It is incredibly hard for a professional to think outside their profession. But in an increasingly interconnected collaborative world, it has never been more necessary.
“But what do we do?” The content marketer looked at me plaintively. “We’re nearly all former journalists, and there’s no work in journalism anymore. We have to do something. We have to write.”
Journalists are like a hammer. Content is like a nail. Of course, it is natural for the hammer association to vote for more nails. And content marketing is on a roll at the moment, but before too long it will be rolling down the hill of irrelevancy and waste.
There is a type of product that does require lots and lots of content marketing and will continue to require such marketing long into the future. The type of product where the more you learn about what it’s made of, the less likely you are to buy it. Thus, the product’s manufacturers must create a ‘brand’ that is as far away from the actual product as possible. Coca Cola and Red Bull are good examples of such brands.
Coca Cola sells a toxic product. (Sugar has long been known to be very bad for you, and artificial sweeteners aren’t much better.) Red Bull is supposed to give you a high, and was successfully sued in the US recently, where the judge agreed that the only thing high about Red Bull was its price.
These sort of brands desperately need content marketing to distract people, to entertain them, and to avoid at all costs any conversation about the product itself.
However, for brands where the more you learn about the product, the more likely you are to buy it, we don’t need content marketing. But we do need quality content. If there has been a constant in my 20 plus years of consulting with websites, it is that most websites produce far too much low quality ego content. This is true for both commercial, government and non-profit websites.
- Telenor of Norway deleted almost 90 percent of its pages. Conversions went up by 100 percent, support requests went down by 35 percent
- The Norwegian Cancer Society removed almost 90 percent of its content and saw extremely positive results
- The US Department of Health deleted 150,000 of its 200,000 pages. Nobody noticed
- Columbia University of Chicago deleted 97 percent of its pages. Student application inquiries went up by 80 percent
- Liverpool City went from 4,000 pages to 700 on their website. Support requests went down and online reporting went up
There has never been a greater need for quality content that is helpful, explanatory and supportive. We need content professionals involved in navigation and search design. Support documentation is essential today and doesn’t get nearly enough editorial attention. The number one problem websites face is confusing menus and links. Links are the currency of the web — we need content professionals to write simpler links.
A good journalist knows how to simplify while still maintaining clarity. Websites are crying out for these skills. Let’s collaborate with our designer, programmer and usability peers to make life simpler and faster for customers. There has never been a greater need for quality content because without content there is no Web. But we don’t need more content marketing; unless, of course, we’re a brand like Coca Cola or Red Bull.