Today’s customers consume more digital content than ever before. And brands are jumping at the opportunity to create it.

Content volume is growing at a rate of 200% annually, according to Forrester Research. Moreover, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, states the latest B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.

With the use of custom content on the rise, brands are beginning to think like publishers. That means producing content that stands on its own merits, not as a promotion of a product or service.

For custom content to be successful, it must provide relevant and valuable information that attracts, acquires, and engages a target audience.

It all sounds simple enough.

Learning to Become Publishers

Although brands have been using content for years, they are not natural publishers.

Since the 19th century, the functions particular to publishers—including selecting, editing, and designing material, as well as arranging its production and distribution—have made publishing a distinct occupation, with skills and practices out of reach for most other industries.

Brand marketers may not be trained publishers, but with more self-publishing and online promotion strategies available, they can draw from publishing's long successful history. Brands can become publishers in their own right.

The Lesson No. 1 that brands can learn from publishers is the importance of various content types.

As your business considers how lessons from publishing can influence your content marketing strategy, make sure that you consider the following types of custom content:

1. E-books

The widespread prevalence of tablets, e-book readers, and mobile devices has increased the popularity and effectiveness of e-books. Although the name suggests otherwise, e-books can serve as both a digital and print asset, especially for businesses that can take advantage of the Internet as a distribution channel.

Although e-books can be used by businesses to differentiate products and services by adding value, the same e-books can often be used internally to train and motivate an organization. Consider Avaya's VoIP For Dummies, which was used not only to educate customers but also partners and employees about emerging communication trends.

2. Cheat sheets

Normally a single sheet, a visually appealing cheat sheet can arm a sales force with a truly memorable leave-behind. Digital cheat sheets can also be used kick-start a product launch, especially for more technical products, by providing users with information they can easily download and save.

3. Whitepapers

Some 33% of survey respondents ranked whitepapers within the top five most influential assets businesses provide. When done well, this type of content can not only help readers to understand an issue, solve a problem or make a decision but also position the whitepaper author as an authority on that topic.

4. Videos

Although typically not thought of in terms of publishing, video can help explain a complicated concept in a compelling way. With the widespread availability of video-recording devices and the variety of avenues for hosting and promoting video, at a relatively low price, video as a content tool is more accessible than ever.

Video is also arguably more important, with brands seeing more ties to conversion. Over 70% of marketers said their video content’s conversion performance was better compared to other types of marketing content, according to a 2014 video benchmark report by Demand Metric and Vidyard.

5. Infographics

Visual content, such as infographics and data visualization, can help communicate a message in both a concise and engaging way. Infographic usage increased among B2B marketers from 51% in 2013 to 62% in 2014, according to CMI and MarketingProfs latest B2B Content Marketing Report.

Infographics can be a compelling brand-side asset used for company blogs and social media, as well as a press asset, helping brands earn media coverage.

6. Audio recording and podcasts

Programming like Chicago Public Media's hugely successful Serial podcast, which debuted in October 2014, has shown the potential reach of this type of audio recording. According to data from, the number of podcasts on iTunes has surpassed 250,000, up from 200,000 in 2010, and Apple has more than one billion subscriptions to podcasts via its iTunes app.

* * *

Understanding the types of content at your disposal is only part of what it takes to make custom content effective. With more content being produced than ever, marketers who think like publishers and consider the needs of their readers are more likely to stand out among the noise.

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Think Like a Publisher and Use These Six Types of Custom Content

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image of David Palmer

David Palmer is a marketing director at Wiley, where he oversees Dummies B2B and the For Dummies, Business, and Education product lines for Wiley's Professional Development division.

LinkedIn: David Palmer