From hub and spoke content to the growth of Medium – content marketing trends

Call me Dave’s unintentional guide to hub and spoke contentHub and Spoke bicycle

You may have missed it, but some unscrupulous plebs have accused Prime Minister David Cameron of being miserly with his moula when it comes to HMRC. So, to really hammer home his generous streak to those naysaying ne’er-do-wells, he’s provided us with just about the finest example of hub and spoke content strategy that we’ve ever seen – completely free of charge!

Hub and spoke content strategy is a hot topic right now. It enables you to drive untold traffic to a key page (the hub) by carefully structuring supplementary pieces (spokes) to point towards the centre. Let’s say you’re working on behalf of a package holiday provider who’s hired you to promote their new range of fitness holidays. You’ve spent weeks collecting statistics and testimony to compile into a killer white paper – your hub – that’s sure to drive conversions. But, the white paper might just end up gathering dust, because no one that might be vaguely interested knows to search for an as-yet unknown product or service. The document’s gone live, and your reputation rests on it generating the promised ROI.

So, you need to introduce the relationship between the client and the subject, and make that relationship visible to the right market. You draft up a series of shorter articles (spokes) that are related to both topics and of special interest to the target market (think “How extra vitamin D can enhance your exercise regime”, “Warm climates reduce workout recovery times”), and orientate all to point back to your hub by using links and strategic mentions. Views skyrocket. Cash flows in. Everybody wins.

And, so it was that we all gathered round to watch Vague David’s first attempt at hub and spoke marketing. Needless to say – with teasers, partially released information and the promise of greater revelations to come – it was textbook. With new information and allegations swirling, the hub (confirmation that he benefited financially from an offshore company) was scheduled in from the off – and he knew it. Each day he gave a little more away with an additional spoke, moving from a tantalising refusal to discuss publicly, up to an individual denial in the future tense, and on to a family-wide denial in the future tense.

So, when the hub was finally sent live and Dave revealed that his Dad bequeathed enough from his offshore company to just about cover the costs of a Freddo and maybe a bootlegged Jim Davidson DVD, we all gave this poor old ex-PR lacky more of our eye-time than at any point since the last election.

Will Medium become extra-large? Or, shrink into obscurity?

Digital publishing platform Medium is growing. An innovative platform brought to you by Twitter co-founder and ex-director Ev Williams, the company just secured another $57m in funding, and has been attracting the likes of Robby Mook (Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager) and Stephen Levy (ex-Newsweek and current Medium technology editor) as contributors. It’s far from elitist though; regular bloggers discussing cats stand shoulder-to-shoulder with tech firm managers launching shiny new gizmos.

For the time being, everything’s nice and democratised. But, new figures are set to enter the equation. The higher-ups are planning to introduce paid memberships as a direct reader revenue stream, with a view to attracting more publishers to sign up and publish content directly to the platform. With a little more altruism, Medium off-shoot Matter Studios have been discussing ways to start financing up-and-coming writers, podcasters and even broadcasters.

All this has been established to achieve a noble goal; to improve the quality of content in an ever-more congested digital landscape. Ev Williams explained to The Guardian recently: “If you look at feedback loops like likes and retweets, they’ve been very carefully crafted to maximise certain types of behaviours. But if we reward people based on a measurement system where there’s literally no difference between a one-second page view or reading something that brought them value or changed their mind, it’s like – your job is feeding people, but all you’re measuring is maximising calorie delivery. So what you’d learn is that junk food is more efficient than healthy, nourishing food.”

That’s all well-and-good. Online publishers should be aspiring to more – we get it. But, there’s a stonking-great pachyderm in this maisonette, and that’s content ownership. Do you opt for short-term ease and build your house on rented land, pumping out content through popular third-party platforms to fit with someone else’s style guide and company ethos while gathering little in terms of traffic to your own site? Or, do you take the risky option, keep faith in the quality of your content and build up your own site as an authoritative source in a specific field? Are you part of the cacophonous choir shouting into the murky abyss of the internet? Or, the sagely hermit that’s trusted, worshipped and venerated for millennia after just a few choice statements?

While Medium will undoubtedly become a powerful tool that gives traditional publishers a shot in the arm, they’re missing one crucial element of recent content strategy development. If you rely solely on publishing through a third-party site, you give away some of your most precious commodities; trust, authority, originality, self-determination, and a familiar space that people know to return to time and again.