We’re in the midst of a massive Content Conundrum.
There has never been so much content. But most of its crap. It is designed for clicks and SEO, not for delivering insight and value. Too much content features “10 ways to do this….” or “Six ways to do that”. And when you click, the content is crappy.
For people and brands, creating content is a vicious cycle. If you don’t play the game – e.g. write click-bait articles and posts – you attract no traffic. If you create crappy content, you’re feeding the link-bait machine.
So what about high-quality content?
Is there value in focusing on material that is better and more insightful? As important, will people pay for it? Sadly, I’m not sure this is the case.
Look at Medium’s struggles. The company has raised $125-million to build a beautifully designed content management system. Writers love using it and a good chunk of the content is pretty good. Medium attracts millions of readers but – and it’s huge but – the company can’t figure out a way to make money. If I was one of those smart investors who dumped money into Medium, I’d probably be saying, “What the f*%$@?. I gave you tons of money and you tell me that creating a business is difficult”.
If I was one of those smart investors who dumped money into Medium, I’d probably be saying, “What the f*%$@?. I gave you tons of money and you tell me that creating a business is difficult”.
In other words, Medium is a failure. It is a business that filled a need by building a user-friendly service for people to create and share content. But no one wants to pay for the service or read the content. Houston, we have a problem!
So, now what? What’s the future of content when no one wants to pay for it? Are we destined to live in a link-bait world dominated by “media companies” such as BuzzFeed? Will quality content only be alive and well on the New York Times?
Maybe it’s time for individuals and businesses to stop thinking about content as a direct source of revenue, including the ability to attract relevant advertising. Maybe it is time to focus on high-quality content that can be monetized in different ways.
Alex Barrera published a great article recently (ironically, on Medium) on how we should “stop writing for clicks and start writing for attention”. He ended the article with this rock-solid advice: Leave “The Next 15 Things You Need To Achieve To Become A Celebrity” for the link-baiters. Focus on what moves you.”
Another approach to content comes from Uberflip’s Randy Frisch who suggests brands create content that is relevant and entertains. Frisch says this content is often ranked behind other priorities such as leads, SEO, and social shares.
From a personal perspective, I have focused on writing content that delivers value and insight. Probably to my detriment, I haven’t paid enough attention to keywords and SEO optimization. Instead, I write about what interests me and, hopefully, other people. It is a labor of love that along the way builds a brand presence and helps me attract enough marketing business to pay the bills.
In an ideal world, high-quality content rules the day. Unfortunately, there is too much interest in low-quality, snackable content, which generates clicks and revenue.
It means companies such as Medium are doomed unless they find ways to make money (Note: Maybe Medium should embrace how WordPress has created a fast-growing business by offering services on top of a free CMS.).
But we as content creators need to fight the good fight by creating insightful, informative, well-researched and well-written content. Eventually, I believe the pendulum will swing in the other direction. As people grow fatigued with crappy, link-bait content, their appetites for good content will expand. And they may even pay for some of it.
What do you think? Is content as we live it doomed, or are there other ways that content is valuable enough to support a business?
More: On the First Round blog, Tara-Nicholle Nelson, who ran marketing for Trulia and MyFitnessPal, talks about the dangers of brands creating click-bait content that doesn’t deliver.
I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing and storytelling. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.