What’s All This ‘Content’ Everyone is Talking About?

Content

Content & Channels

Content.  The new buzzword for information in any media.

Information pros are trying to classify it all by title, type, category, genre, label…  and give job titles to the people that produce it.

At IBM we called ‘content’ information products.  We had Information Developers that were writers, graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, editors, managing editors, etc..

We created manuals, online help, online tutorials, user training material, sales training, videos, books sold in bookstores, live shows, marketing material, trade show content, software interfaces, websites, posters, job aids, product related news, customer success stories, and more…. We used all media types (print, email, web, other Internet online, disc, CD, DVD, video, audio, even an occasional billboard).

We categorized information products by horizontal and vertical market segments.  Everything was classified and categorized and groups of information developers were reorganized over and over based on the types of information, the type of market or product – all looking for efficiencies.  I don’t know if the job titles or information categories exist anymore at IBM – so much for following a structure and categories for info that a computer multinational can define in a particular point in time.

Every decade has had different titles for the same or similar stuff.  Some was taken from the publishing industry.  Some from tech.  Some from advertising.  Even more from marketing.  A fresh information category name became the new shiny bullet that would solve everything – Not quite.

Brand Journalism is a title that seems to have stuck since about 2002, even though I’ve been doing it since the early 1980’s and others before that. I founded and host the Brand Journalism LinkedIn Group.  Join or follow here.

My favorite title for what we do – ‘content’ – is creative non-fiction.

Sometimes we do it with stories.  Sometimes with other formats or genres.  It can promote a product, a brand, or teach something.  Sometimes it’s not so creative but it’s extremely helpful to the person that needs the information right at that moment.  Often it’s just purely interesting to the right person at the right time.  Many times it is used to help convince a boss or organization that a brand has the right answer to the perplexing problem they need help with and the content helps them understand.  The information sold the solution.

The classification systems for all this ‘stuff’ is flawed.  Journalists think their information is one thing.  Content marketers think their information is something else.  Brand journalists are caught in the middle.  Often it is all the same thing.

As the world of information evolves, transforms, is flipped upside-down, the traditional classification system for types of content becomes irrelevant.  The important bottom line becomes: Is it helpful or interesting to an audience?  Does it help the audience with a problem they are trying to solve or inform them about something they really want to know?

You can call it what you want…. If it works for the goal intended, I call it successful.

Audiences Are Taking Over

Audience  Publishers w=400The computer industry was the first to lose control.  Then, the music industry. Next was the newspaper industry. Now publishers and soon, the video / TV / movie / cable industry.

Back in the 1970’s, despite the best efforts of IBM and other large computer companies, computer users started to make their own.  The barrier to entry was shrinking.  Apple and garage based companies formed making hardware and software.

Since the computer, and later smartphone, became the ultimate communication, media production, and publishing / broadcasting device, it opened up the possibility for the audience to define what they wanted, rather than some monolithic gatekeeper that defined the products and rules about their industry.

Audiences Now Rule

Most media companies are still stuck in their self-defined rules and roles and trying to find a way in this new reality.  They still want to control; but, that has been taken from them.

Local podcaster Eric Howell at home scores major "get" interview with celebrity.  Becomes global broadcaster.

Local podcaster Eric Howell at home scores major “get” interview with celebrity. Becomes global broadcaster.

They don’t like it. New business models are talked about endlessly and tried but the traditional media companies still don’t get it.  Do you think Blockbuster gets it yet?

A perfect example is the newspaper industry.  Their answer today is paywalls.  Control access to their content by forcing you to subscribe.

It works for the Wall Street Journal.  Why?  Because they have fantastic content.  Emphasis on fan.  The audience is willing to pay for it.

Not so for most local newspapers. Why?  Because their content is often not fantastic and is not something the audience is willing to pay for.

The passive audience is tired of waiting.  It reminds me of the Jack Johnson song, “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.”  The active audience is now making it themselves.

It’s simple.  Give the audience what they want and they will pay for it.  Otherwise the audience will make the content and distribute it on their own.

The active audience realizes there aren’t many rules, set processes, or limits to production or distribution.  They figure out what some audiences want and they give it to them.  The passive audience is glad to consume it.

It’s demand filled by supply.

Publishers & Broadcasters Looking for Answers

Traditional media delivering the same old thing

Traditional media delivering the same old thing

The newspaper publishers, now semi-media companies, don’t get it.  They are ‘semi’ because they are holding onto their rules and processes.

The audience is tired of it, at least the ones with money.

News organizations limit what they publish and broadcast on purpose.  For example, most editors and journalists are sticking to the old and tired concept of newsworthiness.  Their definition of newsworthiness is:

1) If it bleeds it leads.
2) If there is sex involved, that’s even better.
3) Conflict rules. No conflict, no story = not newsworthy, not published or broadcast.
4) Stories about animals are more important than what is going on with employers.

Of course the audience does have its bottom-feeders for #1 and #2.

The conflict angle, #3, is interesting because it makes great narrative, usually isn’t boring, and sells. This is where news operations miss incredible opportunity.

And hey I like animals but they don’t pay my salary, #4.  I seek information religiously about my clients and an employer.  Bet you do too.  They pay the bills and I want to know what’s going on with them, even if they publish it.

The news organizations argue that they cover business, sports, weather, real estate and lifestyle in sections or segments of what they provide.  They claim they are impartial.  Nobody believes it or is buying it because for the most part it isn’t true.

News organizations can stick to their old editorial model all they want, argue about it, defend it, and continue to lose audience and money.

The problem with their definition of newsworthy is that it is so limited that they automatically handicap themselves.  Both passive and active audiences are interested in much more than that.  But the rules don’t allow these semi-media companies to expand their content into something that audiences are ready and willing to consume or pay for.

That opens the door for the active audience.  I was at a lunch with George Lucas at a Las Vegas trade show in the 1990’s and he said “everyone is going to become a producer.”  He was dead on.

The Audience is Now the Publisher

News, books, video, photos, you name it, they are creating it on their own.

News, books, video, photos, you name it, they are creating it on their own.

Every Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. post is from a publisher / broadcaster.

Every website, WordPress blog, and more is a publishing organization.

The web is exploding. In August of 1995 there were only experimental websites when it went live.  Just a few.  Now according to a report from Verisign as of December 2012:

• Total number of websites: 634 million
• Number of websites added in 2012: 52 million
• Number of domain name registrations across all top-level domains: 246 million
• 4 billion hours of video was viewed via YouTube each month
• Number of indexed webpages: 25.21 billion
• Roughly 2.4 billion people worldwide used the Web

These numbers are expanding exponentially.  Some estimates are saying 2 billion websites by 2015.

North America leads in the number of websites but users, those in the audience, we are only 11.4% – in third place.  Asia leads with 44.8% followed by Europe with 21.6%.

How many of the audience are publishers of content? Hard to tell but be sure, a large percentage of the 2.4 billion are in it because they want their voice heard.

What’s the Answer for Organizations, Publishers, and Broadcasters?

Ever since I was at IBM in the 1980’s and 90’s we knew content would be king.  It always was in the publishing and broadcasting industries.  That’s still true.

Content w=300The best content will rise to the top and it will come from many different sources, not just traditional publishers.

In addition to the traditional publishers and broadcasters, the rise of brand journalism, content marketing, native advertising, blogs, apps, and more defines information now.

If your 3 year-old kid accidentally locks himself in a room in your house and you have to find out the exact tool to open the doorknob lock from the outside, getting clear, concise information fast on your smartphone is a lot more valuable right now than anything the NY Times published that day.  If you’re the doorknob maker, you have an opportunity for great content distributed by channels your audience cares about. [Silly example but think about what great content can do for your organization. Every organization MUST be in the publishing and broadcasting business now to compete.]

Audience Persona Strategy

Audience Persona Strategy

Defining an audience by creating personas that help you understand what your audience cares about and creating and distributing that content is the key to the future.

Don’t limit yourself by industry or corporate rules. The audience rules.

That doesn’t mean you have to seek the lowest common denominator on the information you provide.  You must provide for your niche and look to expand it outside your comfort zone or location.  Great content wins.

Don’t be bound by traditional channels.  Expand them based on where your audience hangs out.

Your goal should be to make content and use channels that inspire interaction with you.  Don’t just keep blasting out like it’s a one-way street.  Think of media that folks in your target audience will want to react to, re-post, comment on, like, and follow.

The mix of content and channels you work on is defined by the audience you are trying to reach.  They will seek you out if you make content they want or need.  Capture their email.  Find out what social media channels and groups they spend time on. That’s your best subscriber.

Many channels are free (social media), but creating content is not.  At a minimum it takes time and that is not free.

Audiences are taking over so your content is ripe to be republished.  Find ways to help and encourage them.  That takes a content marketing strategy.

Speaking of creating content, the cream will only rise to the top if it is the best and delivered – if not first, real close to first.  That takes top professionals with amazing God given talent: real writers, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, video pros, and creative management to lead them.

Get Content Created

No, that's not the guy to make your content.

No, that’s not the guy to make your content.

There will be breakout producers with inexperience that will rise to the top but you usually won’t find them in your family, your spouse, your friends, the club, or your neighbor’s kid.

If they don’t have at least the beginning of a stellar portfolio of their work, and don’t live and breath working on it, don’t risk wasting your time and money.  Your audience will appreciate it.  After all, they are the ones that matter and are voting with their eyes and ears – and their cash.

If you want to find out more about creating audience personas, creating a communications – publishing – broadcasting strategy, or have content produced by top pros, contact me today: MikeBrown@BrownLtd.com

Words Can Kill

Words Can KillWhat you say, what I say, is important.  It has power.

Our words can lift others up, make folks feel good, protect them from hurtful feelings, and more.

Words can also cut and hurt.

They can destroy a relationship, hurt your family, ruin a kid’s self esteem, bring bad feelings or cause a crisis in  your organization, get you fired, and even cause someone to hurt themselves.

In addition, the WAY we say something is important.  Your tone and body language communicate as much or more than the words themselves.

If you say something hurtful or in a hurtful way, be sure to apologize and ask for forgiveness as quickly as possible.  They may not forgive you right away; but, at least you took responsibility for your actions.

In our close personal relationships with a spouse, children, and family it’s even more important to repair our relationship after we have used words to hurt.  Words can destroy trust and the desire to be close to each other.

We all make mistakes with our words.  Remember the power that they have.  Our words can live rent free in someone’s head forever.

When it comes to communicating on social media, you and your organization don’t need a complicated policy manual.  Instead, a good rule is to just never say anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see or hear.

On the Internet, your words will last forever.  Future relationships, spouses, employers, clients, will be able to see them – forever.  Those words aren’t easily retracted or forgiven.

Be careful out there.

State-of-the-Art Interactive Design

Mass Explained Screens

If you are a multimedia producer, interactive designer, graphic designer, writer, or illustrator, check out this new iPad App and learn.  It’s like the National Geographic of the Roman Catholic Mass – all explained using multimedia.

A friend of mine, Dan Gonzalez, has developed this amazing work.

Mass Explained iPad App is the National Geographic version of the Catholic Mass

Dan is one of the top designers, illustrators, and interactive media producers in the world.  And he’s a devout Catholic right here in Miami.

May I ask that you check it out and forward it to all your friends?

Also “Like” and “Follow” Dan to see the next release.  That’s right, there’s more to come.  Stay tuned!

Click to see the website describing this amazing project (Mass Explained)

Click Here to Go to the Mass Explained App Page

 

 

Professional Writers vs. Everyone Else

Rewriting on Steroids

Rewriting on Steroids

A friend recently told me that they hired a marketing copywriter from one of those online sweatshops where “writers” will work for $5 an hour, and in some cases, less. 

While it’s true that you can knock out a letter, or email, to home on the first try, professional writers are worth the fee they charge.  After all, the art of writing is rewriting.  Anyone working for $5 an hour either isn’t a pro, isn’t very talented, or isn’t working very hard for you.

Think of it this way… a cheap writer is like a cheap “date.”  You get exactly what you pay for – and all the bad stuff too.

The content I saw from the online sweatshop was at best amateur.  No focus, not helpful, nothing that would motivate anyone to do anything, full of cliches that would make a reader or buyer gag, etc.  It came complete with poor grammar and misspellings.

It was clear no research was done, no creative thought was attempted, and no real quotes from real customers.  Just words. Lots and lots of them.  Abraham Lincoln said, “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I didn’t have time for a short one.”  Tight copy takes time and a focus on the objective.

It’s true. Great copy is shorter, has a purpose, is well researched, creative to meet the objective, is a story told well, and works to achieve exactly what the client wants – sales, more web traffic, more foot traffic, signups for information, or whatever the client needs.

The real problem with hiring a sweatshop writer isn’t the cost.  “Hey, so what if I lose $5 an hour,” said my friend. 

I asked him after the failed attempt was over, could you afford the waste of time?  You can’t get that back.

 

Bill Cosby “Not Finished Yet”

Bill Cosby: The Master at Work

Bill Cosby: The Master at Work

One of the best communicators EVER just went back on after a 30 year break.  Listen to his bit on The Game of Chess and you’ll see a master at work.

It’s not just his words, which are written before the show.  His timing, intonation, and facial expressions are a lesson in how powerful body language is.

The Cos is a master storyteller.

Press Play to Watch the Video Segment (Trailer):

You can see the whole show by ordering the DVD or downloading from iTunes for $9.99.*

*NOTE: Brown Ltd. & BrownieBytes.net have no commercial interest in this product or program.

 

Brownie Bytes for You!

Folks are liking my Brownie Bytes on social media so it’s time to start keeping them on my website. Check in often. I’ll update regularly.

Brought to you by Brown Ltd.

Here’s the latest:

“How to create advertising that sells” – David Ogilvy

Written a long time ago but still true today. Instead of “ads”, substitute “content.”

The core of the strategy still works. It’s just not pure advertising when you change the focus from ads to content and Internet channels.

Write & Speak with Maximum Emotional Impact

Most people make initial decisions based on emotions. Buy a product, read a book, make a friend. Emotions.

Sure they’ll want to rationalize their decisions but the first instinct is emotional. For many, the last instinct is based on their feelings.  Use the strongest word possible to deliver your message.

If you write or speak for a living, these are words to live by:

Sheet-for-Emotions