L’Oreal is trying to be a legitimate industry news source with the launch Fab Beauty, which offers beauty and lifestyle tips without the L’Oreal branding, even covering competitive brands. As Adage points out, it’s one of a few unbranded content hubs being used to raise the conversation throughout the vertical industry and not necessarily just sell, sell and sell.

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When we’re talking about content marketing we often speak in general media terms of newsroom, editorial workflows and responsibilities and such. But unlike the actual media most of these brand newsrooms only deal with inputs from one source: the company itself. These are single-topic outlets.

What L’Oreal and other brands are trying to do is expand that scope and create a positive image for itself by serving a more universal purpose in the eyes of the audience as a general news site. It changes the value proposition to the audience from “Follow us for the latest information about us” to “Follow us for the latest information on a variety of topics we know you’re going to be interested in.” It’s the natural extension of one of social media and blogging’s initial premises, which was to do what you do best and link to the rest.

There are pros and cons to this and plenty of potential pitfalls in this approach.

On the plus side this can, indeed, be great for your overall brand reputation. If you can become a valuable outlet for people to follow on the latest news on a particular industry or topic that’s great since it’s an audience that can be utilized and monetized in a number of ways. You can build up an email database that can be used both for agnostic editorial and for brand-specific marketing promotions and messages. You can create an audience on-domain that gives you insights into what they’re interested in across the board, insights that can be used to guide your own product development.

On the downside, you are kind of promoting other people’s products, and not every brand is going to be down with OPP. Depending on the specifics of how the program is being executed that could send traffic elsewhere, making the ROI of the program more difficult to justify.

The biggest pitfall is that this is legitimately hard to do. If you really want your brand-agnostic news outlet to be a success you have to do something, if not multiple somethings, better than the news brands that have no brand ties to consider. That means a drastically different staffing scenario and workflow than what’s in place in most content marketing platforms. Even if a program currently has a decent curation component for bringing in outside news, that’s likely directed at news about the company and its products. Expanding that to other brands adds at least a couple levels of difficulty.

One way to surmount that is to bring in freelancers and “influencers” to do the content production. They’re more likely to already have inputs that will help in this process and which can be folded into a larger workflow with some level of ease. The main concern then becomes approvals, which become the purview of the program’s managing editor to make sure they fit with the overall mission and voice of the outlet. That comes with its own dangers, though, since those outsiders can take their talents elsewhere at a moment’s notice and may already be also contributing to a competing outlet.

This kind of approach is one that can absolutely be considered but, as with any tactic, it’s not going to work for everyone. What do you think, is there value to running, in some manner, a brand-agnostic content marketing program?