Maximize Returns and Minimize Risk: A Portfolio Approach to Content

Fundamental shifts in the way consumers receive and consume information are changing the way that content producers and brands are engaging and building audiences. With the advent of real-time news feeds on Facebook and Twitter, mobile/tablet experiences like Flipboard, aggregators such as Techmeme, and feed-readers like Google Reader and Feedly, consumers are feasting on a fast-moving stream of information and looking beyond individual publications as gospel.

Audiences are consuming content differently, too – over the course of their day people are snacking on content while at work or on mobile, while at the same time we’re seeing a resurgence in long-form services like Instapaper, Goodreads, and Readability. New publishing models and services have emerged from these shifts, and it’s no surprise that the successful ones are embracing these changes.

Smart publishers understand these fundamental shifts and are optimizing their publishing formats, editorial approaches, and technology platforms to feed this new consumption model. Winning examples include Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Business Insider, LinkedIn Today (along with its Pulse acquisition), as well as newer sites like Rafat Ali’s, Jason Hirschhorn’s Media ReDEFined, and Cox Media’s On the brand side examples include Intel HQ, Pepsi Pulse, Adobe’s, and HSBC’s Business Without Borders, to name a few.

The premise of these properties is on the insight that they deliver media not only cross-platform (e.g., web, mobile, social, email) but also cross-content format (e.g., original, curated, aggregated/automated, and licensed). They’ve optimized their content mix across formats and platforms – which is proving to be a highly effective and efficient formula for success.

So how might a publisher or content marketer go about embracing these shifts, and take a modern portfolio management approach to content?

  1. Define your content mix, measure, and repeat. Ladder your content strategy into a matrix of what platforms your audience is on, what content format resonates with them on that platform, and then publish, optimize, and repeat. The idea is to diversify your assets, monitor the results, and identify patterns that can enhance your mix. Modern publishers are increasingly mixing original content creation with newer curation approaches to speed up their publishing cycles and respond to consumers’ interests in what’s trending and being shared on social networks.
  2. Develop a content mindset. To borrow a phrase from Steve Rubel and Brian Morrissey, “[put] the content needs ahead of the marketing needs…[by putting] the reader’s needs ahead of our own in the creative process,” and let a thousand flowers bloom. This is key but sometimes counterintuitive. When I was at, we spent a lot of time developing value-added, information-rich content that was great for the consumer but didn’t always deliver an immediate lead or click-through to our monetization programs. But we were investing in content beyond the click, building our brand, and creating a positive dialogue with our best customers.
  3. Manage your content system; don’t let it manage you. Use software and services beyond the CMS to manage, optimize, and measure your content creation, discovery, inspiration, publishing, and analysis. For example, Vox Media leverages a next-generation content publishing system to help scale its content operation. With audiences fragmenting across so many different social channels and devices, it’s more critical than ever to establish a nimble set of technology tools to ensure your content operation can scale and adjust to new changes in the market.

Publishing models and audience development will continue to shift over time as new platforms emerge and consumers’ tastes change. But if you stick to the fundamental that quality content mixed into the right channels, in the right format, at the right time, powered by flexible technology is a winning model, then you’ll be set up for long-term content success.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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