Too Much Content – Advice I Love to Ignore

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told there is too much content I’d have, like $5.

The thing I see right away in the content is that there is far too much content. MORE PICTURES!!” -Sam, Web Designer, 11/16/2012

I agree! We need more pictures. Who’s going to take them?

When people say that a website needs less text, what they are really describing is a graphic design problem. They want a zero-entry, spoon-fed, baby-stepped introduction to the content. “Start me off with two-to-three words and a picture. If I like what I see, I’ll keep going.”

Too Much ContentType text layout is just as important as the pictures used on a website. Large fonts, small fonts, bold fonts, and font spacing can all play towards the readability of a site. A web site can be filled with text and still be readable as long as the text is organized correctly.

Okay, I get websites, but what about Social Media?

This morning one of my managers emailed me a link to Mashable’s Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Facebook Wrong. In it the author goes over a recent report that states, “When it comes to posts, less is more,” and “suggests a self-imposed 80-character wall for Facebook posts.” People are so “bombarded” with posts that we need to limit what we’re saying down to 80-character posts in order to get people to like us.

How about we make the posts as long as is appropriate for the material and the medium? For longer posts, consider writing an ebook, white paper, or a long blog post. Longer social posts are socially acceptable on Google+, but not as much on Tumblr or Facebook (Google+ tends to have a more intellectual crowd).

So is a ton of content good or bad? I’m confused.

Imagine if Google had the choice between serving up your 80-character post or your 10,000 word essay. Which one would it choose? The one that answers the question. Google wants to deliver the best results so that people keep using it and so they can keep selling ads. Aim to answer people’s questions (ie. add value) and it doesn’t matter how long your content is.

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ― Mark Twain

Neil Patel, a content marketing expert, recently wrote How Long Should Each Blog Post Be? In short, he found that the more established a brand is, the less they have to write. Conversely, the less established a brand, the more they have to write. This is how Nike can get away with short taglines in their advertisements, but newcomers have to use long sales letters to convince buyers.

One other aspect to consider is market sophistication levels. At sophistication level 1, no one knows what your product is or what it does. It’s totally unique and so it needs a lot more information written about it. At level 2 there are competitors so you’re only talking about what makes your product different. Each of the 5 levels states less and less about what the product actually does.

Content Length is Contextual

A good content marketer will take into account the medium he’s writing for, the target audience, and the market sophistication level of the product when determining how much content is too much content. Blanket statements like “there’s too much text” or “people don’t like to read” are simply not true without context. There is a time and place for all types of content length.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

If I were tweeting today I would have wrote: WordPress is not so much a content management system as much as a content display system.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

A content management system (CMS) designed by Erich Stauffer would allow content to be platform-agnostic. In DRY (don’t repeat yourself) terms, the content would be an object who’s repurposing could be tracked. Essentially, the content management system would not store the content, but report on the status and whereabouts of the content. Let me explain with an example.

Example: A blog post is written in WordPress. The dashboard in the CMS sees this new post via RSS and prompts the viewer to describe (via checkboxes) whether or not the material has been repurposed as a video, soundcloud, podcast, slideshare presentation, or as part of an email has been backlinked from Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

In essence, the CMS would work more as a marketing automation workflow tool – guiding you through the process of wringing out as much value from each initial post as possible. This same process could be accomplished via any sort of trusted system: pencil and paper, Word worksheets, Excel spreadsheets, Trello, or even WordPress itself via custom code.

I have yet to do it manually even once, yet I have recommended it to others many times. I’m not sure a tool would make me want to do it more, but ‘doing’ is not what I do. ‘Changing’ is what I do. That’s how I’m wired and I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t good or helpful for production workers who are more comfortable creating content in a structured environment.

It’s not that I don’t do stuff. I do practically whatever anyone tells me to do. I guess it would make more sense to put that line in context. I once worked in a corporate department where my boss used an analogy about us being the rudder and ‘ops’ being the engine. I had very little ‘corporate’ experience prior to working there and had never worked as a business analyst before. (I am very thankful for the opportunity as I feel it was one of the best jobs I ever had.)

As a result of my intial ignorance of how to be a business analyst, I wasn’t aware that other people had a similar or different opinion on the subject of how organizations should be organized. I only knew of it as ‘how my boss thought’. It wasn’t until after I visited the “Indianapolis Leadership Circle” (formerly known as the Leadership Mastery Group) put on by Tony Piazza that I heard something similar from the speaker, Scotty Bevill. He said (paraphrased for convenience):

[Project managers] don’t like to run things – we like to build, change, and refine things. That’s just who we are as people.

I use that word “people” specifically as Scotty was very adamant about business being “people dealing with people” and that we shouldn’t try to take the “human” out of who we are. The people in the room at the leadership meeting were mostly project managers who were mostly former IT workers. The other people in the room were current IT workers (such as myself, who is currently an IT Specialist in my day job). This is more of a belief about who we are as workers, not as much about the willingness to do or not do work. People like us (project managers and business analysts) prefer to be change agents, not production workers.

Content Management Systems vs. Managing Content

Permission to speak freely? Okay, for a second here I’m going to throw out all preconceived notions of what I should or should not do, what I am or am not capable of, and what does or does not make business sense. I’m just going to say what I think I want to do and then step back to see what sticks. As Scotty Bevill says, “Start with what is known.” Here’s what I know: I have found a way to add a sales funnel dimension to keyword research. Let’s call these “buyer keywords”.

  • Once you have identified ‘buyer keywords” you can start to write content that attracts those searchers.
  • Once content is created it can be both backlinked from social media and repurposed into other content.
  • Once visitors start coming to the content, the content can be optimized to increase conversions.

Compendium, a business blogging platform which recently got purchased by Oracle, has 3 steps to create content which are 1) Research 2) Organize and 3) Create. I’d like to create a service that does 1) SEO Keyword and Competition Research 2) Creates and Manages Content and 3) does A/B Optimization.

Content Repositories

Update: Since writing this I’ve since discovered something called a “Content Repository“. There are several types, but what they all have in common is a clear separation between the content and the presentation of the content. What I’m still looking out for (and willing to provide as a service until software can be built around it) is a way to track all content like a database and know when and/or how often it’s been linked out via social media or to certain social bookmarking sites and whether or not it’s been repurposed to a pre-defined selection such as Youtube, Soundcloud, or Podcast.

So when you take what I consider to be my ‘flux capacitor moment’ where I realized I had this ‘super power’ to attract customers to me by writing what matters to the customer and add in what I’ve since learned about content marketing, customer acquisition systems, and customer development I’ve got a knowledge base that is poised to be leveraged with the right content management system. By system I mean the methods (processes + tools) that can multiply the efforts of a content marketer by first finding out who is already seeking their product and writing directly to that person.

I’m not sure how to do this, but those are my collection of ideas.

The Future of RSS

On July 2, 2013, Google killed Google Reader.
Google Reader

Thank you for stopping by.

Google Reader has been discontinued. We want to thank all our loyal fans. We understand you may not agree with this decision, but we hope you’ll come to love these alternatives as much as you loved Reader.

Sincerely,

The Google Reader team

While I have used Google Reader on and off for years, I don’t use it now. However, I still know and care about the value of RSS as a publishing syndication platform and feel that Google has hurt that by creating a monopoly of sorts by buying up RSS apps then killing them.

ZDNet wrote a piece on this entitled, Embrace, extend, extinguish: How Google crushed and abandoned the RSS industry in which Ed Bott writes, “The entire RSS industry is being rolled back to about 2006 and asked to start over.”

Hacker News (HN) chimed in when bambax said, “The killing of Reader looks like a desperate move to help Google+: since Google can’t kill Facebook, they’re willing to hurt themselves instead — to cut their left arm so that their right arm can grow stronger. If this is indeed the case, it’s very shortsighted.”

In another HN thread about the economics of “Evil Google“, RockyMcNuts said:

It’s not the RSS reader. It’s the open publishing ecosystem. Most clients point to Reader as the central feed aggregator. Most publishers point to Feedburner as the central publisher. Google seized the commanding heights with Feedburner and Google Reader and captured all the publishers and the clients, and now they’re killing the ecosystem. I don’t see why they couldn’t have integrated Reader into Plus without killing the ecosystem. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are moving into news aggregation, and Google is killing a successful news aggregation system. I don’t understand their strategy, but it’s seems sort of like, we want everyone on G+ and we don’t care how heavy-handed we look or how early adopters feel, and we don’t want an open ecosystem that people can use to pipe content into Twitter and Facebook.

What other platform has such ease of opt-in as RSS? There are email newsletters and Twitter. Both require that the publisher does some sort of action. With RSS it was/is automatic. That is/was the beauty of it. I keep talking about it like it’s dead. It’s not dead. Google Reader is dead. I asked a friend if he still used Google Reader and this is what he said:

I definitely still use it. I probably will wait until the last week of June to commit to a new solution. I’ll probably go with Feedly, but I’m not sure if they let you pick any website, etc. Also, I don’t know how they accommodate custom searches [like Google Alerts]. I’m going to wait until there is an opportunity for a mature alternative. I also have questions about how the web will attempt to syndicate in the absence of Google reader. I know people are saying that the shuttering of reader is a pronouncement of Twitter winning vs. RSS. But, Twitter isn’t an adequate replacement for RSS and leaning on newsletters is a step in the wrong direction. I’m all questions and all ears.

RSS Reader Alternatives

And if that list isn’t good enough for you, NPR suggested Digg. Microsoft Outlook also has a RSS reader and some Internet browsers have RSS readers built-in. Did you know Internet Explorer 9 had an RSS reader? Firefox requires an add-in like Simple RSS Reader, Feedly, or Sage. Same for Chrome. AOL also has a RSS reader aptly named AOL Reader.

RSS: Curation VS. Aggregation

I remember the first time I saw Google Reader. A coworker had invited me over to his house and while there he told me he wanted to show me something cool. When I walked over to his computer he proudly showed me how he had collected all of his favorite information into one place. He was able to sort through article after article with the spin of his mouse wheel. It was glorious. I signed up for my own account and quickly began adding RSS feeds from sites I wanted to follow. I quickly became inundated with more articles than I could read in a day. I started to get discouraged and eventually I quit.

Marco Arment wrote in The Power of the RSS Reader, “The most common complaint I hear about inbox-style RSS readers such as Google Reader, NetNewsWire, and Reeder: that people gave up on them because they were constantly filled with more unread items than they could handle. If you’ve had that problem, you weren’t using inbox-style RSS readers properly…If a site posts many items each day and you barely read any of them, delete that feed. If you find yourself hitting ‘Mark all as read’ more than a couple of times for any feed, delete that feed…The true power of the RSS inbox is keeping you informed of new posts that you probably won’t see linked elsewhere.”

RSS is not a curator of content, it’s an aggregator of content, but sites like Reddit and Hacker News are kind of both. Articles are collected there and self-curated by the community. Compare this to Fark, which is a news aggregator curated by Drew Curtis. What RSS doesn’t do is filter out all of the mediocre or non-relevant articles that inevitably appear over time no matter how targeted the blog. Far better to find a community around a subject you like and have articles aggregate and share there. This is the difference between Twitter proper and Twitter lists. The former is mostly noise and the latter is much more concentrated. Apps like Hootsuite can also help curate with search lists for keywords.

RIP Google Reader. Long live RSS.