How Coca-Cola killed its corporate site for a digital magazine

NEW YORK: With nearly 11.1 million monthly visitors, Coca-Cola's Journey website functions more like an online magazine, which now draws a bigger Web audience than the Chicago Sun-Times.

NEW YORK: With nearly 11.1 million visitors since its November 2012 launch, Coca-Cola's Journey website functions more like an online magazine, which now draws a bigger Web audience than the Chicago Sun-Times.

Speaking at the PRWeek Conference in New York on Tuesday, Coca-Cola group director of digital communications Ashley Brown outlined the brand's journey from a traditional company website to a fully fledged digital newsroom that regularly pumps out a staggering amount of content.

“I'm on a mission to kill the corporate website,” said Brown. To achieve that, he said his team created a strategy in 2010 to generate content that wouldn't just promote the brand but provide readers with independently interesting content.

“Companies have a knack for finding things they want to talk about when writing content,” said Brown. “Those aren't always things the consumer wants to talk about.”

Since then, Brown said Coca-Cola's strategy has been to produce content that will “surprise and delight” viewers. Brown said at least half of the website's content now has nothing to do with the brand, compared with 80% when it started. This includes user generated content such as pictures and video, lists, behind-the-scenes articles, pop songs, and stories about companies Coca-Cola invests in. The single most popular piece of content generated by the site was a recipe for Coca-Cola cake, said Brown. Since you can't make the cake without buying Coca-Cola, Brown said he was able to justify the content investment with real sales figures.

“1.5 million people downloaded that recipe,” said Brown. “If even 10% of them made the cake, I've already sold 150,000 bottles of Coca-Cola.”

Brown said in the last two years, everyone he hired has been a journalist. He said his team functioned much the same way as any magazine, complete with 9 am editorial meetings and content scheduled nearly three months in advance. He said this allowed them to regularly create high-quality content as well as the ability to react quickly, citing examples of how Coca-Cola was able to respond to negative articles in the press with articles of its own.

“Journey allows us to shortcut journalists, we can publish our content without the lens of the media,” he said.

Future plans for Coca-Cola's content-generating machine include phasing out press releases entirely by 2015, a greater focus on more visual content, and a fully equipped TV studio to produce even more high-quality video content. 

Correction: This story was updated on September 19 to correct Brown's quote on bottles of Coca-Cola sold after distributing a Coca-Cola cake recipe.

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