WeTransfer: A profile of a modern company with a useful media service

Companies are learning how to be media companies to help them stay relevant to their customers -- because, if they aren't seen, they don't exist.

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Editorial content: A recent frontpage at WeTransfer.

WeTransfer is an especially good example of how these days: Every company has to be a media company because the journalists are no longer there to help companies tell their stories. Every company has to learn how to be a media company and help tell its own stories but also learn how to provide a media service.

I often have to remind companies engaged in "content marketing" that the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal do not write about themselves all day; they provide a media service for their financial communities.

Content marketing strives to look like editorial content but succeeds in looking like marketing. It would be better to call it Editorial Communications. This requires creating media content that is of service and not completely self-serving (Media-as-a-Service or MaaS). MaaS is the best media for businesses -- not "content marketing." Focusing on MaaS is exactly what WeTransfer has done. 

WeTransfer was founded in 2009 and has grown into one of the world's top file transfer services with tens of millions of users every month. The company offers a pro service and a free file transfer service supported by advertising by large brands using ads created by its own ad studio. It also has an editorial studio that publishes articles and interviews -- all focused on artists, which are its users.

This side of the business is called WePresents, or "unexpected stories about creativity told by WeTransfer."

It publishes editorial content, and it publishes software tools. Paper, Paste, and Collect are mobile apps that help in the creative process, such as sketching ideas. And it recently introduced a series of tutorials, what it calls notebooks that teach various creative techniques and are authored by well-known artists. 

Earlier this year, I met with Georg Petschnigg, chief innovation officer at WeTransfer. Petschnigg has a long history of working on new types of media projects, at Apple and other companies, and joined WeTransfer when his startup was acquired last year.

"We are very focused on promoting our artists through our editorial teams and supporting them with the continued development of tools to help capture, created share ideas. And we recently introduced tutorials that teach valuable skills in an original format."

Petschnigg says that WeTransfer insists on using its creative studios to make adverts for the brands that sponsor the service, and this tight control becomes part of its service to make sure content is relevant to its communities. 

Foremski's Take

WeTransfer can build a larger context for its core file transfer service, which then becomes totally integrated as one of the apps (Transfer, Paper, Paste, and Collect). It's a clever, sticky, many-media strategy designed to keep it relevant to its core users.

Its investment in its media services is substantial and has been well received. What matters with editorial projects that I've seen at other companies is that there is enough time given to established media brands. It takes a while to build an audience, and it is done by building trust and being consistent. 

It takes perseverance and patience, and WeTransfer is clearly in for the long haul. Some companies adopt a six-month campaign approach -- not yet accepting that being a media company is for life. 

We are bound to see other companies following with variations on WeTransfer's approach because businesses have to build trusted relationships. No one will do it for them.

Businesses still have to publish all the traditional stuff, such as press releases, white papers, and SEC-mandated corporate communications and marketing communications. But swap in editorial communications instead of content marketing.  Editorial communications should be a separate department that works with the other corporate departments -- with a focus on media as a service. It publishes every day and not after twenty meetings.

Finding a useful media service is key for companies, and fake news is an area where businesses can provide important media services. At the same time, it will help protect their brands from losing value. Is that a genuine product? Is that a real news release? 

A little fake news creates mountains of distrust among buyers. When the truth looks like a lie, we are all in trouble. Business has the most to lose. Fortunately, it has the money to fight back.

We live in an online world, and the facts are these: Every company needs to be seen, or it doesn't exist. Every company needs to be a media company and learn the tools, the workflow, and how to think like a journalist.