News sells. That’s because consumers believe what they read in the newspaper.

And this is why companies work so hard to get news coverage. They write press releases, stage media conferences and make key executives available for interviews with journalists.

But the Internet has made it possible for companies to reach consumers directly — with their own written or video content. In the United States, content marketing has become a huge phenomenon.

With Singaporeans watching an average of at least five videos online daily, marketers, corporate communications professionals and event managers here are also getting wise to the idea that they, too, can reach their audience through content which they themselves produce.

But many questions remain:

* What sort of content should you produce?

* How can you ensure your target audience actually see it?

* Should you produce the content in-house or outsource it?

* Will your video go viral?

And, perhaps, most importantly: How will you generate a return on investment?

How big is the audience?

First off, let’s consider the audience.

ComScore, the leading company measuring Web traffic, says 1.2 billion people watched 201 billion online videos — and that’s just during the month of October 2011.

No wonder content marketing has kicked off in a big way in the US, as companies large and small venture into content production to raise awareness, educate, generate leads and motivate transactions.

Singaporeans, too, are watching a lot of video through the Internet.

ComScore’s published figures from January 2011 show 2.3 million Singaporeans watched 266 million videos. That’s an average of 114 videos, totalling 10.7 hours, per person.

So, your customers are already there.

Are you engaging them?

There is no shortage of the types of content marketing programmes you can create to achieve your business objectives. They include video white papers, case studies, game shows, news announcements, product launch, training programmes and events coverage.

Communications professionals can also use online video for internal communications, investor relations and media outreach.

Where should you begin?

First, start with the end in mind. This sounds obvious because the whole point of content marketing is to achieve your business outcomes.

But many marketers erroneously begin with the content. Remember, the same audience focus applies for all your other marketing initiatives.

Next, figure out what channels your programme should be on. This is not only important for reaching your audience, it also informs the content you should produce.

There are many channels open to you. Apart from the obvious free channels such as YouTube, Facebook and others, you may wish to consider syndication through PR news wires or a direct media buy with a website which might have run your banner ads in the past.

Produce it in-house or outsource?

If only content production was as simple as going to an electronics store, picking up a camera for a few hundred dollars, recording something, uploading it to YouTube and watching the sales roll in.

This strategy is guaranteed to fail.

Yes, cameras and other equipment are relatively cheap, but don’t underestimate the complexity involved in producing a compelling programme.

There is a very good reason why it takes a dozen or more dedicated, full-time professionals to produce the programmes you see on television.

If you are planning to produce regular programmes with cheaper in-sourcing, outsource the first few programmes, get some experience, understand what it takes and then think about buying the cameras and other gear.

Will your video go viral?

The answer will almost certainly be no. There are too many variables, most beyond your control, that contribute to whether a video becomes so popular that it will be watched by millions of people.

But don’t worry — your video doesn’t need to go viral to be a success.

A well thought-out, well-executed programme where the business model is well understood may not get a million hits.

As long as it delivers your business outcomes, it doesn’t matter whether people half way around the world, who are completely out of your geographic reach and your target market, saw the clip.

Remember, content marketing is about achieving business outcomes, not becoming popular on YouTube.