to be truly significant and have wide market implications.
The other categories represent significantly smaller numbers of the sample. That doesn't mean they aren't important, or worthwhile pursuing, but the target audience certainly doesn't appear to have the same preference as it does for the leading categories. Digging into the data a little more, as shown in the charts below, reveals patterns for individual media categories and it's worth noting that there are variances. Articles concerning marketing intelligence, issues and trends still dominate in the sample for both national / internal business and technology media but don't expect your byline in a business title to make it to the list. You may instead do better contributing to a piece focusing on a political or regulatory matter.