A Question of Creative Content Ethics
I was going to do another one of those roundup blog posts today. And I cringed at the thought of it, as the past few weeks have been nothing but roundups of 2012 and predictions for 2013. But I was going to do it anyway. And do you know why? Because it’s an easy win.
That was, until I read a brilliant piece this morning by Jonathon Colman on how we can do better with our content. But more on that later.
Yesterday, I shared my 2013 marketing resolutions with you. One of them involved experimenting with new ways of writing and content production that tried to hit the sweet spot in terms of what an audience wants and what we can give them.
Serendipitously, as I was writing this post, senior SEO analyst Bradley Leese walked in and asked a question that made me think: “How do you create content people want to read?”
Wow. Great question.
My first thought was: As a writer, it’s intuitive. You think, either this piece is great or it totally sucks. But that’s just your opinion. So what ends up happening when you’re in the business of marketing content, is that you base the content’s worth on how many people share it and talk about it.
Then I thought about Mashable. Look at how big their captive audience is. They can say “poop on a stick” and it will be shared thousands of times. (No offense to Mashable, as I know they take a journalistic approach to timely and relevant topics). But their brand is their catalyst. So which came first – the content or the brand?
Quality vs. Efficiency – Which Wins in Content?
Ethically, I believe the content producer, not the brand, is responsible for great content. But then there’s the question of schedules, calendars, projects and resources. Who wins then – quality or efficiency?
It’s a vicious cycle, trading originality for visibility and time-savings. Sure, people may be interested in the same old how-to information or a roundup of others’ ideas, but how much does it really make a difference?
Did you know it takes me about 5 hours on average to put together one of my in-depth blog posts? The problem is time. I don’t always have the luxury of spending several hours each time I write a post to research, write, edit, optimize, upload, format, and promote when I have a million other competing deadlines.
But we want to create content we can be proud of and that adds value. And I’m sure many of you out there feel that way, too. However, the output must be within the confines of our limitations – our schedules, timelines and other deliverables.
I was recently inspired by Seth Godin’s blog. His posts are succinct and to the point (like 200 words succint), but also make you think. This week, he had a post about “the drip.” Don’t try to be brilliant all the time, he said, just be brilliant enough to be remembered and make an impact over time.
Here’s an excerpt from that post:
“When you commit to writing regularly, the stakes for each thing you write go down. I spent an hour rereading Gary Larson’s magical collection, and the amazing truth is that not every cartoon he did was brilliant. But enough of them were that he left his mark.”
Even though I have serious internal battles about writing shorter posts (mine usually average 1,500 words), I also vowed 2013 would be the year of experimentation. And after spending some time in Seth Godin’s blog, I was convinced this was a new path I was going to experiment with — more frequent posts with less pressure to try and be brilliant every time a post is created. Yes, that sounds better.
That is, until I read this post by Jonathon Colman that stopped me dead in my tracks.
It stopped me from posting another roundup (which is ironic, because I found it in a roundup). And it brought me right back to the existential crisis I was having about quality versus quantity.
Content marketing is the culprit. We are in the business of vying for visibility and attention through content. Figuring out how to make that content compelling amongst all the noise is the million-dollar question.
And the creative process is not an easy one. I don’t know what giving birth feels like, but I know there’s both pain and joy. And this is what I go through every time I sit down to create content.
See, content creators are not robots. If people want content churned out without any creative process behind it, then perhaps a team like this is more appropriate:
So what’s a content professional to do? I think the balance lies in:
- What you have time for, and pushing yourself — pushing your skill set and creativity to figure out how to make that time you have for content creation as meaningful as possible to still share useful, valuable and effective ideas — even if it’s not 1,500 words.
- What your readers (are willing to) have time for, and how to create content that resonates with them in the brief time you have with that person.
What do you think? And how can you help?