Content Creation is Costly. Content Consumption is Priceless.

Content Creation is Costly. Content Consumption is Priceless.

Is your content marketing little more than content-making?

Then odds are, your content team is acting as producers when they should be thinking like publishers.

Too many content initiatives are measured by output. Not enough are measured by outcomes. The unit of creation becomes the unit of measure. Unchecked, this results in runaway production of low quality, poorly-managed content that goes unused by its intended audience. And where great content has the potential to create a great company, crappy content (here, I’m using this precise industry term to encompass not only badly-done content but also any content — even the “good stuff” — that fails to achieve its purpose) has the potential to kill one. It costs too much, it strains your resources, it violates the covenant with your audience.

I know that content professionals devote some brain-space to distribution, promotion, and measurement — but these things don’t seem to get nearly the same level of attention as production, and as a content strategist I see this imbalance (and its negative effects) time and time again. “See what sticks” becomes the strategy and, really, that’s no strategy at all.

In a recent CMSwire interview, content strategist Karen McGrane points to the same problem:

Content marketing as a strategy is a bit overblown. The idea that the foundation of marketing could sit on creating (and then throwing away) ever more content is simply not viable over the long term. Content strategists like myself are frequently faced with the challenge of sorting through website analytics that show few — if any — people actually look at the content. It’s not uncommon for web pages to have fewer than 50 visits in a year. It’s not uncommon for PDFs to receive zero downloads. The problem is that content marketing isn’t a strategy. It’s about volume, and SEO, and seeing what sticks.

There is a legitimate, obvious, deceptively simple content strategy solution to this challenge: create less content. But there’s a corollary too: make sure the content you do create is actually consumed.

'See what sticks' is neither a #contentstrategy nor a #marketingstrategy. Put consumption ahead of creation. Click To Tweet

As usability consultant Gerry McGovern writes, this — not production — is the job of the true content professional.

Most organizations have more than enough capacity to create content but have very few of the skills required to make that content findable and usable… The current model in most organizations that I visit is to reward the production of content… We must move to a consumption / use model. We must measure and reward findability. We must measure and reward use. We must stop measuring the person who creates the content and instead measure the person who is supposed to use the content.

Boom! Drop the mic.

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The value of content lies not in its creation, but in its consumption.

Said so simply, this sounds obvious but for many organizations, it isn’t. According to one study by Ascend2, nearly half of businesses name lack of content creation resources as a significant problem. (If McGovern’s statement above is accurate, these businesses might be misplacing the blame, but I digress.) Do you know what percentage of businesses cite content consumption as an issue? Neither do I — the researchers didn’t even ask. But with the majority of business content going unused by its intended audience, issues like accessibility, findability and usability (not to mention, usefulness, relevance and value) surely plague more programs than content creation bottlenecks alone.

The value of your content lies not in its creation, but in its consumption. Click To Tweet

And so…

If content is your currency, it’s critical that you peg its value to the right benchmark. And when content creation is costly, content consumption is priceless. Nobody should fault you for creating less content; your business should reward you for getting more of your content consumed by the right audience. I believe this distinction matters even more than the one between quantity and quality, for even quality content is crap if it doesn’t achieve its intended outcome. And achieving your intended outcome begins with reaching your intended audience.

On the one hand, this means shifting the emphasis from production to publishing — putting the right rigor around setting strategy, understanding usability, and ensuring findability. On the other hand, it means prioritizing promotion. “If you build it, they will come,” can’t compete with, “if you want them to go, you must let them know.” After all, content marketing as a tactic depends on marketing your content as a strategy. It may be one of the best ways to protect the investment you’ve made in producing the best possible asset you can, and its certainly a key factor in ensuring positive ROI.

#Contentmarketing as a tactic depends on marketing your content as a strategy. -- @verdino_co Click To Tweet

 

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