Alibaba, Nissan focus on content

29 April 2013

HONG KONG: Companies like Nissan and Alibaba are creating their own content and developing websites to carry it in Asia, but are also taking care to ensure this material is impartial and authentic.

Pamela Muñoz, international corporate affairs manager at Alibaba Group, the Chinese ecommerce site, told a panel discussion organised by the Society of Publishers in Asia and Campaign Asia-Pacific that "content that is impartial is of the essence".

Muñoz explained how Alibaba had set up the Alizila website, effectively a corporate news blog, to fill a gap in news coverage of the ecommerce industry in China. That had meant running stories that might not reflect positively on Alibaba.

She remarked that the editor had to "balance having his paycheck paid by Alibaba and being credible by pointing out things that weren't working so well".

She added that product stories from the Alibaba marketing team had been rejected if they lacked credibility.

Paul Miles, head of communications at Nissan Asia, the automaker, concurred. "There is an internal motivation factor for stories being told from our side," he said "but sometimes we're admitting some of the issues we have with our vehicles as well."

"Media outlets use our content," he added, describing it as a "win-win situation".

It is an area that Nissan has focused on, creating the Nissan Global Media Center in 2011, a team of professional journalists and content creators who practise "brand journalism" or kotozukuri. "We are really seeking to kill the press release," Simon Sproule, corporate VP of global marketing communications said then.

Like Nissan, Alibaba was also pushing content to reporters and bloggers. Muñoz admitted that Alizila's readership was very low, but said that its stories could be picked up by small publications lacking the resources to cover bigger stories.

Shawn Hiltz, Asia-Pacific vice president of marketing at Dow Jones, the financial information business, outlined a new initiative, WSJ Custom Studios, that offers custom publishing facilities alongside special advertising sections for brands.

Content created this way could be hosted on either Dow Jones or the brands' own platforms. "Other publishers are really missing the boat," he said.

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff