There is a new buzzword/buzzphrase floating around the startup circle called "Content Marketing". There is more written about how to write good content than there is content; so let's discuss why that is, and what we can do about it.
I know we all love content. Especially good content. It's even better if the content is delivered, on demand, by the author(s), and still manages to be authentic, non-rushed, and genuinely interesting.
If you're a business owner, you probably have a marketing department. You probably have an in-house blogger, who ghost-writes for your whole team (site visitors get the impression your team wrote all this themselves). You might even have more than one in-house blogger.
Trade secrets with tradeoffs
You might pay your in-house blogger(s) really well, as the in-house blogger(s) effectively write for the whole team, saving you countless hours of emailing employees back-and-forth asking them politely "how's that article getting along?".
This authorship trick is a trade secret and sleight of hand. But it has drawbacks. You might save money, but you overlook the fact that content is important, and it deserves a lot more attention. If you overlook 'the content problem' for too long, it will bite you in the ass.
It was the blog all along?
Maybe you don't know that your diluted, cheap content, is a problem. Maybe you're a thriving company, and see your little trick as contributory to that success. But a common pattern in any business is the face-palming that can occur when you realize it's your blog that's losing you money. Nobody ever makes the connection of blog-as-marketing tool. It's usually considered an add on.
We see the potential
For the companies that do realize the marketing potential of their blog, there could still be problems. A common pattern I've observed is those who publish a few high-quality articles in the first year, and then slowly descend into that sloppy, rushed content that has no personality.
They quickly see problems with generating articles with the same calibre and fervour of the first few posts.
So let's discuss this 'content problem' we encounter, and how we can solve it. Let's talk about how we can deliver great content at scale, and if the content problem is even a difficult problem.
Percolate are a company whose tagline is; "Percolate helps brands create content at social scale". Notice the word "helps". They don't claim to generate content for you. The idea is you feed the Percolate system with thoughts, ideas, small snippets of information, and out comes content that doesn't seem rushed, or sloppily thrown together at 3AM in the morning and sent off to marketing without being spell checked.
Now before we all rush off to try Percolate, we have to ask if 'the content problem' can be solved in other ways. What if, instead of in-house bloggers; we had in-house content engines that we created ourselves? I ask this because, more startups are developing in-house solutions instead of leveraging existing (paid) solutions.
May I suggest, instead of buying a new SSD server rack, or buying that typeface which you can get for free on Dafont - that we figure out content creation first? That we figure out some system, that is easy to use? A system that makes content creation point-and-click, and not a chore? Something that can be delivered in twenty minutes, and doesn't need unheard-of amounts of caffeine to create efficiently? And most importantly, something of high quality?
Give me a year
As the old adage goes - "Give me a year". If we embark on the task of 'content engines', we might picture algorithms, templating engines, spinnable phrases. Anything that's related to natural language generation, and perhaps the whole field of artificial intelligence. "It's not easy an easy to solve problem!", we might exclaim.
In reality, of course, if we share the problem, the problem is halved. In fact, because we have The Internet, the problem can go away. We don't have to get academic about what to write, or how we write it. Human content is more interesting than machine-generated content. Indeed we are the only machine capable of spotting text generated by machines. Googlespam anyone?
So we needn't fire up a Markov Chain sentence generator, and setup skunk-work projects in dark rooms full of glaring monitors, and feed caffeinated beverages to programmers to solve this.
Instead of "Give me a year" - it should be "give me a month". If you're dedicated enough, and you have the drive, it could even be "give me a week".
Start creating your content engine now please.
Comments? Feel free to give feedback on the Designer News thread.