Sunday, 7 August 2011

Proving The Value Of Investing In Online Content

How to show that content is valuable, that content is worth investing in, that a company should spend money on content marketing over a million other marketing strategies?  It can be really tricky, and while mulling it over today, it reminded me of similar discussions I would have regularly in my previous life as a news editor for a commercial radio station. 

Commercial radio news is a cost and cannot make money. OFCOM rules prevent you from selling news sponsorship, although you can sponsor the sport, weather and travel news. Being a cost is particularly difficult when a company is looking to cut costs, and commercial radio has been trying to cut costs for over 10 years now.

We would always argue that it was our high quality, well researched, well written, beautifully read news bulletins that encouraged people to listen. The common refrain from a journalist to a manager arguing about the cost of the news was always: "people won't listen to dead air."

Costs were cut, regularly and often, but local news remains in place (for now) and my former colleagues do an amazing job with ever decreasing budgets and ever increasing networking.

It strikes me that there are similarities between the arguments over the costs of news broadcasts and the costs of blogs, news articles, features, info graphics.... After all it's all content.  So how did we prove the value of news content in commercial radio and what lessons can be learnt by those who find they're tasked with proving the value of online content?

3 lessons that content strategists can learn from commercial radio news

  1. Research - Commercial radio is a competitive world and radio stations live and die by their RAJAR figures. It's all about how many listeners you have, because listeners = advertising revenue. So how do you get more listeners?  One of the favoured ways was to ask the listeners what they liked and disliked. Groups of them would be brought into the station, fed pizza and asked to divulge their deepest darkest listening habits.  And I'm delighted to tell you that these very wise listeners would, very helpfully, tell management how much they loved our news bulletins.  Can you conduct similar research?  Can you question users and find out what they like/dislike about the content you're producing or planning to produce?

  2. Education - Want people to understand the value of content? You've got to teach them! Use every opportunity to tell anyone who'll listen about what you do and how you do it.  See it as part of your job to teach your colleagues, managers and partners about the power of content. An important lesson from commercial radio: don't hide your light under a bushel. Promote what you and your team do internally and celebrate successes. It is your responsibility to make sure no-one in the company can say: "who are they and what do they do" about you and your team.

  3. Inclusion - Self-promotion can be ugly, avoid looking like a megalomaniac by getting everyone involved in what you do.  Get the whole company looking for news stories; encourage the sales team to phone-in when they get stuck in traffic on the way to a meeting; ask the news team to pass on leads to the sales team; encourage co-operation. This lesson from commercial radio could prove useful.  Perhaps the more you can involve people in your content strategy, the more likely they'll be to buy into it? 

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