Do you know that in the late 1990s publishers saw click through rates of between 1–2 percent? The CPM costs for these was between $35 — $40. Today those click through rates have declined to between 0.10–0.20 percent and CPM costs are less than $2–3, that’s less than a tenth of what they were worth 10 years ago.
Over the years we’ve collectively said — “Fuck You Ads”.
The problem with all forms of marketing is it has to account for “attention economics” — we each have a finite amount of attention to give out. That attention has never been so scarce. Can you remember the last time you were actually bored? I mean, really bored, bat shit crazy bored. It’s probably not very often. We have so many things to distract us these days.
Content has helped marketer’s better deal with those attention economics by creating something people actually want to consume. It makes sense right? If I have a finite amount of attention, I’m more likely to give it to something that’s helpful versus something that disrupts what I am doing. Content has created currency for marketers. We trade that currency to people so they will visit our site, subscribe to our newsletters and follow us on social. Our currency is valuable because it helps people do something, creates value for them or simply entertains them.
This explosion in content has repercussions though. There are still a lot of markets where content isn’t that common place. These are still markets where the biggest challenge is getting your company to take action. But in other markets the rules have changed. Companies are redistributing their budget away from paid advertising into content. That’s a whole lot of content being published, and the quality is getting a lot better.
In markets saturated by content it can be hard for people to differentiate between the content being published and whom it was published by. There are some brands that are just great at content. They look and feel better. We would walk over hot coals to read their latest post (or at least stand really close to a hot fire).
But for other brands what differentiates their content is how we find it. We search for something on Google and it’s their post we click on, partly because it’s ranked highly, partly because the page title and meta description made it sound enticing. We found it in our social feed, either organically or through a paid promotion. We received it via email, because the last time we read a post of theirs, we felt compelled to sign up to their newsletter.
In competitive markets a content marketing strategy that consists of publishing and then simply praying someone will read it is akin to content suicide. It’s like jumping off a building and hoping that it won’t hurt too much. The reality is, it will hurt, a whole fucking lot.
In these markets I would have one team that’s amazing at creating content for your audience. They know whom they’re writing for. They know what problems your customers have and how they can solve them. This is their core focus, night and day. But you have another team who is constantly thinking about content distribution. How can we get more people to click on our content in Google? How can we get more people to see our content in social? How we can seed our content through other peoples sites that have similar audiences to ours. How can we continually grow our email subscription so we can send our content to more people every week?
A content distribution team is obsessed with getting content in front of more people who will find it useful, valuable or entertaining. They are analytical in their approach. Overtime they report back on what content themes and formats are helping them with distribution. This helps the publishing team to create more of what works.
“Hey douchebag, we don’t have the resources to have separate teams for production and distribution.”
This will be a common response when talking about the merits of a content distribution team. The reality is if you are in a market that’s extremely competitive, not having the resources may simply mean you can’t compete. In some markets you are competing against brands that are investing thousands of dollars, pounds, euros into freely accessible content.
In a lot of cases these brands were in the leading pack in that market when content began to really take off. They were an early adopter. It’s always easier to be out in front than the one trying to catch up.
There is always potential to grow in competitive markets by just being smarter than your competition. Your competitors are doing one short post everyday, so you do one giant post a week, it’s the best damn post written on that topic. But you still need to think about distribution even when you don’t have the resources to have separate teams. You simply divide your time or that of your teams between production and distribution. When looking at your publishing schedule, ask yourself — “Can we publish all of this, plus spend 50% of our time promoting it?”
This will help you create a realistic publishing schedule that accounts for distribution and the realities of what it takes to succeed in content today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kieran Flanagan has a proven track record in helping SaaS businesses, from start-ups to enterprise-level grow their traffic, users and revenue. He is a thought leader on growth marketing and speaks at events across the globe on the topic. For more frequent updates follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.