We’re living in the “Golden Age” of digital content production. It’s all you hear about these days in marketing discussion – how to leverage content to grow your brand, get traffic, gain SEO traction, etc. Everyone is cranking out as much content as they possibly can while consumers everyday have an insatiable appetite for more, more, more.
Or so that is what I’ve heard.
I’ve been a daily consumer of “blog” style content for 10 years now. My RSS reader has been my college professor and I’ve digested more than my brain can process when it comes to business and marketing advice, tips, how-to’s, news, and you-name-it. I’ve seen blogs turn companies into software juggernauts and I’ve seen bloggers rise to celebrity prominence in their industries.
I’ve also seen content driven sites, some very well regarded traditional brands, others Webby 2.0 brands that got rich quick, continue down a path of ruin by the sheer number of articles they feel the need to publish on a daily basis.
Their continued push for pageviews may provide the desperate ad revenue they are looking for, but in the long run it is ruining their reputation. As the “age of content” continues to mature, it will be QUALITY that earns the top ad dollar (or subscription revenue models that well-regarded content brands like The Wall Street Journal or New York Times has pursued). When you’re publishing hundred of articles a week, how can you possibly keep up with the quality of your reporting?
Here are 5 brand that I feel need to follow a “less is more” approach if they want to remain relevant to the business community if they want their brands to survive.
10 years ago a Entrepreneur subscription was part of my business education. While never as good as rivals like Inc or Fast Company, the magazine always had a simple approach to providing me what I considered some “traditional” business advice and did so consistently.
Now the brand has been hijacked by people like myself trying to gain some sort of respect and authority through guest posting. Unfortunately so many of SEO-types have done so that it’s laughable when someone gets excited to get published.
If you can write a “how to blah blah blah social media” article, chances are you’ll find a home at Entrepreneur. I’m sure it works wonders for their bottom line but one has to wonder when the “advice” is going to get overwhelming or redundant.
I was never a reader of Forbes in print form, but I remember when it was a very well respected brand. Maybe someone can explain otherwise in the comments but that’s how I remember them. Didn’t the guy the magazine was named after run for freaking president?
Now their brand is nothing but a business and commerce content farm. Much like Entrepreneur their brand is getting watered down with wanna-be experts and authority-seekers guest posting the same rehashed articles about SEO and social media and unfortunately because of the brand’s former status the business community still eats it all up.
Both of these brands are experiencing the “existing print brand” dynamic, where their content is automatically popular because of their existing brand equity. However, as they milk the brand for all it’s worth by cranking out worthless article over and over again, they are systematically driving that brand equity right in the ground. Once they lose their credibility it will be hard to restore what once was.
Gotta give props to Arianna for cashing out back when she did. She turned the ‘Post into a very well-respected leftist online newspaper that had a ton of credibility at the time she sold it to AOL all those years ago. For a while the Huffington Post was up there with the New York Times as far as journalism went, and when you read a column or story there it meant something.
Unfortunately the ‘Post went the route of Forbes and started letting anyone with a keyboard submit content, and now it’s content is just fodder for pageviews. I’m pretty sure some of the stuff that gets published over there is Buzzfeed-caliber content, and when that phrase is mentioned about a once very politically-charged content brand you know something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
How jealous am I of Pete Cashmore? Started at exactly the right time during the emergence of social media, Cashmore hit it big by providing the business world a very solid blog about navigating through the social media waters. It was a must read every day and was a staple of the Digg and Reddit home pages. Mashable was the shit.
But as with anyone who is lining their pockets with ad dollars Mashable has just turned into…what is Mashable? It’s like the mashed potatoes you get at KFC, that’s what it is. You hate the fact that you enjoy the taste because you know it’s just mass-produced powdered crap. I remember the day I had to unsubscribe from their RSS feed because of the sheer volume of posts they were cranking out on every topic imaginable. I’m sure Mashable won’t be going anywhere anytime soon but I don’t know what exactly their brand even represents these days.
Much like Mashable built it’s brand quickly by being on top of the social media craze, Business Insider is a brand that, and I don’t think I’m stretching too far when I say this, built it’s brand on really good SEO and linkbait. I’m sure that domain was bought and content was cranked out and social media spread it like wildfire.
Now the Insider is a very popular and well known site, but it’s starting to follow down the path of Forbes and Entrepreneur in the “watered down content” department. At least those are considered “brands” and have other business models – but BI is still just a website that has yet to become a “brand” with it’s generic-sounding name and content. I’m very curious as to what direction the site takes as it continues to grow.
Before I start answering the trolls here in the comments, I will say that while I’m poking and prodding here at these popular sites, I’m doing so because I am 1. jealous of their success and 2. interested in the on-going development of the content marketing space. I also have gotten articles published in one way or another by some of these brands, and will continue to if asked – they still are very credible in the eyes of many.
My concern however lies in how long they continue to be viewed as such, especially in the eyes of the big Google after some recent guest-posting algorithm adjustments. At what point does Google say “enough is enough”? At what point do readers and consumers get overwhelmed or disinterested in content redundancy?
Some interesting things to keep an eye on.