Thursday, June 04, 2009
The idea that 'content is king' in blogging is total bullshit
This is one area of social media and especially blogging that has always irked me. The belief that if you create great content, you are set. That your blog will be inundated with thousands of visitors just dying to get the chance to glimpse your verbal greatness.
Give me a break.
Every day I read hundreds of blog posts. And every day, I see dozens of truly GREAT posts that get no comments. Every day I see dozens of pretty good posts that get dozens of comments and have vibrant conversations.
The difference? Most of the bloggers that write those pretty good posts are also pretty good about leaving their blog and interacting with people on OTHER sites. They comment on their reader's blogs. They tweet their links on Twitter. They are ACTIVELY social with social media.
The ones that write those great posts that get no comments are the ones that I never see on Twitter. I never see them leaving blog comments, in fact if I ever want to see them, I have to go to their blog to find them.
Many bloggers view their blog as their stage. Nothing wrong with that. But it doesn't make sense to walk behind a podium, start talking, and expect the room to fill with an attentive audience. Chris Brogan had a great post on this today (and read @KathySierra's comment), and the point he kept making is that the difference between an audience and a community is the direction that the chairs are facing. Many bloggers act as if they are addressing an audience, when they want an interactive and passionate community. This is a disconnect that the idea of 'content being king' feeds into.
Great content is NOT the king in blogging. Being social is. Remember last week when I talked about how bad many of my first posts were here? Even those posts were getting comments, and a big reason why was because the comments were coming from people that noticed my commenting on their blogs.
I know what you're thinking. 'But Mack, good content is still VERY important, and if you have good content, sooner or later people WILL find out about it'.
I agree, but here's the thing; being active in the blogosphere and on social sites IMPROVES the quality of the content you create on your blog! It gives you a better idea of what your readers are looking for, AND it exposes you to other viewpoints, which helps you solidify and strengthen your own thoughts. And as this is happening, you are also exposing your blog to other people, by interacting with them in their space.
The best way to grow your blog is to leave it. That's how you build a great blog.
Pic via Flickr user JacobEnos
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I think the point is that content is king in the long run. True, if no one is around to see it, the king is dead. However, if you are the best marketer in the world and get millions of people to visit your site, but have crappy content, they won't come back...therefore, content IS ultimately king.
Just my "seriously, I know you have the experience and I don't" humble opinion! :)
I would argue that there are plenty of terrible blogs out there with lots of interaction, traffic and comments. It's about interactions.
This is bang on in terms of needing to be active. I find that always hard to have the right activities to drive attention and comments. Planning on getting better though ;) Great post, this has inspired me to actually do that
Content is important, for the blog to be useful. But that content is only part of making a blog effective.
The interaction is important as well. If folks don't feel like they are part of the community, they aren't likely to jump in and comment.
But part of what you assume is that a blog isn't successful if there aren't comments. I'd argue that comments only reflects part of the value a blog is giving.
In some communities there isn't a lot that a reader needs to add, it's all about scoring the good info and moving on.
In any case, you're on the mark about the social aspects contributing in a big way. Folks that are ignoring that aren't doing themselves or their blog any favors.
Sarah from my experience, my content here improves the MORE I interact with my readers and others OFF my blog.
So to me, interaction is far more important than good content. If I had stayed on my blog here when I launched it in 2006, and never commented elsewhere and never interacted on other social sites, my growth would no doubt be a fraction of what it has been. The blog would have grown at a much slower pace, and my content would have improved very slowly, since I would basically be listening to myself.
Content is VERY important, but many people think it's THE most important area, and I don't think it is.
With many of the tools and strategies we employ in this online world, they're only one piece of the puzzle. Though content, is quite a huge piece, it doesn't stop there. Connecting with your community, those who would find your blog useful, and building relationships with them is a pretty big part of your content strategy.
Great point here, Mack.
I wish we had read this post sooner! It has taken us a while to learn just how true it is. We were very focused on creating good content and therefore had less time to interact. Now we're trying to achieve a balance.
I don't see this as an either or situation. To me, both content and interaction are important. I don't know about you, but if I'm enticed to a blog and find the content "crappy" - I don't bother going back to it. The research I've seen shows most viewers rank content at the top of their list.
Me again. :)
"If I had stayed on my blog here when I launched it in 2006, and never commented elsewhere and never interacted on other social sites, my growth would no doubt be a fraction of what it has been."
True, but the whole point is that ultimately content is the most important b/c let's say you interacted everywhere and commented, etc., if you talked about the dents in your hardwood floor everyday, people would probably not stick around, no matter how much you "interacted."
I don't know, I see your point, but I still think content is like a car and getting your content out there is like the gasoline to that car. You could have a hot red mustang or a junker...both need gas to run, but which one do you want to drive?
(Is that a totally lame analogy? Sorry if it is, just threw it out there off the top of my head!)
"True, but the whole point is that ultimately content is the most important b/c let's say you interacted everywhere and commented, etc., if you talked about the dents in your hardwood floor everyday, people would probably not stick around, no matter how much you "interacted.""
Yes but again, BECAUSE of the interactions, I can improve the QUALITY of the content I create here.
As to your car analogy, I think it would be like my offering free showings of my jalopy at my house everyday, and wondering why no one cares.
Then I leave my house and quickly discover that no one cares about seeing a jalopy, they want to see the shiny red mustang. So I buy the Mustang, then go drive to all my friends houses and let them know that I am offering free test drives of my shiny new red Mustang, back at my house.
Ok that's kinda corny, but you get the idea. The car is big, but if I hadn't left my yard and interacted with other people, I would have never gotten that Mustang. I would have kept 'pimping out' my Jalopy and it would have likely never gotten as much interest as that shiny red Mustang. And I likely would have never known to GET that Mustang, if I had stayed in my yard.
To me, the interactions improves everything else. It improves your content, it raises your awareness, it makes you a better commenter (on your blog, and others). It makes you more aware of what type of content others want to read, everything.
BTW how many people that are reading this post and commenting came here cause they saw my link on Twitter, where they were following me? See? You guys are helping me improve the quality of the content on this blog, by leaving great comments. That wouldn't have happened if you didn't know about this blog post, and many of you wouldn't know about this blog if you hadn't interacted with me on your blogs, or Twitter, or somewhere else.
I agree that great content in a vacuum is pointless. But I also think that mediocre content that gets comments isn't anything to write home about.
I read blog comments sometimes and think they've only been made to get eyes on to the comment writer's blog.
What this is doing, essentially, is creating a closed loop of people trying to get other people to read their blogs, with no real value in it at all.
Yes, you are right, interaction does improve content...in fact, many of my posts come from the interaction I've had with others (like the question on my blog today).
I guess it boils down to the fact that great content without interaction is dead, and interaction without great content is hype (albeit traffic friendly hype). :)
Mack - I think it's funny how we keep creating the same conclusions with each new iteration of tools.
Here's the bottom line - You must have a good product, but it's the best marketer with a good product that usually wins - I wonder if we could apply that notion to more than a blog?
I think content may be king for the search engines, and if you are writing just for the search engines & getting found, maybe that philosophy works. But if you are blogging to connect (whether for business, your own professional, or personal reasons) and to encourage a relationship with your readers in an actionable way, then the quality of the content is not enough. It's the quality of the content & the quality of the relationship with your readers that makes a blog successful. Otherwise, you're writing a journal or mini reports via your blog posts, not a living blog (more like a conversation).
As a new blogger, I'm trying to move more in the direction of that conversational approach, and as you suggest, it means focusing not so much on my standalone content but on finding ways to meaningfully contribute to the larger "conversation." I think it must take practice, and as in all things social, requires as much "giving" (via commenting & sharing tweets) as receiving.
Content simply gets your blog up higher in the Google searches.
(and I came here via someone who posted a link about this on twitter)
This is a great conversation and I came here via someone retweeting a great link on twitter too!
But, I would have stopped by anyway *wink, wink* :-)
I agree. You can have the greatest product or invention in the world but without advertising nobody would know about it.
Conversely, you could have crap but if you market it enough, someone will like it :)
I don't think you can stress this point enough! One of the reasons blogging shot up in popularity, other than the fact that anyone can have a soapbox, is that it easily enabled interaction between the writer and readers. Take the discussion out of blogging and you suck out its soul.
And there is no denying that the blogs with the most discussions also have authors who are mingling with their readers, either through their blog or on Twitter.
Personally I do think that good content is important - that's why I read The Viral Garden blog after all.
Having said that, I also enjoy reading and comment on other blogs - it is interesting how sometime the comments on a post become a micro community of their own for a while.
One thing I do think is important is that interacting with people on other blogs is just plain good fun, regardless of any benefit it brings to one's own blog!
You make a great point Mack. I'm relatively new to the blogging world and it's great seeing visitors, but a little disheartening without the comments. I've come to live with that fact, but at the same time, commenting is something I have to improve on and I'm definitely starting to make the effort. Hopefully it pays off.
I really enjoy your posts. They're very helpful!
I think you're right. I'd add to it the idea of face to face social contact as crucial also, because you can't keep writing blogs if you're square-eyed and flat-bummed (yes, that says FLAT) from sitting at your machine and typing content all day.
You and Brogan are right. Why engage in a social medium and then be antisocial after the delivery? Wrong message. I learned the most in college classes when the chairs were placed in a circle. If only calculus could have been taught that way...
As it's been pointed out, both are critical. Your point about just talking about your floors won't get readers is correct. Well, unless you run a professional flooring company, then it would be perfect! But, I think we're also coming back to the point that it's about storytelling, not matter how you define that. Even you point that you need to be out there, commenting, etc., is about creating content. If you simply flamed everyone, you wouldn't get that far either, unless you want to be a Fox commentator!
I'm taking the point though, because commenting is something that I don't do, so I will make sure I do more of it in the future.
While I think quality is always important, I think you're absolutely right: That being social, posting comments on other people's blog, is important. I've found that interactions with others online, via their blogs and especially on Twitter, does help improve my thinking and the quality of my blog posts.
The challenge, when it comes to providing that advice to clients, is getting them to accept, on faith, that time spent commenting on other people's blogs will payoff with respect to driving traffic to their blog.
Thanks for a good post.
Mack, I agree that interactions are important. I also freely admit that in recent months I have struggled with the balance. There are times when I simply don't write posts at all because I will not have the time to interact on others blogs. I love the conversation on blogs, forums and twitter but am finding it hard these days to manage billable hours, conversations and life. Any tips on achieving a balance?
I have to say to some extent I agree with this, however, I would say that often, when your blog is just about your personal family and you happen to have something of interest to people, they manage to find you whether or not you leave comments.
Example, when i first started my blog, it was just for family and basically because other twin mom friends of mine had as well.
I was the first of my friends to have strangers locate my blog and start leaving comments and I was shocked. (I didn't even know people did that. I know, I lived under a rock.)
Anyway, I did return comments, which meant people came back, but I didn't really go out looking for people in the beginning. They found me.
I will say, there was a while that I was into the idea of meeting lots of people and getting lots of comments and I joined social networks, etc, and did get lots of comments... but ultimately I just discovered I don't have the time for it.
I will completely agree that being a friend to others keeps them sticking around, but if your blog isn't worth reading because content isn't entertaining, eventually people WILL stop reading.
"Mack, I agree that interactions are important. I also freely admit that in recent months I have struggled with the balance. There are times when I simply don't write posts at all because I will not have the time to interact on others blogs. I love the conversation on blogs, forums and twitter but am finding it hard these days to manage billable hours, conversations and life. Any tips on achieving a balance?"
Karen that is a GREAT question and one I struggle with constantly. I know from past experience that the more time I spend on Twitter sharing links and engaged in social media conversations, the more likely I am to have potential clients contact me from Twitter. But I can't quantify that (like say, for every 6 hours I spend on Twitter, I get one work lead). It's kinda like trying to find a doorknob in the dark, you know it's SOMEWHERE in the room, and the longer you feel around for it the greater your chance of finding it, but you aren't sure when you WILL find it.
But a great question, and one that could easily become a new post ;)
I am really glad that you made the point for bloggers (and social marketing folk) that this is an interactive medium.
To that, I'd just like to add that MANNERS apply here. If you ask someone, politely, "How's it going?" and they tell you all about their job, family, cares and woes... you rightly expect them to then say, "And you? How's it going with you?"
To do otherwise is just bad manners.
Similarly, if someone calls you, you call them back.... if someone invites you to lunch or pays for a round of drinks, you reciprocate.
These kinds of things were pretty well understood in earlier times, but all cultures have some ingrained rules that dictate these things.
It's a two-way street!
So, thanks for making that point. :)
Mack - great post. In order to get people interested in you, you first must take an interest in others.
Of course is King... no matter how active you are promoting it, if your content sucks not many people will subscribe or read it again. You are confusing quality with popularity, you can be an extraordinaire content creator but somehow lost in the information torrent. Listen to Joan Armatrading's The Shouting Stage record to prove this point. Popularity is a rare animal that not very often invites quality to the party. Read the god-awful Ashton Kushner twitter feed. King content ? Not for me, however there are a million plus followers...
Interesting post. Gave me something to think about which is what I respect. Great interaction and comment,. things I'm lacking on my blog. So Thanks.
Love the metaphor here. The blogger's stage. Also agree that a stage is only as potent as the audience it attracts, inspires,and changes. The connections are the key. Enjoyed this blog very much. Taking your advice with a comment of my own.
At what point do Bloggers stop blogging about blogging and Tweeters stop tweeting about Twittering? Your point is dead on, good content is key and just like in the old fashion world of face to face communication, it pays to be a good listener. The more you listen, comment, and ask questions, the more likable you become.
You have a great point here Mack. The degree of interaction you have with the rest of us is important.
As with anything, you can't just create, sit back, and hope for success. You have to actively pursue it on a regular basis.
Very good informtion and couldn't agree more. The place I work has cut us to three days a week due to slow sales. Well boy do we have a pretty website and a real well known publication gracing the home page and guess what 3 keywords? We have one of the best products on the market and no one can find us
spot on Mark
I'm a brand new blogger and Tweeter, finding my way to your site through someone unknown to me who just started following me on Twitter--bless her ;-)
The picture you chose for this post is worth the proverbial 1000 words--it helps me reframe that the audience for my blog is not sitting at attention listing to me talk. Great reframe for me to keep in mind. Thanks. I've had a blast interacting with an ever expanding network on Facebook. You remind me that I can have a similarly stimulating and engaging conversation through my blog and Twitter. Here we go...
On my blog, posts are designed to report content-specific news to my subscribers and visitors. My readers rarely leave comments because they are busy moms and dads who want info for and about regional resources for kids. It's a local audience looking for local news. Measuring blog interaction by analyzing comment activity doesn't work for me, but my web hit analytics tell me my readers like what I'm giving them.
I agree, interacting with other bloggers by commenting on their blogs (such as what I'm doing now) does bring traffic to one's blog, but will they stay if they don't care about the info there, if they don't find what they're looking for? And how does this help me improve writing the type of blog I write for the audience I know is counting on a specific type of information?
I guess my point is, when you know exactly who your audience is and what they like and expect to read, comments aren't really necessary.
Mack, I think I get your point. Very often I go through blog posts that are not something special but people are commenting on those because the person who wrote the post has already engaged with them earlier.
Thus said, average posts may succeed better if the blogger engages with the community and great posts may not get any any visibility if the blogger is a sole warrior. However, I question the usefulness of creating average content - to be honest your view on "the content is king" is the only fresh view on this topic I've seeing for months, everything else I've read so far was the same as the one I read years ago.
Like the point of view though :)
I don't subscribe to the premise that the success of blogging should be measured the number of visitors/comments.
This may be important to some, it may be important to the majority but if you don't write for yourself your content will have no integrity and you are adding no value for anyone out there and most importantly for yourself.
Does U2 care how many people buy their music? Did Salinger care how many copies of Catcher in the Rye he sold? Did Picasso care how much his paintings fetched?
Write for yourself and you'll always be successful.
A lot of this depends on whether a blog is about business or not. Good read. And some very interesting comments. Thank you all.
These comments are as interesting as the post itself, and I haven't gotten through all of them yet. In a way, it distantly supports your point as well. Nice post, and very helpful as we re-launch our site and blog in the coming weeks. Thanks.
I have definitely said "content is king" many times but I've never heard the argument framed this way. I see the value in fantastic content & being social, but thank you for tying the two together. I suppose that is one of those things I've been trying to explain but needed to see it written this way first. Great insight!
Maybe the chairs are pointing differently, but an audience comes and stays for the show and leaves afterwards. Similar for a community meeting: it has a start and an end.
A blog is a regular or almost continuous stream of information / content (the blog posts).
A blog is more like a TV talk show where the host performs every day (Oprah, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Dr Phil,...) with the big difference they can use their guests to make their talks interesting.
A blogger needs to be interesting ,write interesting content all by himself everyday.
Additionally bloggers need to promote their content too.
Well, numbers speak for themselves and 43 comments so far on your post is incredible!! So perhaps content is important, especially thought-provoking content - once people know where to find you. Well done!
Christina I have to confess, I wanted a provocative title for this post because I wanted to spark a conversation. I knew this was an issue that many people are divided on (is it about the content or the community?), and I wanted to really take a solid stance in order to get both sides talking. Because as I always say, my readers are smarter than I am, and the comments you see here bear that out. The real value of this post is the comments that have resulted.
And that's because you guys rock, newsflash, huh? ;)
I keep coming back to this post & have been sharing it with all the bloggers I'm coaching. They all have content, but so many of them are having a hard time with the engagement piece & it's hard to get them to understand the importance. Do you think this is something that can be taught?
Alison your bloggers can absolutely be taught how to be more engaging and interactive with comments. There are several posts I could point you to, but for brevity sake, go here:
I've written several posts on increasing interaction via your own blog, and on other blogs.
And if you still need help, feel free to email me at mackDOTcollierATgmailDOTcom as blog training is one of the social media consulting services I offer.
alright, already, I'll comment;-)
but this is very true, and a good reminder...
Okay! Here I am! I have left my site and am perusing the web. . . which means I'm not getting anything written. . . Hm?
Ha Dahlila! But by reading this post, you've now read opinions by about forty people on the value of content vs community on your blog. Surely there's 1 or a dozen post ideas from all this smartitude, right? ;)
Over the last few years, I have hear the point to "post on other peoples blogs" over and over and over. For some reason, I have not heard it lately. Even worse, I fail at that sage piece of advice.
Mack your point is dead on about being "Social" in "Social Media."
Here goes attempt number 1,295,785!
Here's my question - what is it that you want your blog to DO for you? If you want traffic, and you want readers, nothing will get that faster than participation in the marketplace (just as the fellow with the dollar table of books and a friendly smile gets more traffic than the purveyor of the classics that is behind a glass window with bars on it). But is that the point of your blog? What are you writing FOR?
I'd argue that for most of us that don't have a social media blog, we're attempting to be useful to those who are in our industry. I'm not always looking for comments. Many posts I write are so industry-specific that I don't think there's much comment to be made. But then, there are occasional posts where I'd LOVE someone to give me the benefit of his experience and thinking.
The quality of my content gets people to keep reading even when there's no reason to comment. My love of social interaction gives people a desire to comment and a reason to return even when my content is less than stellar. Nobody has 100% good days.
New ideas come from interaction with others.With this comes better content,so interact first then write.
Content is king but you need to have ideas and an audience too! You can write great stuff but if no one comments then you feel like you are talking to the walls.
I think you need the combination of both to make things work!
This is one of the statements I have been making for a long time, and people don't seem to get.
There are two type of bloggers: one-way bloggers who want to either market, educate, or feel elevated by adoration from readers. Most corporate blogs and executive-written blogs are these. They tend to be almost preaching, as if they have the ultimate truth. Even if you post a comment, it is not replied to or the response is not a conversation.
Then there is the two-way blog. Where I post my impressions and my thoughts, and readers comment to amplify them. I take what they say and expand in my next blog, or comment, or even in the comments section. It is not about feeling good about what I say, it is about making the pie bigger. Making everyone an equal in knowledge, not a subordinate.
The first type of blogger will not realize what a bad job they are doing at blogging - probably ever.
The second one? they don't care as long as they get participation.
It is not a number games, it is a direction game. One-way ot two-way, makes a huge difference.
You are so right. My most fruitful and active community was on my very first blog, where I said little of actual useful substance but interacted heavily with my commenters on my blog and on theirs.
That's the key! People want great content but they want interaction more. In an ideal world content and community would both hold the throne, but as it stands now, talking to people in their kingdom and yours is the surest way to create traffic to your blog.
I lost sight of that for a bit and am finally getting back to it now. Thanks for a great reminder about how important the social part of social media really is.
Yeah...it seems like some just don't get that a blog is so much more than an 'online journal'.
One thing I wanted to add is if you are *too* social, your blog suffers. I think its a really hard balance for some bloggers.
I also see bloggers so social that their content is very boring when you show up. I am so sick of them out and about and already know thier feelings on things, I don't want to read more of the same back on their site.
Dont give away the whole farm on social media and expect me to give two shits on your blog.
suppose it is like sending and receiving, giving and taking, finding the balance!
I suppose I'd sum it up a bit more tritely... "if content is King, then interaction is Queen, and one without the other is worth much less than the two together."
If your content is good, but no one listens? What's the point? If you comment everywhere and connect everywhere and yet write of trivialities? No one will continue reading. A balance of good content and good community is essential.
Great post, as usual, my friend!!
Enlightened - a little bit and at last - A big thank you with your comment that many bloggers act as if they are addressing an audience when you want an interactive and passionate community.
I have still so much to learn!!
I offer a contrary point of view. I think that you can thrive off of mediocre content if you have good commentary. The growing trend in our culture is driven on opinions unstead of facts. Just look at the mainstream news media. Factual reporting has given way to an endless stream of commentary with the likes of Bill O'Reilly or Nancy Grace.
I think I write reasonably good content and I am very social off-blog as well yet I receive very few comments.
suppose it could be the way I am writing
Great post and that fits totally with writing on ehow too. It is amazing to me how people want promotion and views but don't want to DO the stuff it takes. :)
Awesome points you make about improvements made as you see what viewers want.
It took me some time to realize the value of social sites, such as Twitter. Thanks for the great post!
You can see the value in something and not be able to use it. I would love to have someone to explain to me how to use Twitter.
Well said (particularly the bullshit part). Found your post searching out the phrase "content is king" because it annoys me so much... I was hoping to find the originator so I could send a short, sharp note. A whim.
It's simply not true although I don't think we're talking about just blogging -- I think we're talking about having any kind of web presence whatsoever.
As for the social and interactive element, fair enough I suppose but even then the amount of white noise being generated means you have to really commit time, thought, energy and money to rising above.
Anyway, enough of that. Nice article.
For me content, promotion, search engine optimization, link building - they are all elements that will drive traffic to your site. However, among them all, content is still the king - the ultimate king, becuase it is in the content that what are people is searching for. The rest, perhaps are his knights and bishops.
I still uphold that content is the king. Even if you could market well, you'll just end up with a high one-time turnover with fewer repeat viewers. But, your rather incendiary rebuttal of the aphorism implies that you know little about SEO.
The real saying is closer to "Content is king, but linking is queen!"
“Content is king.”
It sounds good in principle. Produce a truly great piece of content, and you’ll get all the links you could ever hope for.
Maybe it worked too, several years ago. The Web used to be a fairly quiet place compared to what it is now, and it was easier for people to notice great blog posts.
But not anymore.
Now great is no longer good enough. The Web is full of so much remarkable content that bloggers don’t have enough time to read it all, much less link to it.
If you want links now, you need to be more than great. You need to be connected.
Interaction and two-way communication is what drives the social media train.
Good post. Really appreciate your point-of-view. Clearly, content is important. Way too much out there not to be sharp and focused. But agree that we tend to lose sight of our ultimate objective, and which will prove to be a more valuable win-win in the end -- being social.
" the difference between an audience and a community is the direction that the chairs are facing"
this might be the greatest, simplest, most powerful quote I have read in a month. Thanks, you really seem to have a handle on the blogging community.
I will be following and looking forward to your next post. =)
Ok, you made your point. I coasted right past the link where you said, "This is my most popular blog" without a second thought, but when I got down further on the page and saw the actual title, then I had to go back, and click the link and come read this one.
Author of, "Duffy Barkley is Not a Dog"
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