When it comes to building brand and audience, publishers have worn marketing hats for a while. Today marketers must become publishers too, and engage customers online with timely, relevant and engaging content.

Despite the industry obsession over “content marketing,” only a fraction of brand marketers have invested in a dedicated budget or strategy. Which begs the question – where to start? Break down the characteristics of content that resonates.

1. Trendspotting 

News media have historically owned breaking news, but nowadays virtually anyone can pile on to a meme fast enough to make that story their own. Content is pushed, shared, in real-time, via the social graph (if it’s good).

Staying on top of “right now” is critical to creating content that gets noticed. Sure, you may already understand the overall consumption habits of your target consumer, but outside of the popular zeitgeist, which trends, cultural memes or products dazzle them most? Social media monitoring and acting quickly upon that data is essential.

2. Data, data data

Data powers all intelligent marketing, including your content strategy. It’s not dissimilar to traditional ad creative or copy – you wouldn’t put something out into the wild, blindly crossing your fingers. Like marketers, publishers make use of real-time data to optimize everything from page layout to headlines,driving the most engagement possible and giving audiences reason to stay ontheir site.

Your content must be powered by the same intelligence. For example, marketers should develop multiple headlines for the same blog post, article or video; then conduct A/B tests to gauge impact. Capturing post-click data, such as time-on-site is critical for ensuring you don’t inadvertently bait-and-switch your readers. Cross-channel analytics are key – depending on the platform and context, copy, format, even the overall topic area, could require anything from a minor tweak to a major revamp.

3. Beyond the Click

CTR has a bad rap as the measurement model for display, given it is not a direct response vehicle. Content marketing is different. From a consumer intent perspective, a click on a link to a sponsored story or video is more analogous to clicking on a search ad than it is to a banner – there is clear intent to access more information on the other side of that click. In fact, 76% of adults indicate that they have clicked on links to related stories to continue reading about a topic in the last three months (a lot more than the number clicking on banners). In this context, clicks become more meaningful.

The “share-worthiness” of content is the ultimate test of your content’s value. Tracking shares, comments and likes across platforms is key. For any owned media youpromote, make sure you’re zeroing in on post-click metrics, such as time on site and page views.

4. The “Kardashian syndrome”

To succeed at a content strategy, marketers can’t think of content as a “campaign” that needs to “perform.” Content is your product; it must bring value to your audience.

Many marketers fall victim to traditional ROI analysis mentality. Finding their content lacks the sex appeal required to aggressively compete in the marketplace for consumer attention, they come down with a horrid case of the “Kardashian Syndrome,” which in the digital media world, means sinking to the lowest common denominator to generate clicks, resorting to tricks to juice perceived “performance” of a certain piece of content. Don’t do it.

Your content is an entry point for the consumer – a chance for them to form initial opinions around who you are and what you stand for. Sure, you’ve got to sell – newsrooms do too – but at the end of the day, there’s a big difference between The New York Times and Star Magazine.

Creating amazing content – at scale – is anything but easy. Investment is key, and a zealous commitment to quality a must. The pay-off is getting your customers to look to your brand as a credible, consistent source of knowledge or entertainment — something newsrooms have done amazingly well for decades.