“When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of ‘content’ becomes very wide. … the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate. … Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.”
– Bill Gates, from his 1996 essay, “Content is King”
It’s hard to believe that Bill Gates wrote those words nearly 20 years ago. In the same essay, the tech visionary also predicted the fall of many print magazines (see Newsweek, Spin, Gourmet) and the simultaneous success of many new online publications (see Buzzfeed, Gawker, Politico). With Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchasing the Washington Post and Buzzfeed indicating a profitable business model after only four years in business, the creative destruction that Gates predicted is now well under way. The good news is that the lion’s share of the destruction seems to be behind us, and we are now in the throes of a period of robust creativity. And yet it’s not simply content that is king. It’s quality.
After all, what good is content that stinks? If it fails to inform or entertain, it can be much worse than innocuous; it can have very real, very negative consequences.
First, your brand can suffer. Whoever clicked on your headline or link hoping for great content is now disappointed. That sense of unmet expectations is now linked to your brand, and once it’s there, it’s very hard to shake. As the old saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And first impressions can be real sales leads come true. Brand devaluation can also lead to less web traffic generated from future content and ultimately fewer sales as well. The power of content is indeed as influential as Gates predicted, but it’s a double-edged sword that businesses must wield responsibly.
The question for businesses has changed from “How do we create content?” to “How do we create quality content?”
We have boiled the answer down to a nice little acronym, CODA.
The CODA Method for Quality Content
Credible Your audience must have some reason to take your content seriously. Because the purpose of a lot of content such as white papers, reports, and articles is to build credibility and authority, the relationship between content and credibility can get convoluted. However, the author’s experience, education, and previous content can help bolster the credibility of your latest work and earn the trust of your audience from the outset. If you aren’t credible as an author, then your audience will consume your content with a healthy dose of skepticism–if they even take the time to hear you out at all.
Original If you have an idea for a blog post, slideshow, video, or other type of media, do yourself a favor and Google it first. Chances are, someone else on the planet has had the same idea and executed it already. First take note of how many people have already done it. If there are more than two pages worth of search results that all hit your topic square on the head, then you need a new topic, or at least a fresh angle on the topic. If after the search it looks like there is room for your contribution to the conversation, figure out a way to make yours stand out. What medium hasn’t been used? What current event can you relate it to? Is there a contrarian stance you can take that will pit you against the established consensus? If you don’t offer something new and thought-provoking, your voice will just get lost in the noise.
Discoverable Every business must begin its quest for quality content at the beginning. That often means few–if any–Twitter followers, a barren Facebook page, and certainly no regular readers of the company blog. It can be daunting, but have faith in the mobility of quality content. A great idea can take on a life of its own, so give it a chance to do so. Post it to those social networks and get the attention of the media and players in the industry by mentioning or replying to them directly. Be sure you are consciously contributing to conversations that are relevant to your content, and watch shares of your content multiply.
Accurate There is no excuse for not fact-checking everything you reference in your content. That includes exact spelling and styles of persons’ and companies’ names, the correct recounting of personal anecdotes, linking where you say you’re linking, and so much more. Perhaps The X-Files, which premiered just three years before Bill Gates wrote his essay, sums it up best: “The truth is out there.”
In next week’s post, we will discuss the importance of consistent content quality–an absolute must-have for our clients.
“Content is King” by Bill Gates.
“Why Content Quality Matters: The 7 Hallmarks of Compelling Content” by Bernie Thiel. The Content Marketing Institute.