Content marketers need to stop “creating by numbers”

Mar 20, 2016Original Thinking

Content marketers talk about content creation a lot differently than the folks who work at traditional newspapers and magazines.

Whereas journalists and editors talk about the flow of an article and how it reads, content marketers talk about the ideal length for optimizing shares. Whereas traditional writers think deeply about the meaning and connotation of words, content marketers talk about keyword density. Reporters want to transport readers to a specific time and place with visceral detail — content marketers want you to click.

This dichotomy has pluses and minuses. While journalists certainly produce more compelling, emotional, engaging and important content, they don’t optimize it the way a marketer would. This often means that their stories fail to have the impact they should.

“Finding the most compelling angle for a given story, and presenting it in a way that will encourage online audiences to read and share it, should be a part of every journalist’s skill set by now,” Will Oremus writes in Slate, detailing one instance in which a local newspaper squandered a viral story.

Image result for drawing by the numbers dinosaur

This might be an efficient way to draw, but is it going to impress anyone?

Meanwhile, content marketers are over-concerned with metrics. There are websites like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, which generates a score based on its algorithm to produce a truly clickable piece of copy. It’s the adult equivalent of the workbooks in which you would draw a line between numbered dots until it formed a whale or a dinosaur.

“We hunt for tiny results above some already tiny click-through and conversion rates. We suck up small bites from others’ dinners by curating content without adding original value.” Jay Acunzo writes on his blog, Sorry for Marketing. “We are, on no uncertain terms, creative bottom feeders, through no faults of our own. We do marketing. That’s what this has always been.”

Content marketers can’t be satisfied with a “creating by the numbers” approach. Journalists are imperfect, but there’s a lot to be said for going outside the lines.