Why I hate the phrase ‘consuming content’

Consuming content represented by a burgerGo to any digital marketing conference and you’ll hear endless references to ‘consuming content’.

Everybody involved in content marketing is interested in finding out how people ‘consume’ the blog posts, articles, white papers and video clips they’re churning out on an ever more frequent basis.

I’m going to come right out and say it: there’s too much content being produced. That might sound strange coming from someone whose livelihood depends on the very act of producing content, but there it is.

What’s wrong with making lots of content?

The vast majority of content says nothing new – it simply regurgitates what other people have said about the same subject. Thus it is ripe for consumption: it can be quickly gobbled up and forgotten about, because there’s nothing special about it.

Producing more of this sort of content only intensifies the problem. The customer looking for information on a given topic has far too much choice, yet not much that adds any real value.

Junk food versus fine dining

Quality content represented by fine diningThat’s not what I think content marketing should be about. It shouldn’t be mass-produced junk food consumed in an instant; it should more closely resemble a fine-dining experience, where every morsel is savoured.

There’s a good reason why brands and businesses should feel this way too: if you’ve enjoyed a stand-out meal at a top restaurant, you’re going to tell everyone about it, and recommend they go there to try the same delicious dishes you’ve enjoyed.

If you want people to treat your content this way – as something to be savoured, shared and recommended – then you need to create it with the same care and attention as a top chef devotes to his or her masterpieces.

Concentrate on creating content that is special, even if that means making less of it.

How do you make your content special?

London museum depotOn one of my recent training courses, a lady asked me how she could write a blog piece about ‘Top 5 London Museums’ without sounding just like everybody else who’s written pieces on the same topic.

My advice was simple: take a stance. Too many blogs read like news reports, information portals. The best blogs are those which are injected with some opinion and analysis.

An unimaginative blog piece about London museums would resemble a dry directory listing, naming some museums and their locations, along with a synopsis of each one. Fortunately there are several ways to take a stance, such as:

  • ‘Ask a Londoner’ – The topic could be given an instant creative twist by throwing the question open to the people who live in the city. It could feature photos and quotes from the participants.
  • The author’s perspective – A simpler way to inject some personality would be for the author to write from their own point of view, by talking about the museums they love and why.
  • Unusual or ‘hidden’ museums – This would make the piece more interesting without even having to change the directory format described above.

A good rule of thumb for making content special is to look at what everyone else in your sector is doing and then figure out a way to make yours better.

What about Google?

GoogleThe reason many businesses churn out so much content is because they believe Google wants them to be prolific publishers, and to an extent they’re right. Numerous studies have drawn a link between website traffic and frequency of blog posting.

It’s also true that blogs which go for weeks or months without any new content give a less than favourable impression of the organisation.

Clearly there is a need to publish a certain amount of content on a regular basis, but this should never be at the expense of quality. It’s far better to post one thought-out, insightful piece each week than to churn out four or five ‘samey’ posts that offer no value to the reader.

As for Google, I actually had the opportunity to ask a panel of former employees about what kind of content performed best in the search results.

The answer was all about quality: Google, said the panel, wants to rank “nice long articles that solve people’s problems” at the top of its search results.