Content Is King, But Distribution Is Queen and She Wears the Pants
The title of this article is a direct quote from Jonathan Perelman of BuzzFeed and was featured in Ryan Skinner's article, "Great Content Is Not Enough," on the Forrester blog. The article features takeaways from Ryan's most recent Forrester report, called "Put Distribution at the Heart of Content Marketing." The report is a great read for today's marketing and public relations professionals and explains why only 36 percent of marketers who use content feel they use it effectively.
The False Debate
This year has seen many thought leaders chime in on the quantity versus quality content argument. Marketers are trying to find the right balance. The more time they spend on quality, the less time they have for production. Seems like a fair concern, right?
Here's the problem: 64 percent of content marketers feel they don't use content effectively. That represents a whole lot of campaigns. It's likely that some of them are focusing on quality while others are primarily focused on quantity. Neither approach guarantees results. However, the end goal is the same: publishing great content that gets shared on social media and ranks high in the search engines.
The amount of content being published online is growing exponentially and content marketers are partially to blame. In June of 2000, there were fewer than eight million websites. Today that number is greater than 750 million, according to Netcraft.com, and shows no signs of slowing down. This means that it will be harder and harder for marketers to cut through the noise in order to get their content read. Great content goes unread everyday on the Internet.
Google is helping to fuel this debate, too. With its Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates and the "Freshness" indexing update to Caffeine, Google is essentially telling marketers to publish as much content as possible and to make sure it's extremely helpful to the people that read it if they want to do well on the search engine.
Unfortunately, the debate itself blinds content marketers to why their campaigns are performing poorly. Some may add another layer of editing and/or ideation in an attempt to boost the quality of their campaigns. Others may decide to ramp up production to get the results they're lacking. Neither of the two tackles the real problem-lack of a distribution strategy.
The Right Debate
Rather than trying to produce more or better content, marketers should focus on their distribution plans. It should be part of their overall strategy. However, it's likely just an afterthought for most of the 64 percent of marketers who feel they're not using their content effectively. So rather than debating quality versus quantity, marketers should be debating on how much to spend on promotion.
Here are a few remarkable findings featured in Ryan Skinner's article:
- Brands can actually step down content production and step up distribution to get better results.
- An ecosystem of vendors have cropped up to help marketers drive distribution of branded content.
- The most effective promotions often come from doubling-down on past successes.
- Better distribution improves content's quality, as the feedback cycle accelerates.
By focusing on distribution using paid and earned channels, content marketers can hasten their traffic, conversions, subscribership and regular readership.
Paid Content Distribution
There are many services available to help marketers with their content distribution endeavors. Companies like Outbrain, Adblade, aNEWSme and OneSpot are all paid services that distribute content in a native or advertorial manner. These services can place a company's content in front of millions of eyeballs.
Earned Content Distribution
Content marketers can take a page from traditional public relations by reaching out to the media in order to earn coverage which will assist with distribution. The alternative is to rely on luck. Unfortunately, luck isn't very predictable. This article itself is earned media for Forrester's blog post and report earned via luck.
By proactively reaching out and pitching influencers, editors and journalists, marketers can get their content organically featured in some of the most populous corners of the Internet. This one example shows how earned media coverage from one popular online media outlet drove over 1,200 business leads in just a few weeks. The Inbound Marketer's Guide to Earned Mediatakes a deep dive into how to use the media to help with content promotion.
If 2013 is the year of content marketing, let's hope that 2014 will be the year of content promotion. Too many marketers are forgetting about promotion; instead, they believe the answers to their content marketing woes are to produce more and better content. As mentioned above, every day great content goes unread. Without a promotion strategy like the ones previously described, the vast majority of content being created and published by the brands across this country will continue to go unread.
Image credit: Marc Falardeau
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