What Medium Do You Choose to Publish?

This week marked the announcement of Medium, the newest offering of Evan Williams and Biz Stone. These are the two “rock star” entrepreneurs who successfully created Blogger and Twitter. What they are trying to do with their newest venture is to redefine how and why content is published on the web.

In his first blog post about the new concept, Williams says Medium represents only “a sliver” of what he and his team have learned about publishing and the need for innovation. Blogger pioneered the premise that one could publish for free whenever and wherever desirable and create a reading audience. While the effort was revolutionary at the time, it has become commonplace as other substitutes and competitors have pursued the same target market. To “up the ante,” Williams thinks that collaboration and quality content that is crowdsourced are the new frontier:

“Lots of services have successfully lowered the bar for sharing information, but there’s been less progress toward raising the quality of what’s produced. While it’s great that you can be a one-person media company, it’d be even better if there were more ways you could work with others.”

Pinterest postures as a collaboration platform where favorite objects (mainly photos) from the Web can be saved and shared. Crowdsourcing quality content through reader votes is done in differing ways by Digg, Reddit, and Tumblr. Of these, Tumblr is the best of the bunch for publishing and sharing content. In the dual realm of curation and instant publishing RebelMouse, uses social-networking activity to create a curated page of content that can be organized by preference, and Svbtle is a simplified blog platform with a stripped-down design.

Matthew Ingram, writing for GigaOm, observes that “both of the things Evan Williams is famous for also looked either unnecessary or unimpressive, and in some cases both. Blogger was cool if you were a geek and wanted your own website, but it was far from obvious at the time that self-publishing was going to become something huge or crack open the media industry in a fundamental way. And Twitter looked so ephemeral (not to mention the ridiculous name) that many people dismissed it as a plaything for nerds that would never amount to anything. So as Aaron Levie of Box.net noted on Twitter, it doesn’t pay to underestimate Williams when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Ingram says that Medium looks like a combo of Pinterest & Tumblr, though not proficient at text contributions. Furthermore, he references Josh Benton of the Nieman Journalism Lab as saying that Medium subverts the notion of the author as the most important thing about the content. Medium is focused more on the value of the content, regardless of who is producing it or voting on it. Instead of a blog or collection showing whatever is the newest thing — the typical reverse-chronological format used by most blogs and publishing platforms — Medium sorts according to popularity (similar to Digg.) does (in a similar way, tools like Prismatic sort items based in part on the social activity around that content).

The social media culture demands more from publishing; BuzzFeed and the recently-launched Branch (also incubated by Obvious Corp.) are trying to become viable, popular solutions. Time will tell whether Medium is better than anything else out there. As Levie put it, don’t bet against it!

 

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Focus, With Help, on Execution, Business Owner!

Turning 40–or any number after 20 and ending in “0”–causes the birthday person to pause and ponder lessons learned up to that point in life. The founder of Contentrix, Alice Seba, shared her list of personal observations (below). Several of them caught my attention for tonight’s blog post.

When Seba makes the point (#2) that entrepreneurs should not try to go it alone, I should a hearty “amen!” The attempt to be a master of everything rather than using outsiders, additional insiders, or advisors/mentors who are a little of both is a huge mistake. Similarly, the isolation exemplified by avoiding friendly relationships with competitors usually is a bad move. Instead, follow the advice to get to know them (#7 & #8) and enjoy the benefits of vicarious growth.

#1.  Working a lot doesn’t necessarily mean working hard…nor does it imply working smart

#2. There is no point in doing things solo

#3. Focus on your talents and your passions, but be realistic

#4. Don’t compare yourself to others

#5. Define success in your own way

#6. You can’t please everyone, nor should you try

#7. Embrace your would be competitors

#8. Making friends in your niche is one of the biggest accelerator to your success

#9. Don’t be a social butterfly

#10. Content has always been what sets long term successful businesses apart from others

#11. Content is one of the simplest, least expensive and most effective ways to generate leads and sales for your business

#12. If you’re not actively building and nurturing your mailing list, you’re stunting your business growth big time

#13. Existing customers are the key to getting more sales

#14. Staying the course will help you get to success much faster

#15. Posting your blog is rarely the most critical activity for a business

#16. SEO was easy in 2002 – It’s like chasing rainbows in 2012

#17. If your children say they need you while you’re on the computer, go to them

#18. If you are just starting out and reek of desperation, scammers will sniff you out a mile away

#19. There comes a point when you have to stop educating yourself and you just have to start doing

#20. I no longer believe in continuously investing in my education to improve my business

#21. It’s okay that a lot of people don’t understand what I do

#22. Technology is my friend, but I don’t mess around with it more than I have to or am capable of

#23. Customer service is a critical part of your business, but it’s a productivity inhibitor

#24. Other people’s blogs can be useful

#25. Nothing on the Internet is private

#26. If you don’t own the site you’re publishing too, you really don’t own that content

#27. Working in batches is great for productivity

#28. I used to think religion and business don’t mix

#29. There is no one quite like you, but you are dispensable…or at least you should be

#30. Tools and Software don’t grow your business, you do

#31. You don’t have to explore everything to diversify

#32. Listen to your audience…they can teach you a ton

#33. There is no shame in selling

#34. If you’re not confident, they’ll know

#35. Knowing the words to use is also important

#36. It’s okay to take a break when you just aren’t into it

#37. To do lists are always meant to be shortened

#38. Use your freedom to do good things

#39. Appreciate and be thankful for what you have

#40. Take care of yourself

The second key theme from the list is the power of focus. Whether choosing to focus on a few strategic relationships (#9), or valuing customers individually (#13), you will find that constantly seeking newness rather than depth will be a distraction that makes success harder to come by. 

Three’s the charm for tonight. In addition to the other two themes, I find it important to mention that there comes a time to just work your business. I am a firm believer in seeking wise counsel and insight but not, as indicated in #20, to the exclusion of executing priorities today.

We’ll attempt to highlight items from the second part of the list tomorrow night!

Content That Speaks C-Suite Language

 

Roanne Neuwirth of the Farland Group (http://www.farlandgroup.com/) writes in a post this week for The Content Marketing Institute that McKinsey & Co has mastered the language of the c-suite. McKinsey Quarterly newsletters are read by corporate executives because the subject matter is engaging, relevant, and contains key topics related to global business excellence. Here’s what distinguishes their approach to content that has proven to be so effective:

Data-driven credibility. Whether a survey of hundreds of technology executives or interviews with 15 chief strategy officers, McKinsey starts with peer  insights and gets compelling facts on which to build their content.

Actionable, relevant, timely information. McKinsey focuses on leading-edge management topics that are  top of mind for executives and shares cases, examples and stories of how other executives have taken action on the opportunities and challenges presented. It’s easy to see how to take these ideas into other environments.

Succinct insights. McKinsey extracts the key points, the most relevant highlights and the most provocative  ideas in the layout and design making the key takeaways easily identifiable and consumable.

Channeling their audience. McKinsey moved its  model to a stronger focus on online formats (audio, video, print) and shifted the print publication to quarterly round-ups. It has integrated a strong social and email strategy to ensure that the content gets to executives in formats that matter.

Even though top executives can be challenging to approach, it is well worth the effort. They control the purse strings.  For marketers in the B2B setting, knowing how to attract and engage the attention and commitment of this critical target audience can make a business very successful.

 

Know that top executives think Return On Investment continuously—whether the investment is their time or the purchasing power they wield. As a rule, the psychographic mindset of the C-suite is to trust a small handful of advisors as subject matter experts. Inherently, most sales approaches are mistrusted and it is very hard to gain enough gravitas to be heard among all the voices clamoring for the right to earn the respect and trust sought.

 

Farland recommends the following guidelines for their clients to penetrate the C-suite “blockade”:

  1. Hard facts drive credibility… and credibility is key. Content based on data makes an impression on executives; peer-based insights and stories add to the credibility of the data collected
  2. Provide actionable and timely information on issues that matter, in formats that allow ready extrapolation. There has to be a “so what” that comes out of the data and it needs to be up-to-the minute, on topics relevant to the executive’s business, role, and current challenges.
  3. Summarize, summarize, summarize. Deliver your ideas with targeted summaries, succinct points, where the bottom line ideas and actions are easy to extract and consume.
  4. Channel matters. With executives in particular, the content has to be easy for them to access, wherever they are — on their iPad during a flight, in a printed paper to peruse after dinner, or in a short video while waiting for a meeting to start.
  5. Push beyond the common wisdom and top-of-mind trends. Executive content needs to present a provocative vision for future possibilities.
  6. Evolve from technical to strategic. Executives are not interested in reading about technologies and products—those are only a means to an end…Position solutions in terms of the bottom line and what can help grow the business.


Content With No Content

Does your professional services firm have a strategy to produce, distribute and repurpose content for multiple market segments? If it does, you are in the minority. Best practices are to create and disseminate content to enhance search engine rankings. Philosophically, billable professionals have insights to share and there are numerous venues for thought leadership to be established. The fact of the matter is, sadly, that the professionals simply are not easily engaged to sit down and generate the content.

The almighty billable hour, the internal metrics, and the likelihood that most would prefer to do the work than to write about it, are all reasons one may choose not to blog, write articles or white papers, or post updates ad tweets. Simply put, very few firms have much experience creating an environment that acknowledges and rewards contributions to thought leadership that do not produce an immediate return. Performance measurement and incentive compensation practices will need to be revised in order to encourage content production as a preferred behavior within the daily, weekly, etc schedule.

If, like other forms of outsourcing, the firm were to contract with a contractor to produce content on behalf of the billable professionals, it would most likely lack the technical acumen and personal passion necessary to be an intriguing, gripping read. However, contract content editors may be a very good idea. Either a staff person or outsider could help to determine themes, subjects, and nuances that would make the content more readable in layman terminology.

Revise & Refine

 

Become discontent with unsatisfactory content–both in terms of volume and quality. Find ways to change the corporate culture to celebrate the content revolution. Articulate the increased stature and visibility that authors enjoy. Recruit firm leaders to demonstrate their personal commitment to writing–even when it produces no immediate revenues. Finally, make writing an assignment. Section/niche leaders should have a scheduled slot for covering their “beats.” Those aspiring to become partners can demonstrate their drive by taking on writing responsibilities. With content editors, these activities can be managed to successfully produce great content, repurpose it for other social media uses, and promote firm expertise.