While it would be easy to link the success of these brands to the size of their marketing budget, the fact is that any size business can build and monetize an audience. It just takes the right structure.
Creating an engaged audience is not a one person job, even for a smaller brand. For very small businesses, it can sometimes work -- but to take advantage of owned media for most brands, it means rethinking how you're staffed internally, and what your external partner mix looks like.
I know what you're thinking now. "So, if my current staff can't help with this, and my agency partners can't do it, who can? Who is really good at this stuff?"
Glad you asked. Let's step outside of the marketing department and the PR department. Let's move beyond the typical staff you would put in place for paid and earned media. Move beyond the partners you use today. Now ask, which organizations are in the business of audience building that are really good at it and make their living by it? Which organizations operate in real time? Which ones really have to be always-on?
The answer is pretty obvious: CNN, ESPN, NPR, NYTimes.com, and Turner Sports. Broadcast news operations have been doing this for years, and they have been leaders in leveraging audience feedback to create content centrally and deploy it across multiple platforms in real time. Their operating structure is purpose-built to generate large, engaged audiences. They rent their audience's eyeballs out to marketers like you. Their editors are constantly being pitched story ideas from your PR department. They are in the business of building and monetizing audience. This is the way to structure your team.