It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyways. The New York Times is successful. It’s won more Pulitzer Prizes than any other news organization (117, to be exact). It’s been publishing consistently since 1851 and continues to thrive in a world where many people believe that traditional newspapers are dying.
How’s that blog of yours looking in comparison? Probably not so hot.
While it might not be fair to compare your blog to The New York Times, we can certainly learn a thing or two about unsuccessful content marketing from it.
I believe that content marketing is so flawed today because the traditional business model does not rely on the production of great content that people care about. So, content is neglected and pushed to the side, treated as nothing more than a sales asset. It is relegated to the fringes of a business’ priorities.
The New York Times, though, relies solely on satisfying its audience with quality content. Without stories that their readers want to consume, they fail. The New York Times puts the story first.
Your content, on the other hand, is likely focused on your product, a thinly veiled advertisement, or lukewarm and unnecessary.
While these assumptions may come off as rude, it’s just the cold reality that most brands are creating useless content despite the fact that each and every one of them could be owning an idea and an angle that is truly unique.
The fact that most companies will never see content as a key revenue driver means that the majority will never take it seriously enough to do it well. If you want content that is fueling your marketing and, eventually, your sales, you need to start thinking of it as an integral part of your business model. You need to adopt the mindset of The New York Times and put the story first.
Finding and Owning Your Story
- Identify your content tilt
Carve some space for your content by taking a stance, being opinionated, and making waves. In other words, tilt your content.
Content tilt is an idea coined by the godfather of content marketing himself, Joe Pulizzi. He defines it as:
“What separates you from everyone else in your market area. It’s your unique perspective on your content niche, which creates an opportunity for you to attack, lead and, ultimately, own the category. Without “tilting” your content just enough to tell a truly unique story, you risk blending into the rest of the noise and being forgotten.”
The best way to find a content tilt that will be effective is to intimately know your audience and find what speaks to them, something I talk about in my next point.
- Focus on your audience — and get to know them
If you try to appeal to everyone you will appeal to no one. So figure out who you’re trying to appeal to and own that audience. For example, if you’re writing a travel blog, don’t just start a travel blog. Start a travel blog for retired couples that want to explore unknown places around the world but need to stick to a budget. This relates strongly to the idea of tilting content. It’s important to note, though, because a content tilt won’t work if there isn’t an audience that cares about it.
Since you are involved in marketing, I’m assuming you’re looking to sell a product that appeals to a certain defined group of people. Learn about them. Learn their fears and dreams. Learn their daily annoyances and small joys. Then write something that matters to them.
- Invest in writers and dedicate them to content creation
The New York Times does not ask miscellaneous employees to create content in their spare time. They also do not outsource their cover story article to a freelancer who is juggling 15 clients. They hire extremely talented writers and make it their full-time job.
This is a sensitive topic for me because I have worked as a client-facing copywriter in the past and I have done a variety of freelance writing and editing over the last few years—and I do believe there is value in outsourcing certain aspects of content development. Still, the most successful content marketing efforts I’ve seen have had strong internal dedication to content creation.
Those brands with internal content marketing teams can benefit greatly from agency collaboration–especially when it comes to the strategy piece–and external writers. Putting all of your content creation efforts on the back of an out-sourced writer who will simply never know your company or product as well as an in-house writer is likely not going to yield great results, though. If you don’t have the resources to hire any writers in-house, then make sure you’re working with an agency with writers that will truly take the time to get to know your business, product, and, most importantly, your audience.
- Choose quality and quantity
If you have to choose between the two, certainly choose quality. Still, so many brands believe that today’s readers have no attention span and are too busy to read a long form article. So, they crank out short, un-impactful blogs and wonder why they’re not raking in the traffic and engagement.
If this is your model, let me ask you — does it matter if a reader gets to the bottom of your 300-word article if they got nothing out of it?
I’m not saying that every blog should be as long as this one, just that it’s hard to provide worthwhile information with a captivating point of view in 300 words. If you still don’t believe that longer articles can be worth the effort, take a look at these stats:
- Long-form blog posts generate 9x more leads than short-form blog posts. (Curata)
- Long-form blog posts generate 9x more page views than short-form blog posts (Curata)
If people care (and they will, if you’re writing to the right audience with a unique and interesting angle), they will read. Rather than thinking about what length people are willing to read, think about what length is a good framework to provide useful content that your audience will genuinely want to read.
Well, I Don’t Want to Create Great Content, Now What?
If you don’t want to follow this advice and take content marketing seriously, then I highly suggest you stop. Many companies are “doing content marketing” (and not doing it well) because it’s something they hear about a lot and don’t want to be left out. Simply put, that’s a waste of time because it will not work. Success takes sustained effort that rivals that of a true publication.
Take this quote from my favorite Content Marketing Institute blog:
“Let’s face it magazines like Vogue and newspapers like The New York Times didn’t become successful without operating as a well-oiled machine. They didn’t sometimes publish content. They didn’t sometimes have all the resources in place. And they didn’t sometimes follow writing guidelines.” – Jessica Lee, A Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Brand Publisher
What I think would round this quote out perfectly is, ‘Magazines like Vogue and newspapers like The New York Times didn’t become successful without crafting captivating stories, creating quality content, investing in necessary resources, and putting their audiences first’.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog 6 Content Marketing Statistics that Prove the Effectiveness of a Documented Content/Social Strategy to find out how to make your content marketing operate as a well-oiled machine.