The History of Media: Brands have been Publishers Since the 19th Century

furrow magazine[Note: This post is a Rexplanation.]

Feel free to read-along, but this post was written especially for my blog and Twitter friend, Mathew Ingram, who posted an article on Gigaom this afternoon with the subject line, “The Future of Media: Brands are Publishers Now Too.”

First, let me share something I heard a long time ago from Doc Searls. He was talking about blogs when he said it, but I say it often about the kinds of magazines your post suggests you think are something new. “There are magazines that are a business model, and there are magazines that support a business model.” For some reason, people who work for companies that have a media business model can’t seem to grasp that notion, even though it’s been true for, well, at least since 1895.

Companies have published such “non-media-business-model” magazines — real magazines with real editors and real journalists and designers, packed with great stories and art and not, as you describe them, “filled with canned marketing messages” since the 19th century. As this blog has about ten years worth of posts linking to articles where reporters declare such publishing “new” and I’ve been been helping companies publish magazines “not filled with canned marketing messages” for over two decades, I’ve got some old links to share with you, Matt.

But first off, let me declare from observing two decades of successful and unsuccessful media created for and by corporate brands: I can assure you that any publishing that is filled with canned marketing messages won’t last for one year, much less 115+ years, as John Deere’s “The Furrow” has. It started in 1895 and now is published worldwide for over a million farmers in 12 languages and in 40 countries.

At the other extreme, content-wise, I can also assure you that Colors Magazine has gone so far out of its way not to be filled with canned marketing messages, I doubt it’s ever mentioned who its publisher is (so I won’t either, as if I need to.)

And come to think of it, this blog has led to lots of business for my company, but posts like this are the closest it ever comes to being filled with canned marketing messages.

Here’s a link to a post on this blog that is nearly nine years old. It provides links to examples of magazines that were published in July of 1942 — that display that Brands were Publishers then too.

Here are a few brands mentioned in that post: John Deere’s The Furrow, DuPont, U.S. Steel, GM, New York Life Insurance, Merck and Harley-Davidson, Dutch Boy.

But if that’s not enough for you Matt, follow this link to the Custom Content Council, a trade group of North American companies (agencies) that help brands publish magazines — and all sorts of media. Today that trade group has nearly 100 company-agency members. When it started back in the late 1990s, it had less than ten. There are six founding companies, including the 20-year old Hammock Inc. that remain members. They represent small companies like ours, up to some of the largest media companies on earth.

The magazines — but today, we’re as likely to create and manage online properties or produce video — for corporate Brands by members of the Custom Content Council today are just a part of the $42 billion spent each year by companies that don’t have a media business model but who continue a century-plus tradition of producing media to support their business model.