The last couple of decades have been tough for journalists—and it was bad way before COVID-19 ruined everything.
As journalism has contracted—or, to put a positive spin on it, as it’s evolved—I’ve run across a number of people who started in journalism and moved into content marketing.
I departed journalism long ago. I was trained as a journalist and I love the skill and craftsmanship of great journalism, but I was never compelled to be a journalist.
At this point, I’ve been in marketing far longer than I was ever in journalism. What’s interesting is that many of the skills I learned in journalism are touchstones in my content marketing work.
This piece covers the core journalism skills that have shaped my content marketing strategies and tactics. I put this together primarily for journalists thinking about a move to content marketing, but it’s also useful for established marketers who want to apply journalism skills in their marketing projects.
When I’m working as a digital producer, I try to remember what I like and dislike as a digital consumer.
This link between content creator and content consumer should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s neglected. Something happens during the content creation process that makes smart people with considerable skill introduce unhelpful attributes to their content projects.
The folks behind Axios understand this disconnect, and they work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. They’ve developed an entire methodology–dubbed “Smart Brevity”–to ensure their content provides the best content and experience. Continue reading
Ever heard this one? “We’ve got all this unused material from Project X. Let’s repurpose it into articles. It’ll be easy!”
This is the equivalent of a movie studio saying “We’ve got all this footage we cut from the movie. Let’s put it together into a totally different movie. It’ll be easy!”
That second example is absurd and we all know it. So why is the first example any different?
The goal of this piece is to provide you—the diligent content marketer / editor you are—with ways to push back against repurposing requests. My hope is that you’ll be able to minimize the impact of these projects and avoid the unnecessary work and frustration they carry. Continue reading
Note: I’m fascinated by content forms. I love popping the hood on a piece of content to see how the creators put things together. What choices did they make? What structures did they use? This piece is part of an occasional series I call “content deconstructed.”
“The Rewatchables” is a podcast from the folks at The Ringer that features lively conversations about films that are fun to watch over and over (hence the name). You might take issue with some of their selections—”Mr. Mom”?—but the execution is always strong.
The podcast’s consistency comes from five key attributes.
Reading through Farhad Manjoo’s piece “How Online Hobbyists Can Reaffirm Your Faith in the Internet,” I was reminded of one of the internet’s great gifts: frictionless affinity.
The ability to find a couple hundred people — maybe even a few thousand — who are interested in that one hobby, movie, TV show, team, etc. that you’re excited about is an amazing thing. I’ve experienced this a bunch of times, most notably with communities that formed around “The X-Files” and “Lost.” I had a blast writing and theorizing and talking about these shows. Those experiences wouldn’t have happened if I’d been limited by geography or time. My enthusiasm would have been stunted, and that’s just not right. If you love something, you should be able to really love it.
What’s important here is that the great things about the internet still exist. They’re still built in. And if we choose to emphasize those attributes, to double down on what’s good and avoid the pitfalls that are clearer now than ever before, it can continue to benefit us.
Artificial intelligence (AI) should take on the mundane stuff in addition to the hard stuff. That’s a point Manuela Veloso drove home at MIT’s EmTech Next Conference. I love this line:
“Every time I enter a supermarket and I push this cart, I say, ‘Why can’t this cart follow me?’ These carts should all be automated.”
She’s right. Why can’t that cart follow me around? And why can’t it return itself to the drop-off area in the parking lot? That’s the kind of self-driving vehicle we really need.
And while we’re at it, why can’t AI improve other daily activities? Continue reading
I’ve been working on a keyword project. The idea is to identify high-volume keywords in areas where my company is invested. Specifically, we put on a bunch of events and each of these events aligns with a technical area. These areas revolve around unique technologies and techniques, and technologies and techniques just happen to map beautifully with keywords.
So, we’re building original content that’s constructed to rank well for target keywords. And we’re doing this in a non-sleazy way that’s editorially sound and won’t make my journalism degree burst into flames.
I’ve been using Google’s Search Console with this project. While poking around in this tool, I’ve discovered there’s sometimes a significant gap between the keyword I think I’m ranking for and the keyword I’m actually ranking for. Continue reading
Farhad Manjoo has some good news for those of us who want this internet experiment to work out: People are paying for stuff .
This paragraph caught my eye:
“Apple users spent $2.7 billion on subscriptions in the App Store in 2016, an increase of 74 percent over 2015. Last week, the music service Spotify announced that its subscriber base increased by two-thirds in the last year, to 50 million from 30 million . Apple Music has signed on 20 million subscribers in about a year and a half. In the final quarter of 2016, Netflix added seven million new subscribers — a number that exceeded its expectations and broke a company record. It now has nearly 94 million subscribers.”
Netflix has nearly 94 million subscribers.
That’s an amazing number. Those aren’t “users.” Those are people who pay for the service.
For years I’ve joined the chorus lamenting the impending doom of creativity, content, and culture. No one will ever pay for anything .
I think back to that moment 10 years ago when I realized that online advertising was a race to the bottom for all but a few massive companies. I was distraught. Really, I was legitimately upset. I was fascinated by the internet’s possibilities, yet it seemed to be built on a pile of sand. I wondered how it would all play out. I wondered if I needed to find a new line of work.
And yet, here we are.
When I consider my own digital subscriptions I’m struck by how easily and naturally they’ve arrived. At a certain point, each one just made sense and just fit in.
I guess I’m not alone.
I run into this all the time, yet I’ve never found a definitive usage rule.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say I have a sentence that goes on a bit, and then, in the middle, I drop a quote that says something like “We were tired and angry, but we persevered,” and then I continue on with the rest of my sentence.
Should that quote be capitalized if it falls in the middle of the sentence?
Specifically, should I do this?
… I drop a quote that says something like “We were tired and angry, but we persevered,” and then I continue …
Or should I do this?
… I drop a quote that says something like “we were tired and angry, but we persevered,” and then I continue …
The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) recommends the fragment guideline: Capitalize the first letter if the mid-sentence quote is a full sentence and make the first letter lowercase when the quote is a fragment.
I’m inclined to trust OWL, but I’d also like to know how others handle this.
Ann Friedman has a smart piece at Columbia Journalism Review that examines the role of the home page.
It’s [the home page] gone from something like a newspaper’s A1—a glimpse of and portal to the day’s top content—and become more like a magazine cover, providing a tease and a hint at the editorial project, but not a direct path to stories themselves … For a majority of readers, who come in through the side door and then pare back the URL or click on the publication’s logo, the modern homepage conveys what this news outlet is all about, but little else. It’s still valuable. It’s just not as important to the business model or editorial project. And the sooner editors come to grips with that, the better.
This shift started with SEO. It didn’t take long for savvy Internet types to realize Google was sending traffic to specific pages, not necessarily the home page. Social tools amplified this trend. No one tweets a link to your front door.
This is why I limit my focus to two things anytime a redesign is discussed:
1. The design and utility of the article page — I assume most visitors will interact with the site at this level, so the article page better look and work well. It must be clean, fast and intuitive.
2. The formatting of the body area — People come to a site to read or see something that sits in the body segment of the page. That “something” better look good. That means p tags and subheads and line height deserve attention. Videos should be large enough to look right but not so large they get cut off. Pictures should have adequate spacing. All of these details matter because this is the stuff people are looking for and at. And if you send your content out through a full RSS feed, body copy is the only thing people see.
Related thought No. 1: This is my nightmare.
Related thought No. 2: Always use a text editor. Always.