I love content. I really do. My Feedly has 50+ websites that it pulls content from, and I spend a huge chunk of my day reading what journalists, bloggers, strategists, social marketers, content marketers and brands have to say.
I read articles, opinions and thought pieces on my way to work, on my way back, before I go to sleep and while I'm at work. It's fair to say that yes - I consume a ton of content on a daily basis. Since I myself am partly a content strategist and marketer, I look at all the content I consume in a different manner than a regular consumer would.
Here's what I usually think about:
- What's the overall message of the article?
- Did it convey it to me in a crisp manner? Or did it meander?
- Was this content useful to me?
- Could it have been done in a better manner?
- Do I wish the content piece was shorter?
- Do I wish the content piece was longer?
- Were visuals used appropriately in this article?
- Do I like the flow of the article?
- Were there any phrases, quotes or facts that stick out?
- Did any part of the article insight an emoiton from me?
- Did I feel involved in the article, or could I just not wait to get to the next one?
- Did this article make me think?
- Did it challenge a belief that I held before? Has it managed to change that belief or strengthen it?
- Is the content trying to sell me something? Do I find it useful? Will I buy it?
And so on and so forth. There are tons of other things that go on in my mind, but those are probably the ones that stick out the most.
However, after a couple of hours of reading and going through the day, I often take a break and think about the following:
- Which piece of content do I still remember the most of?
- What was so special about it?
- Can I recall which website the article was on?
- Can I recall who wrote it?
- Is my opinion of this article, website and person negative or positive?
And the last question is the kicker right there. Too often in the last few months, I've come back with negative reactions from content. I find myself developing a dislike for certain types of content, and as a result - of the person who is responsible for the content existing, and the website that's hosting the content.
And there's a fat chance that I will never go back to that website to read the article, or that I will never read content by that particular person again. I try not to make snap judgements, I usually try and live by the three strike (or more) rule before I make a decision or judgement about a person or a website.
Which brings me to an important point.
This is how your readers think too.
They might not think in the exact same way, but a lot of what went on in my mind happened from the perspective of a reader. Sure, as a content strategist and marketer I might have analyzed the piece a little bit more, but more often than not, most people sub-conciously think about the things I mentioned and take similar actions.
So what's the problem here?
People are creating content for the sake of creating it: We've been told by "influencers" that we must have content. That content is King and all that balderdash. As a result, people force themselves to create content. They put things out there that shouldn't be out there or have been said a million times in four million different ways. They throw a bucket of water into the ocean and expect to make more than just a miniscule splash.
Content has become a numbers game: Who has the most shares? Who has the most tweets? Who has the most articles on their website? Who shares the most amount of content? These have suddenly become metrics that we can't look beyond. If an article has 1,000 shares - this piece must be good, right? Let me say this. The Ford Focus was the highest selling car of 2013. Should you strive to reach the standards of the Ford Focus, or aim to deliver an experience more like a Ferrari?
Lists, Lists Everywhere: In the rush to make everything a list, content is losing the main ingredient that makes it so beautiful. The flow and the story. By breaking up a piece of content into distinct chunks, you're breaking up the ability for it to be flow well. And yes - you'll say that even a list has the ability to flow if structured properly, but not all content benefits from being a list.
The Wrong Idols: In an earlier post on Social Media Today, I talked about how certain websites should not be your go-to source for picking up tips on good headlines from. Similarly, always remember that your "influencers" might not be the best guides for you to pick up tips on content flow, material and structured thinking from either. Aim higher. Think wider.
When it comes to something that's as personal as content, as personal as information - no one who produced "the most" has won. The one who produced the "most quality" has always won. And you will not create quality by looking at what others are doing, ripping off them and then slapping together a couple of things and call it good content.
The race is not for how much content you can create, but for how valuable your content can be. And remember, only so much of "48 Brilliant Resources of XYZ" can exist. Everyone knows all you're doing is scraping other smaller chunks of content to create a collection of it all. You're not an aggregator.
Spend time on content. Think about it. Make it valuable. Make it unique. People want to hear what they hasn't been said before, not how you can say what's been said before in a different manner.