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»Red Bull, the $7 billion energy drink maker, is changing into a media house. Over the last three decades it has developed an impressive arsenal of content, chiefly photos and videos, on extreme sports.

The emergence of social media accelerated its media push; in 2007 it set up a media subsidiary, which provides content to traditional channels. It also brings out a lifestyle magazine, which sells in 11 countries in four languages.

In October 2012, it sent Felix Baumgartner to fall freely from a height of 39 kms breaking the sound barrier. Red Bull was the only company around with a camera to record the event, which it shared with 80 television outlets and streamed live on Youtube. The audience for Felix Baumgartner on YouTube was 16 times greater than the views for the summer Olympics. Red Bull now wants to make as   much money from its media business as it does from beverages. 

Its marketing approach is yet another example of online technologies, in particular social media, are forcing sweeping changes, in one industry after another. What Red Bull does is now called content marketing, which has other adherents such as Nike as well.

Most B2C companies try to make a lifestyle statement; they have consumer insights, have access to potentially good content through their sponsorships of events and celebrities. They also have scale and budget to dwarf regular media outlets. Leveraging all of these and developing a media product takes just one small step in the right direction. Till now they did not do it as there was no platform to distribute their content. But now with rise of social media, their content machines are beginning to whirr. 

To some extent this dilutes the role of the traditional media as a bridge between brands and people. A brand, which can reach out to millions of people on its own, is not dependent totally on the traditional media to build sales.

In the days past, a celebrity had to speak to a journalist to get the point across. Now they tweet. But traditional media will have a role to play.

  When companies run media products, they say they follow the best editorial practices and give a freehand to their writers. But it is never easy to play down the overarching commercial interest and writers are quietly told to do nothing to hurt the company. But the traditional media, in contrast, has an interest in playing up its independence, which brings in both credibility and audience.

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