“Brands are dying to become publishers, but they know that they are bad at it. RebelMouse should help them be good at it, and help them engage with influencers as well.”

That statement came from Paul Berry, former CTO at Huffington Post, and creator of a cool new content curation platform called RebelMouse.

RebelMouse, which has a Pinterest-esque look and feel, has been called many things: social media aggregator, social hub, and digital newspaper to name a few – and it bears a resemblance to each of those monikers. The platform simply refers to itself as “your social media frontpage.”

According to Mashable, RebelMouse “lets you connect your Facebook and Twitter to a homepage that constantly refreshes itself. You are also able to rearrange posts so that you have a level of editorial curation that supersedes what Facebook and Twitter alone provides.”

Though it offers many commendable attributes, the platform is not the primary focus of this post. Instead, it’s what RebelMouse creator, Paul Berry, had to say about brands becoming publishers.

As the glory fades from traditional advertising and people increase their control of media consumption, some brands have latched onto the idea that content, not ads, is what will garner consumer attention in the digital age. That concept has driven publishers like Forbes and the Huffington Post to create new content-centric advertorial formats. In Forbes’ case it’s called AdVoice; I’m not sure HuffPo has such a fancy term, but it amounts to the same thing – branded content.

Here are a couple of examples.

Live Better America – a branded content partnership between Huffington Post and General Mills.

Live Better America

Northwestern Mutual – A Forbes’ Advoice page for Northwestern Mutual insurance

Forbes Advoice Northwestern Mutual

Brands Can Do It Too

Publishers aren’t the only ones focused on content marketing. Brands are getting in on the act, as well.

Chicago-based tech startup Sprout Social has a blog called Sprout Insights that extends beyond the scope of the typical company blog to help its customers learn how to grow their businesses using social media.

Boston-based marketing software company Hubspot has taken this approach and done one better by creating an entire marketing resources section that includes a blog, videos, marketing tools, ebooks, webinars and more. The company has even established an education and training site, Inbound Marketing University, where marketers can “learn, share knowledge and build relationships,” according to Hubspot.

Contently, an online community designed to match journalists with publishers, offers two similar media properties – The Freelance Strategist and The Content Strategist.

What these examples illustrate is that – whether as an adjunct to more traditional advertising or as a way to educate customers – content marketing is a concept that could (and probably should) be cloned by any company that has a large user base. It’s also a concept even small businesses could embrace using platforms such as RebelMouse (or Pinterest for that matter).

So, how do you go about setting up your own content site? Marketing Pilgrim contributor Cynthia Boris suggests three steps:

  1. Hire help and pay them.
  2. Brainstorm ideas that relate to your brand but aren’t brand specific.
  3. Post new content regularly.

My advice is to start small. A curation tool such as RebelMouse may be the way to go, or perhaps a more formal blog. Start with one or two contributors and then build from there. Focus on providing education, information and insight that speaks to the needs of your customer base. And for heaven’s sake, keep editorial and “advertorial” separate and apart.

All this may be easier said that done, but I think it’s worth the effort. What about you? What do you think?