Ever heard of using a “publisher’s discipline” to guide your content creation? It can mean a lot of different things to different people—consistent publishing cadence, using data to choose topics, using dynamic content to make your site sticky, etc. But perhaps here’s one of the simplest ways you can use a publisher’s discipline to make sure you’re creating great content. Just ask yourself, “Would people pay for my content?”
You see, unlike marketers, publishing companies live and die based on the quality of their content. They don’t have the same latitude to try a bunch of things that don’t work that marketers do. Their content isn’t a nice-to-have that adds value to a product they’re selling. It IS the product they’re selling. Which means it needs to be good.
Good enough to pay for.
Chuck Palahniuk knows something about creating content people like. He’s sold millions of books because of it. People drop billions of dollars on music through iTunes that connects with them emotionally, and cough up subscriptions costs for audiobook services that help them get educated. Even publishers that once gave their content away for free online, like the the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have gone back to charging customers directly for their content. And contrary to predictions, people are paying because the quality of the content is worth it to millions of readers. In the Content Inc podcast episode 135, Joe Pulizzi talks about how Red Bull, Marketo, Salesforce and other companies have spun up media properties that are profitable in their own right without factoring in a single product sale.
Does your content rise to this level?
If someone gets to the end of your blog post, do they feel like they’ve wasted their time, or would they gladly have given you fifty cents or a dollar to get what’s inside? If you tried to sell your ebook on Amazon for a couple of bucks instead of putting it behind form fields, would people pay? Would people ask their company to let them expense a live seminar that covered the same content you delivered in a webinar?
If not, you’re probably not thinking like a publisher.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy thing to do. Many marketing departments aren’t brave enough to do this, believing for some reason that business content needs to be more conservative than what publishers put out. But as I’ve said before, those publishers are some of your prime competitors for your audience’s attention.
So the next time you’re working on new content, just ask yourself if you think somebody would pay for the content you’re producing. It’ll make you work harder to ensure you’re creating content that actually connects with your audience and adds value to their lives. It’s what publishers have to do every day. And if you do it too, you’ll delight your audience (and probably sell quite a few products along the way).
That’s my two cents, anyway.