One of the reasons that I enjoy blogging and digital content creation is that it combines a lot of the different traits that make me who I am, namely, a logical sense of analyzing what works, an appreciation for creativity and good content, and a a willingness to try new things.
But there’s definitely a trend emerging as more and more brands start becoming “media shops” and creating content to distribute, hoping customers consume it.
Everyone wants the content they create to produce results for their businesses. (And can you blame them? If you work in business, you should get that concept pretty readily). However, this puts a rather large emphasis on analyzing performance, which includes tracking metrics like clicks to the links you share, time spent reading and/or watching (“views” is another similar metric), or even total number of shares. Not to mention SEO optimization of things like headlines and paragraph structure.
That’s all well and good, but there’s a big ingredient missing when all you do is focus on the data-driven side of the business of content, and that’s creativity.
“COVER BANDS DON’T CHANGE THE WORLD” - Todd Henry, Accidental Creative
Here’s a quick story to illustrate what I mean: for awhile, there was only one person creating content at my company, Dailybreak (back then it was called CampusLIVE).
His name was me.
As you can imagine, that put me under the microscope around the company, and it also gave me an unusual amount of creative freedom. However, I felt that freedom slipping away when faced with things like deadlines and goals for number of Challenges (our content unit) launched per day or per week.
It’s only natural after all - I wanted results, so I fell into a trap of creating what seemed to work. It was easy to try and get by rather than try and innovative and be creatively insightful or innovative.
Rather than flexing my creative muscle (however large or small those muscles are in my mind), I found myself trying to take a formulaic or templated approach to everything I did. I thought, “THAT worked, so maybe I should replicate that a ton to keep my numbers strong.”
IF YOU DON’T TAKE RISKS AND TELL YOUR STORY, YOU’RE JUST NOISE
The problem with the above mentality is that it discouraged risk-taking and never let me really explore new things that could have really helped create a great user experience with even better numbers for our business longer term. (And, conversely, that lack of risk-taking also stemmed the amount of learning I created for myself. Playing it safe meant never finding out what would and wouldn’t work in the future.)
So, while I don’t have the answer, I have to ask — is creativity the least-used weapon in a creative team’s arsenal these days? Are content marketers favoring SEO and transactional tactics over being remarkable in their creation?
When faced with the growing world of data, analytics and marketing demands, do people favor data and hard metrics just because that’s what their boss might like or expect?
Again, I don’t have the answers. I just really hope and pray that everyone involved in media everywhere still values the creative process.
Because creating good quality content, at least today, is not yet a product of data alone. It still requires an appreciation of the beautiful, remarkable, and humanity’s emotional experience of the world.
Do you find the above trend to be true? Why or why not? Leave a comment. Oh, and you should follow me on Twitter!
Recently, I’ve started feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of media out there. You simply can’t drink from the fire hose without feeling this way - something I’ve learned the hard way multiple times by trying to consume info from way too many sources.
So I went back to the drawing board (in my case, Google Reader) to trim the fat and stick to the list of sites below. I wanted to share them today in the hopes that you’ll pick up one or two that you enjoy and/or benefit from reading.
For those new to the tool, Google Reader allows you to subscribe to sites or blogs and access them together in one place. Instead of bouncing around the web or clicking through bookmarked pages, you can pull up Reader, and you’ll see all the newest articles from your favorite sites together.
In no particular order, my prescribed sites are…
Billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban doesn’t write terribly often (how could he, between running companies and winning championships?), but when he does, it often penetrates through all the BS out there and speaks the truth. Cuban can be controversial in the world of NBA owners, but in the world of business, I’m a huge fan - he hustles, he speaks honestly, he writes sloppily but succinctly, and he brings data and experience into most of what he writes.
Add Blog Maverick to Google Reader here.
Nir Eyal, who’s involved with various companies ranging from TechCrunch to 500 Startups, writes about designing for behavior (i.e. the act of creating businesses and products that produce behavior).
He’s been a big influence early in my product manager career path (I was previously in sales), and he writes about the thing on which all web businesses must focus today: creating habits or behaviors out of their users/customers. Put simply, if a business built entirely on the web is to succeed, it must foster a certain behavior in its user base. This combines technology, psychology and business into one approach - a heady topic to be sure, but it’s one that Eyal writes about simply and often.
Add Nir and Far to Google Reader here.
Ryan Durkin, the COO of my company (CampusLIVE), is someone I consider a friend and sounding board. I’m a huge fan of the way he writes, even if he won’t be winning any prizes for grammar anytime soon… ;) He keeps it real, he doesn’t write about all the hype, and he writes from experience as a young entrepreneur who’s gotten further than most. The benefit to reading him if you are early in your career is that Ryan is relatable - he’s not speaking from on high. He, too, is trying to make something big of this current business and future businesses.
Although he writes only once in awhile as he helps lead our company, I’d highly recommend subscribing to Durkin’s Blog here.
Dharmesh Shah is CTO of Hubspot in Boston, and his blog, OnStartups, is a recognized outlet for advice, tips, stories and resources for growing startups, particularly in the tech sector. He brings in guest writers regularly, ranging from CMOs of successful companies to entrepreneurs still trying to make it.
Subscribe to OnStartups here.
Seth Godin is an author and marketer with considerable influence in the online world. He’s delivered tons of great TED talks and other addresses on the current state of marketing and online communities, and he blogs like crazy. While it’s not always terribly insightful (a product of how often he blogs), he’s built a following based on consistency and those hidden gems of wisdom about the human state online. Oh, and he keeps it real (noticing a pattern here? These blogs just keep it REAL!)
Subscribe to Seth’s blog here.
There are as many tech blogs out there as there are “writers” who never learned how to actually write but suddenly uncovered blogging (which is to say, thousands upon thousands). But Read Write Web does a good job of covering the tech world without constantly churning out templated posts on the flavor of the week. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if Mashable had some decent writing, a wide array of topics covered instead of just Google, Facebook and Apple, and if their headlines weren’t exclusively “5 Tips and Tricks to XYZ,” it’d be RWW. So try it out!
Subscribe to RWW here.
Co.Create, by FastCompany
Co.Create is an arm of Fast Company that chronicles, in the words of its tagline, “Creativity, Culture, Commerce.” I look at this site quickly when I open my Reader account just to see if anything remarkable or revolutionary is out there in content creation (a breakthrough technology, a remarkable story or creative piece, etc.). However, for the most part there’s a good chance what I’m looking for (online content) isn’t what Co.Create is documenting on a given day. Still, it’s a good pulse on the broader content creation and media world, albeit with a “Big Content” tilt (larger companies more typically found in Hollywood instead of startup land).
Subscribe to Co.Create here.
That’s my list! What’d you think? What sites do you absolutely have to check every week? Let me know in the comments or share with me via the social buttons to the right. Thanks for reading!