Converged media, a relatively new term which, if not coined outright by him was at least popularized by Altimeter's Jeremiah Owyang (see his 2012 report), describes the integration of content and brand message across the three channels marketing has involvement in: owned media (corporate), earned media (typically social), and paid media (advertising).

Why it has become a popular buzzword and a concept marketers are increasingly embracing has to do with its effectiveness. Not only can marketers leverage branded content beyond just one channel, multiplying its value, they can make sure that their brand message and experience is uniform across all the channels that customers can consume, interact with, and be exposed to it.

Changes in customers' media consumption patterns

This is particularly important as customers' interaction with media and technology has become increasingly complex: not only is there TV and the Web, there are mobile and tablet app environments, social networks, television that drifts across broadcast, cable, and online distribution channels, etc. The proliferation of media technology has created a wider array of touchpoints between brand and customer, and a consolidated strategy across all of them not only makes a brand's message consistent, it can also amplify, enrich, and deepen a customer's experience with it.

What converged media does at a practical level is force marketers to understand their branded content differently: they are no longer channel-specific. In the past, a message built for advertising campaigns could be entirely different from the type of content produced for consumption and discussion on social media, while owned and operated sites could operate on their own editorial guidelines. Marketing, social media, and editorial teams might not necessarily even work closely with one another.

The reality of converged media makes marketing teams rethink artificial divisions, since, in the minds of customers, there is no wall between what they see and understand from social media, O&O sites, and advertising. There is also no compelling reason for the production of similar content by different teams, especially when such different content can present a fragmented brand image to customers.

Technology's role

Content management systems (CMSes) have come a long way, allowing content producers to manage their published content across both owned and earned media. It's not unusual for popular CMSes such as WordPress and Drupal, for instance, to enable tweeting and Facebook posting of new content in popular earned media channels. Facebook's Comments Box grants marketers a single interface for monitoring brand conversations across Facebook (earned) and corporate sites (owned). The Flite Platform enables the extension of content produced for owned media and shared on earned media to paid media, vastly expanding a brand message's reach (paid media publishing).

These technological advances are just the leading edge of a trend that's expected to grow and reinvigorate the advertising and content marketing strategies of savvy companies. Of course, it all begins with a strategy that treats all branded content as part of the same ecosystem, repackaged for different environments and depths of interaction.