People Need Content

My friend Mark Schaefer wrote a compelling post last week about Content Shock. The ensuing conversation revolved around whether or not the content marketing movement will collapse. The most important sentence in Mark’s post (IMO) was, “Content marketing is not over.” That’s because people need content.

No matter how you slice and dice it, people still want information about other people, places and things. One way of finding information becomes too noisy, they seek another.

Some of the economics in Mark’s post were fantastic, but the overall gist was great content wins. Bad and mediocre corporate content is losing, and it is losing faster due to a competitive arms race.

Frankly, many marketers are producing bad content, and they shouldn’t succeed. And prior to the content marketing boom, marketers produced other shoddy forms of communications. So if that’s the collapse, so be it.

More content creates a premium on well presented information. It also highlights the importance of a balanced strategy including but not defined by the trend. The best competitors stand out. The rest fail.

And when marketers fail, they will seek a different way to develop customer relationships. Social media isn’t scalable? No one likes our blog? OK! Let’s try sponsored content.

Change the Rules


I agree with notion that in spite of big companies, niche and differentiated content will find ways to win. Yet, in last week’s conversations I saw assumptions that those brands with frequency, the most sizzle, the best personalities, and overall distribution strengths will win. While these are assets that big companies can purchase, it’s only to win a digital content arms race defined by bloggers.

What happens when someone changes the rules?

Let’s face it, someone (or Google)


changes the rules.

It’s not about shooting more. Instead, change the game. To use a Seth Godin saying, instead of trying to out-moo every other brown cow, become a purple one. Do something that completely differentiates your efforts.

As an event creator, I love it. Blog posts are easy. Quality events are hard.

The increasing glut of digital information makes quality events more important. Why? People rely on their peers and live real-time buzz more than ever. An event is a primary driver of large word of mouth moments, dynamic personal interaction, and yes, great content.

The need for live real-time entertainment and events is driving outlandish broadcast contracts for sports teams and leagues. Sporting events are one of the few live events that people pay attention to in the moment. Disagree? How many of your friends were glued to the TV or compulsively checked scores on their smartphones during the NFL Playoffs?

By the way, PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicted the media rights boom in 2011, when they said, “…sports viewing is proving virtually immune to time-shifting. In the key 18-49 demographic, live programmes dominate the ratings, and sports are well represented in the top-rated live programmes.”

When a tactic becomes overplayed, to win you must either excel or change the rules. If you play the same game, you will be held to the same dynamics and consequences as everyone else.

Cut against the grain. Create different methods and ways to give people the information they want. Or you could just keep publishing blogs (and possibly perish).

What do you think?

Featured Image by Visit Abu Dhabi. Brown cow by Mimadeo.

The Content Quality Problem Here and There

Image by kopper.

More brands and people continue filling the channels with their blogs, infographics, white paper, etc. As a result, we’re experiencing a deluge of content, most of it suffering from over-messaged, self-important corporate sales talk, or worse, shoddy workmanship.

There’s no better example of this issue than our own marketing space where the effort to produce consistent content creates an ever increasing level of drivel. In fact, there’s so much “me, too” content, getting beyond a headline skim requires some real shake-up in the social media marketplace or a dramatic post.

When readers find themselves inundated with ever increasing quantities of the same, creators find themselves producing content with diminishing value. The situation devolves to the point where content becomes spam.

We all know what happens to spam. It doesn’t get read, it’s unsubscribed from, deleted, and relegated to the annals of digital indexing somewhere deep in Google.
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Google Author Rank and the Have Nots

Image by Mukumbura

Image by Mukumbura

The rush to become officially integrated into the Google Author Rank system or has begun. It’s unfortunate, because Google Authorship forces weighted search rankings that favor popularity and SEO skills over substance.

If content creators want to optimize our chances of being read, what choice do we have but to implement the system? Our search results depend on it.

There have been many blogs about how to implement Google’s Author Rank system, but this isn’t one of them.

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4 Ways to Improve Content

Carré d'as
Image by Markaud

Sometimes blog content doesn’t resonate as well as one would like. It can be hard to pinpoint why. There’s an editorial mission in place, regular posts are published everyday, and you seem to be talking about what matters, but no one pays attention.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re stuck. That’s when examining mechanics means the most. What are some ways to strengthen content to increase reader attention? Here are four ways to jump start your writing…

Slow Down Production, Focus on Quality

Audi R8 (DC Auto Show)

A current conversation amongst leading voices has reinvigorated the old quality versus quantity debate. Mitch Joel says dilution of content to achieve frequency (and therefore attention) doesn’t help. Richard Becker recently began compiling research of 250 blogs from the 2010 Fresh Content project. Becker’s research demonstrated that BOTH consistency and clarity were necessary for success.

Publishing crap content five times a week or twice a day won’t make your situation better. Half baked content gets one quarter of the attention that a fantastically well thought out blog post does. You do the math.

Ideally, a blog needs three posts a week to maintain enough presence to achieve a top ranking or become a leading vehicle for thought and conversation. Slow down production and refocus on creating outstanding content. You can always increase frequency once the blog is back on track.

Stop Talking About Yourself (or Your Organization)

It’s been said here before. It will be said again. No one cares about you. They care about themselves. Frankly, overusing first person pronouns makes you sound self promoting and egotistical, and if it’s an organization it reads like corporate messaging. In fact, the narcissistic compulsion to consistently talk about me, myself and I (or we, our and us) becomes a detriment to building readership.

Instead of waxing your own car, get right into what’s in it for the reader. If your opening paragraph mentions the first person more than once (if at all) and doesn’t have a clear thesis, know that it’s a failed post right out of the gate. Focus on the reader and what’s in it for THEM, not how smart you are.

And if you are hiding behind the personality argument, please, please consider what you are saying. Good writers know their personality comes through sans self talk. It’s called style. Do an intentional edit to weed out the first person as much as possible.

Increase Listening

Image by ky_olsen

If you are creating more content than you are reading, you have a huge issue. First of all, it’s highly likely you are out of touch with your stakeholders, and what interests them. Great content creators develop relevant, prescient information that speaks to the times and trends.

Secondly, because of the disconnect with the community you’re dictating to your readers and stakeholders what you think matters. That may be OK if your primary goal is journaling; however, this post seeks to increase traffic, not wax poetic.

Don’t treat your readers like “consumers” of bubble gum! They invest time and in some cases social capital to read and spread the word about your writing. Do your homework. Read your stakeholders’ conversations and content. Listen to them, understand what they care about so you can offer relevant content.

Create More Content That Works

Andrew Dumm, Winner (Men) 2008 MCM
Image by dbking

Sometimes an editorial mission can create too much latitude for the writer, and it becomes necessary to refocus on content that readers actually want. Go back through your Google Analytics data and see what’s been working. Focus on trends instead of individual posts. A combination of analytics on unique visits, time on page, and conversation (via PostRank) should reveal an interesting picture.

For example, in the past few months on this blog you like four types of posts; strategy-oriented pieces, online content best practices, timely event-centric pieces, and discussions about the ethics and issues surrounding the growing social media bubble. You don’t like pieces about the environment, causes or entrepreneurial leadership.

Take the findings to heart, and adjust your editorial mission as necessary. Wash, rinse, repeat.

How do you strengthen your content during down periods?

Related reading: Blogging Primer, 5 Tips for Blogging in the Post RSS Era