Change Is Overdue

Time To Change TracksI’ve had it! I’m sick of crappy content, fluffy sales claims and advice that ignores the real issue. And I hope you will help (more on that in a minute).

I’m tired of issues without examples, of the content marketers that are afraid of naming names and creating conflict.

Even worse, I’m tired of publishers that like to name drop and associate big brands with bad behaviors because it drives traffic, even when the brand was innocent.

The now common refrain says every company is a media company and every individual is a publisher. In one sense, it is true. Companies, and many individuals, are now vying for your attention (but be honest, that was always the case). Many, like the media companies of old, are using content to earn that attention.

The Black Hole of Content

The vast majority of marketers, and many individuals, are utterly failing to deliver what we expect from real media companies: Insight and perspective on the market. Expert advice. Investigative reports.

Something, anything, actually useful to us, not just a sinkhole for our attention that someday we will wish we had reserved for our friends and families.

(For a wake up call on how you spend your time and energy, read, or reread, 5 Regrets of the Dying)

Unfortunately, while I’m sick of the problem, I’ve also become part of it, with posts like 29 Signs You Need a Break From Marketing. (Yes, I really did that). Content like this is fun and easy to create. And if you are ever short on inspiration, just browse BuzzFeed for 10 minutes. But that doesn’t make it worthwhile.

It Is Time To Change

Some habits die hard, but they need to die. Today, I need to stop contributing to the problem we are all growing so weary of.

Today, I believe as marketers we can benefit from more content that delivers on one or more of these points:

  • Perspective on what is happening in our market (beyond just reporting the headlines).
  • Thoughtful, even actionable, discussion of the future (not merely a list of predictions).
  • Inspiration that gives us confidence in our ability to successfully take on the challenges we are facing.
  • Blunt truth about what works, what doesn’t and what really happens behind the scenes.

What we are getting instead is content with fake sugary coatings or worn out dime-a-dozen advice (i.e. share your content on the social media!) that ignores the real elephant in the room (i.e. no one is listening to you). It doesn’t inform and if it is actionable at all, at best it drives us to mediocre actions.

It is time to change. As I strive to break from this pattern of content, I may not post as frequently in 2014. Or just maybe, I won’t hold as much back and actually post more. I hope I will hear from you either way.

What You Can Do

1. Share your feedback
I listed four types of content I believe will be valuable, not just another entertaining attention sinkhole, to marketers today. What would you add to this list and what would you remove?

2. Ask your questions
Do you have specific questions you would like to see answered in future posts? Share them! If you subscribe to get posts by email, you can even reply directly to those emails with questions.

3. Change your behavior
If, like me, you have found yourself publishing a few too many articles like 4 Out Of 5 Marketers are Zombies!, renew your commitment to creating content that benefits your audience. And if you do, please let me know!

The comments are yours.

Photo credit: tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs at Babcock & Jenkins. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my B2B Digital Marketing blog.

  • carmenhill

    Great motivation to roll up our sleeves and raise the bar. In the quality vs. quantity debate there may be no real winner (i.e., you need both), but churning out crap just to publish something doesn’t help anyone—it hurts.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Sleeves rolled up and ready to go! Thanks Carmen. :-)

  • MCJansen

    I love your four suggestions for useful content. My favorites are your 3rd and 4th ideas – “how I did it” and “lessons learned” type posts. I find it incredibly useful to hear what other people do (marketing-wise) to succeed. Can’t wait to read what you have to say in 2014!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it!

  • ClareMcD

    Eric … great post. I totally agree with you and feel this post sums up some of the issues I struggle with most. As a magazine editor, I’m always searching for a writer+topic that’s going to shake us up and offer a truly new perspective, or a tough critique. Boy is that difficult to find… like the chupacabra of marketing. It’s a two part problem: First and most obviously, it’s tough to do. Wrestling with a topic and coming up with something new takes time-consuming research and analysis … to say nothing of the risk one takes putting ideas out there. But even more, it’s tough to find someone who can do those things, but then also communicate findings in a way that’s elegant, entertaining and convincing. I have a short list of those I know can do it reliably. You’re reminding me I should reach out to each of them for the New Year and thank them. Again.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Clare, glad to hear it, and thanks (gulp) for pointing out just how big of a challenge I threw down for myself. I suspect I’ll be asking you for help! :-)

  • Kursten Mitchell

    Eric, I’m glad to be a witness to your Jerry Maguire moment. Thanks for the inspiration! I would add new research and analysis findings to your list, though those could arguably fit under points one and two.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Kursten, I hope you won’t be just a witness, but will hold me to it!

      Thanks for highlighting new research and analysis findings as key content to deliver. It’s on my (growing) list now!

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  • EmilyRColeman

    I agree with you completely, Eric. There is, however, another elephant in the room: ie, junk seems to sell. I have seen more re-tweets of nonsense passing itself off as conventional wisdom (and being accepted as such) than I’ve seen insightful writing. It is extremely discouraging, but junk apparently sells. And that is why people who can’t spell the word “marketing” seem to think anyone can do it, especially them. Just as bad money drives out good, so does bad thinking drive out good – and bad marketing drive out good.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Emily, you are right, some people buy rubbish products and content. Personally, I blog in part for the feedback I get from people like you, that feedback makes me a better marketer for my client (IMO). I don’t want that feedback from the people that buy rubbish, I don’t want to work with clients that don’t see it as rubbish and I don’t want to add to the rubbish heap.

      What really worries me is where smart people are choosing to invest their time, people that recognize rubbish information. I think this is the elephant you are referring too. Soon, cats and bacon will own the internet, and that’s sad. Going back to the 5 regrets article, who is going to say “I wish I had taken the time to read one more BuzzFeed article?” No one. Yet as a way to momentarily escape reality, otherwise smart people lose themselves in cat and bacon content. Marketers creating that content use those moments of attention to sell their wares, and your right, to some degree it works.

      I’ve been lost in vortex of cat videos before too, but every day that I waste 15 minutes on that type of content I end up wishing for my time back. The smile or laugh it brought can’t compare to having that time with the things that are more important to me. For that reason, I’m going to strive to not add to the mindless content that’s already available.

      Thanks for raising up the elephant, I always appreciate your comments. :-)

      • EmilyRColeman

        I have never found you adding to the rubbish. I just wish it didn’t feel so lonely out here on the meaningful content limb. :)

        • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

          Let’s embrace the lonely side of content then. It’s a good thing, otherwise you are just like everyone else. :-)

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  • http://www.diannahuff.com/ Dianna Huff

    Yay! Another member of the content dark side — or maybe it’s the right side now. Anyway, welcome to the club. I’ve been a member for a while now but was too afraid to say so as I didn’t want to create conflict. :-0

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      It feels good to be on your side! Writing this I read your comment on my (gulp) zombie post where you hinted at your dark side leanings, long before mine started to form. Thanks for the inspiration and support!

  • Kitty Kilian

    I don’t think your posts were fluffy. I do think way too many people write blogs. I prefer to read top notch blogs – like the one by ia.net on anything to do with web design – or blogs by people who are curious and do their own research.

    You are asking collegues to share their true feedback, but information is money. To not care about that you have to be a top blogger, who already attract clients because of the information he shares.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Kitty, I appreciate the kind words. As I am increasingly frustrated by what is passed off as valuable content, I want to make a very conscious effort to not contribute to the problem and do what I can to move the other direction. If I can have a hand in inspiring even one more person to make that shift with me, I’ll celebrate it as a success.

      Thanks for your comments and for sharing!

  • http://www.mltcreative.com Billy Mitchell

    Wow. What a refreshing slap in the face. Or maybe it’s a kick in the ass. I agree with you – especially the part about wanting to be more of the solution than a contributor to the problem. Thanks Eric. I needed that. Most of us needed that.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Billy, we can all use it from time to time. And I’m counting on you and others to come back and give me that kick, send me a link to what I WROTE if you have to, when I stray.

      Thanks so much, I’m looking forward to the year ahead!

  • http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/our-blog/ Doug Kessler

    Amen.
    (But I know I’ll break my own resolutions and crank out the occasional fluffy post too).

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Better to resolve to try than to give up before you start. But I can see your headline now, and it does seem quite clickable:

      The 29 Cat Videos That Inspired This Year’s Winners at Cannes

      I trust you will join Billy in pointing me back to my own post though when I slip up this year.

  • mattdelman

    It sounds to me like you’re imploring content marketers to act, write, and think more in line with old-guard journalism. Maybe the best examples of content marketing aren’t Red Bull, but rather the Center for Public Integrity. Either way, I love it!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Matt, that is a great contrast!

  • Kitty Kilian

    It got shared by some other people in Holland, sorry you don’t read Dutch. Have you been following the discussion betweet Mark Schaeffer and Shel Holtz? http://www.businessesgrow.com/2014/01/09/content-shock-part-2/ – I am with Shel.

    As I am not a marketer but a blog teacher I will add something else to this discussion: I am very surprised at how few marketers, who talk about content marketing all the time, are interested in the driving force of it – good writing/talking/movie making.

    In the end, content marketing is nothing but having an honest and interesting conversation with another human being, be it in writing on a blog or in a podcast or whatever. To have an interesting conversation (and hence become friends or at least get that ‘Twitter handshake’) you need to have something interesting to say.

    Either what you say should be original or very helpful or the way in which you say it – very eloquent or very witty or very well produced..

    Medium, for instance, got very big very fast by only good writing. The ideas are very different there, not a reason to really go there for one specific subject – it is the writing that attracts text oriented readers. I suspect.

    So – originality and helpfulness is needed, and/or a great way to express it. Preferably both, of course. But marketers, I notice, keep talking about the theory. It remains a pretty empty discussion that way. (And you are an exception, which is why I am writing all of this ;-)

    I think I will write my weekly blog post about this subject, too. And I think I will copy this exact comment and put it under Mark’s blog.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Kitty, I’ve been enjoying the exchange, I think Mark’s follow up frames it accurately, there is truth in both perspectives and it makes sense together because they are different sides of the same coin.

      Awesome comment, sparking many more thoughts.. Thanks! (And I appreciated the Dutch tweets, even if I didn’t know what they said!)

      • Kitty Kilian

        Nothing but OK stuff ;-)

        I don’t know. I have listened to Schaefer’s last podcats now. Which provides yet another angle. He seems to be worried because his own position as a blogger is less comfortable than a few years back, when it was easier to have a large readership. Too much content floating about now.

        I wonder if he may be confusing traffic with customers. As a one man business he would not need all that much traffic. Niches may be getting more specified.

        Not sure though. He would have to disclose his earnings ;-) We are lagging behing in the Netherlands, so for us it is still relatively easy to get noticed.

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  • Techinplain English

    I’m hoping to do an investigative report on the b2b waste that goes on in my vertical. Alex @ggsolutions123

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Sounds interesting, looking forward to seeing it. Let me know if I can help somehow on it!

  • Mark Cirillo

    Hi Eric, thanks for this great article.

    Regarding suggestions for future posts, I’d love to see more critical analysis of the “common refrain” you mention in the intro – everyone’s a publisher, etc. As you say, it’s true in a sense, but there are important differences that are glossed over too often.

    A more nuanced perspective would help marketers decide what’s relevant to their particular brands and verticals, instead of vexing about whether they need to run out and buy a media company or become the next Red Bull.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Great suggestion, thanks Mark!

  • Nasif Kazia

    Word of mouth matters the most for online B2B marketers operating through online B2B marketplace, but that doesn’t mean they sound like a salesman…They need to adapt the changes in the content marketing techniques and pass through unique, relevant, resourceful and engaging content for their targeted audience….Thanks for the share…!!

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

    Hi Eric, I’m so with you on this. I’m not sure I could have expressed it quite so succinctly but in the past year I’ve made 2 declarations indicating my fatigue with crappy content.

    1) I’m never going to write another post that starts with a number
    2) I’m not going to read a single year-end wrap-up or new-year predictions post. (I didn’t. I didn’t miss anything as far as I can tell.)

    I’ve also quit posting on my blog with any regularity. Interestingly, my business has never been better and the existing posts continue to be an asset. (For the most part – I have some clunkers.) When I do write, my audience is still there if the number of opens and clicks are anything to go by.

    Thanks for an excellent post. It’s one of the most important calls to action I’ve seen for marketers.

  • fusionspark

    I was sick of the often vacuous, echo-room nature of so much of the marketing chatter back in 2008, when I wrote “8 Steps for Creating a Killer 8 Step Blog Post.” See this link for a chuckle (pardon outdated links, missing graphics. It’s a 6 year old post!):

    http://fusionspark.com/8-steps-for-creating-a-killer-8-step-blog-post-new-years-edition-2008/

    We’re placing a bet that purpose is the compass to guide the way to content that is engaging for prospects, clients and stakeholders alike. To see a view of this world, please see the infographic “How to Improve Lives and the Bottom Line through Content Marketing: Creating a Purpose-driven Content Engine:”

    http://fusionspark.com/purpose_infographic/

    I’m interested in hearing feedback to the ideas presented in the Infographic. Thanks, Russell