Content Marketing’s Dirty Little Secret

Even though Eat Media is in the business of producing relevant content I have a dirty little secret to tell you…it is the delivery of relevant content that’s proving to be the difference maker—”the how that shapes the what.” Widgets, Facebook, Twitter, slideshows, videos and mashups are forcing us to create new types of stories. Some steadfast journalists will say that this is the downfall of our society, that no one reads anymore, that to be a great writer requires you to be a great reader. I completely agree. And I say to you—”start reading Beckett, Marcus, Barthelme and Markson,” and learn to reinvent your storytelling, because your world is getting rocked.

Virginia Heffernan just published an amazing piece in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine that eerily echoed an email I sent to an industry friend by about an hour.  Read the article, then read the comments related to the article, let out an audible “hmmm”, pour yourself a glass of wine and start figuring out how best to tell your story in fantastic new ways.

Are We Forever Changing the Way We Consume Content?

Last night I spoke with a friend who has always been an avid magazine reader. He stated — “I don’t really read anymore. I just sort of skim.” To which I asked, “online or in print?” His answer, “both”. There is some content you skim and some you read first letter to last punctuation. But is there a change afoot?

Despite all the talk about magazines folding, people still read online and in print and will continue to do so. Both mediums have the ability to target a specificity like Snowboarding and provide general news a la CNN, but print historically engages a reader longer—though that may be changing with the younger generation. So for now, while people aren’t reading novels online (simmer down Kindle converts), and (like it or not tree huggers) people are printing out e-books and whitepapers instead of reading them online, we have both mediums to contend with.

Content Consumption

People certainly have less time to devote to reading. With RSS readers, Meta content sites and Google we are quickly becoming a society who consumes very focused media—we are going content narrow—feeding and creating specialists. Some think we are getting stupid because of this onslaught of content, while others contend it’s a natural rewiring.

In today’s new digital landscape both consumers and businesses are reading (and publishing) for different reasons, in a completely different manner, because of the different mediums. Some are reading to be personally informed, others to be entertained and some to research/assist a purchasing decision. (When companies really nail their messaging the output is a perfect blend of all three.) But there is little doubt that we are consuming content from more sources than ever before. As a business this poses multiple challenges regarding management and operations.

—Who is going to manage this internally?

—How do you best determine what content you have internally?

—What are the best content medium(s) for you to deliver your content given your technology expertise?

—How do you determine the best content medium to deliver each individual story?

Advertising, marketing, and content marketing have merged into one comprehensive solution to help with this. Businesses cannot think advertising/marketing without thinking—what ongoing content is going to support this campaign? Using one content agency/digital agency is more affordable and has a better ROI than the siloed approach of having: an ad agency, pr agency, design agency, marketing agency and a dirth of freelance copywriters to manage. Today, medium sized organizations can have the same shine as the big boys for much less. But determining what content you have, what your story is and assessing all the new ways users consume media is priorty one.

The Lights Go Out

You know the end of the year is approaching when you start seeing lists of trends from the previous year. In keeping with the glum economic attitude out there, let’s take a look at the print magazines that kicked the bucket this year. (Mind you, some of them retain online offerings of varying quality.) Much more detail from AdAge here.

1.    PC Magazine – OK, this was a planned jump to online only, where it should retain readership, but will it turn a profit?
2.    Sports Illustrated Latino – It’s hard to imagine that the fastest growing segment of the American population couldn’t support a sports magazine that actually covered soccer in proper fashion, but maybe this one will return when the economy picks up.
3.    Play – This New York Times insert was as cool as any offering from Dead Trees Walking, but it didn’t pull the ad dollars.
4.    Radar – Too much. Too soon. Too late. Bad timing all around.
5.    Future snowboarding – I lived in snow country for a decade. Snowboarders don’t read magazines that don’t come in brown paper wrappers.
6.    Cottage Living – There may be copies of this holding down the coffee table at home, but I’ve never opened one.
7.    O at Home – Oh my, I wasn’t even aware that there was O the magazine, let alone a publishing empire solely dedicated to the queen of daytime TV.
8.    Cosmo Girl – What could tweens learn from this that they’re not already picking up from Gossip Girl?
9.    Home – Published since 1951, Home isn’t going to be the first venerable publication to disappear from the newsstands in the next year.
10.    Quick and Simple – More like short and pointless.
11.    Men’s Vogue – Advertisers loved the idea, but there weren’t enough metrosexuals to keep readership going.
12.    02138. If you don’t know what Zip code that is, you didn’t bother.
13.    Playgirl – Considering what’s available online, it’s amazing that any porn makes it to the printed page these days.
14.    Golf for Women – Seemed like a good idea at the time.
15.    Games for Windows – Again, who picks up a magazine to read about computers?
16.    Luxury Spa Finder – If you can afford a luxury spa day/week/month, you probably aren’t booking the trip now, are you?

The underlying reality is that old media was in a serious funk before the economy veered off a cliff. This week’s announcement that newspapers lost $2 billion in the third quarter means the bloodbath is only accelerating. It’s not going to be pretty, but it should certainly make everyone consider how they are allocating their marketing dollars.

But the primary reality that print magazines all have to face is they no longer deliver content in a desirable and flexible format.

And finally, the big question is: what blue chip magazine is going to be the first to fold? We should have our answer to that question in 2009, but feel free to make your predictions in the comments section.

-Jonathan

Is Your Story Yours?

If you meet someone more than 2-3 times and they don’t remember your name, they may be bad at remembering names. (But it’s telling that you didn’t make an impression.) If you meet someone 2-3 times and they don’t remember meeting you, walk away, you don’t have anything they want and they aren’t interested in anything you have. Your experience/story/expertise doesn’t resonate with them for whatever reason. Perhaps your story is not really your story but rather a reporting of information that is neither focused nor personal. Telling a potential client who won the game or that a new study came out shows that you are in the know but it tells a very surface level story.

The line between customer, service provider, job seeker and brand evangelist gets more blurry by the tweet. (How the hell do you effectively follow 4,356 people on Twitter? And if you do, what else do you do all day?)

As we invest more time in social media strategies our end goal is to get more “subscribers.” More sign-ups, more connects, more touch-points both inside and outside of our natural network. But 70% of the updates/tweets I get are not stories in the authors voice but instead a message or story forwarded from another site. Often this information is useful but I don’t always remember who sent it. I too have forwarded relevant information straight from the source without commentary but it is all about balance. Make sure your client’s know your story first, and then back that up with sourced content. Don’t let the balance go more than 70/30 unique content to sourced content.

Flipping a Negative to a Positive

Gregory YoungerI used to climb—a lot. Mountains. In the Rockies. It’s very hard work. The air is thin. The weather is often lousy. Gravity is unrelenting.

One of my favorite things about mountaineering, though, is that you have a lot of time to think. This can be a mixed blessing for the novice climber because you often spend much of your time thinking about how tired and miserable you are.

When I was off the rocks, I spent plenty of my free time reading the classics of alpine literature and realized that the best mountain philosophers had discovered ways to focus their discomfort and flip the pain into something positive. It was one line in particular, and I no longer recall who uttered it, that really resonated with me:

Rather than think about climbing the mountain, think of being lifted up by it.

OK, so it’s a bit of a Zen koan, but that’s what makes it helpful on an eight-hour uphill slog. You keep thinking about it and not the burning in your quads or the pounding in your temples.

No matter how heavy my pack, no matter how deep the snow, no matter how slippery the rocks, that simple phrase kept me going and still serves as inspiration today.

So the question of the day is this: With the economy in the tank, the Dow flatlining and jobs being shed by the thousands, what inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough?

— Jonathan

(Photo of Parry Peak by Gregory Younger)

What’s Your Story?

Americans love a good story. We’re the home of Hollywood. We invented the television. We just elected Barack Obama—a man with a most improbable, and breathtakingly American, backstory—president of the United States.

Click on the “about us” link on virtually any website and you are likely to be greeted by a couple of dull biographies that were written from people’s resumes and, if you really aren’t lucky, a calendar filled with grim milestones like “1977-Gray Jeans Company moves headquarters from Spokane to Topeka.”

Avoid this at all costs. No one cares.

Have some fun. Tell a story. And it does not have to be the CEO’s story. It can be some guy in customer service or that woman in sales, but somewhere, at your company, there are people with great life stories to tell. Let them.

Maybe you have an expert spelunker, a bat biologist, a tropical explorer who’s battled sharks and crocodiles to reach an isolated spring before he died of thirst, a mountain climber who prefers to go without a rope and wearing Birkenstocks, a world champion scarf knitter, a skier who never met an avalanche-prone slope she would not plunge down, a competitive Yahtzee player,  a pilot who flies relief supplies in after natural disasters, someone who can complete the New York Times crossword in less than 30 minutes or maybe you have a person who’s done something else remarkable and compelling.

Let them tell their story and let who they are be more a part of who you are.

—Jonathan

The Big “Content” Picture

God bless slideshare and the wonderful people who create/distribute content. The first half of this presentation is arguably more persuasive than the second half but it’s still impressive and worth a read.
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: online advertising)