David Carr's piece last week about the newspaper industry and its inability to meet its structured costs, not to mention the ongoing costs of editing and distributing content, highlights a trend that shows no sign of abating. The relentless drive to reduce content production costs for media companies is something we are well aware of here at Social Media Today. And for companies large and small, the need to produce good content, not just marketing blather, while at the same time utilizing social channels for SEO and other sorts of goals is equally urgent as many companies have woken to the reality that - like it or not - they are now media companies.
All the various activities and disciplines that go into creating a good, readable post are things that the experienced writer nearly takes for granted, not the least of which is the painful task of editing, These tasks have been exceedingly hard to "scale," while at the same time thought leaders at big companies are being tasked to do more, and independent journalists are being tasked to do more with less. Accepting both of these challenge is Boston-based Skyword -- a platform launched in 2010 by Tom Gerace, a veteran of the affiliate marketing world.
The Skyword platform brings together clients and their strategic agency partners to design and develop a content marketing strategy, and then provides ongoing monitoring and analytics to determine if the strategy is working. It optimizes for search performance, taking into account the enormous importance that search plays in any initial buying process. It also provides the writers themselves with a tool set that taps into their own "social cascade," and allows them to individually measure and track results.
A good example of how this works is to be found on a site launched for IBM: MidsizeInsider.com. The people who influence the mid-size data and computer services market is a disparate group, and while IBM had a fine sense of who they are, working with Skyword they were able to expand and recruit that list to the Skyword platform and eventually, to its published site. Leslie Reiser, Program Director, IBM WW Digital Marketing, is the client for this engagement, and not surprisingly, her role is within the influencer group for the mid-size market. She'd heard about what Skyword's Gerace had been doing with Gather, Inc, the predecessor to Skyword, and decided to engage him to create an IBM-sponsored site with the ability to draw from and optimize the curated content produced by their many influencers.
The first step was to create an editorial "board" which included Leslie and her team, as well as several of the influencers and a member of Skyword's own team. Establishing the important keywords for SEO, as well as an alignment with what IBM was already hearing were the important concerns of its customers -- like cloud computing, security and other mid-market technology challenges -- was the next step, which then became part of what Skyword used to aid the "editing" process.
Skyword also adds some of the painstaking editorial basics, stuff like not repeating too many of the same words, not using passive tense, all those things that hardened veterans of The Front Page learned the hard way. (Full disclosure: I have edited this post the hard way, in case you see any of these errors.)
For Gerace, it's still all about search (a topic we've discussed here quite a bit this year, with Maggie Fox, Elisa Camahort Page, and others.) "Search is the #1 source for information discovery. Social is #1 for pass-along information, " Gerace notes. And either way, quality content is key, and authoritative, quality content is king.
Skyword can work with a variety of content management systems, according to Gerace. Also not surprisingly, it is the editorial interface of many traditional online sites with more or less open blogging, such as the Trading Deck on MarketWatch.com, Education.com, and for La Presse, a news site. Importantly, with so many writers using the platform and so many posts being read, tracked and measured, Skyword can continually make intelligent recommendations on topics and keywords. One can almost see the platform learning from the "big boys" and today's equivalent of Hildy Johnson what can be passed along to clients to increase the authority of their content marketing initiatives.
Reiser's management is very pleased with the results from Midsize Insider. "We've produced over 1,150 articles since launch, and in the past quarter we've had 70,000 visitors and 95,000 page views. We've also had visitors from 171 countries. What really impresses us, though, is that our click-through-rate is 1.2% -- way better than we're used to." Significantly, this has been achieved with no increase in IBM resources.
Which brings us back to structured costs, the newspaper industry, and what Skyword means for creating authoritative (from a Google perspective) content. It's a good thing, no doubt, that those costs can be lowered as the need for more and faster, relevant information continues to grow. Into this still very fluid media environment in which we consume our information, and increasingly seek the reliable sources, we now have significant resources from mighty corporations like IBM and many others going towards producing reliable sources. Our hope - as always - is that these resources, in order to be authoritative, continually bend towards truth (along with justice and the American Way.)