Corporate content: Welcome to your Carlsberg years Melanie Baker March 31, 2016 Columns, Featured, M-Theory Photo: Canadian Blogger by Amanda Coolidge is licensed under CC BY 2.0. I don’t read your blog. Nothing personal. You don’t read mine, either. I don’t update much – I’m hardly alone in that. Plenty of us have digital real estate out there gathering dust. Projects, recipes, tech news, mommying… Remember when we were all over that action? And that was just our personal sites. If you were even marginally part of one of those communities, you hit up all the conferences and meetups and tended your blogroll and tried to build branding and sponsorship relationships and bought the books all those social media rockstars were pumping out. And the companies? Well, those of us defined above worked for those companies, too, so there was this melding of personal and professional brands. Our social networks were also our customer bases. Our owned content flowed into our social feeds and we linkblogged and commented on and retweeted the stuff others posted – and that was our Internets. Remember those cool tech companies who’d do awesome data stunts? They’d crunch lots of information from their lines of business and glean juicy tidbits to come up with cute infographics and fascinating insights about how our culture ticked. One time at PostRank we published a piece on when the best time was to publish a blog post, based on likelihood of social engagement. (If I recall it was around noon on Thursdays.) Man, that was a Big Deal. OK Cupid were masters of it, too. What could be more interesting than getting the dirt on how people get around to gettin’ it on? It even resulted in a book. Though to be honest, by the time the book came out a lot of that titillation and ooh-ahh culture had waned. (Though the Ashley Madison hack taught us so much more…) I can’t recall the last time I saw a good data stunt. To be honest, I have a hard time recalling the last time I read a corporate blog post, aside from my own company’s. (And I write some of those.) Maybe it dropped off around the time Google Reader finally died (RIP). It’s not that I don’t ever read them. They just don’t… stick. Thanks to advancing age I lose more memory every day, but I don’t think that’s the culprit. Sometimes companies doing similar things to my company draw my attention – how’s it working out for them? Or doing the exact opposite – what are they thinking? But that’s momentary input. It’s not marketing or brand or community building, per se. (Or is it?) I will also read stuff written by people I know because personal recognition draws me in. If the topic’s of interest, I’ll read it. If it’s not, it gets a quick scan to be… polite, I guess. Why have I disconnected from online content? Is it the topics? The volume? The sources? General burnout from years in tech, awash with a million hollering voices trying to convince me of their relevance and innovativeness? I think I’m actually more likely to read longform pieces these days. Though even those sit around in open browser tabs as I chip away paragraph by paragraph, or have a Sunday morning to binge read. Topic-wise, anything could strike my fancy. Though certainly my eyes have become ever more likely to slide right past yet another crop of headlines about lessons from failed startups, or how to do culture, etc. I think the differentiator is that the pieces I read are more like journalism, or actually are journalism. (Ironic given the state of traditional media in this country.) They’re not just some company’s flagrant efforts to get their messaging into my brain. What, how much, and how often I consume content wouldn’t be worth any marketing team’s content strategy dime. Maybe I’m highly representative; maybe a complete outlier. Say plenty of people are consuming longform – maybe even tech-centric at that. What use can companies make of it? Longform takes considerable time and resources to create, and fluff or propaganda can be detected and abandoned in about two seconds. You’ve got to put in the effort and say something. Perhaps there’s more opportunity instead for companies to enable the creation of such content. Let independents research and write substantive content and just provide the sponsorship. There’s just one small problem: who trusts marketing? Slap even a tiny corporate label on content, no matter what or how good it is, and not only am I not buying into it, I’ve likely clicked away. An angle and agenda are assumed. It’s been ages since we’ve had much trust in much traditional marketing. Hell, we’ve gotten downright contemptuous. At least if we’re talked at, or our intelligence is insulted, or gender stereotypes are reinforced. Or they decide to ask the Internets to be interactive. (That level of ignorance is pretty much just asking for it…) One way the company I work for approaches longform content is with guides. They’re longform and business-centric, no question. But they work. Our traffic improved after we focused more on that than just on post-of-the-day or linkblogging content. For our industry, we cover relevant but peripheral issues to domain registration and management. How to get a custom email address; how to get a domain that someone else owns; what happens with digital property when you die. There’s near-endless fodder topic-wise. Some of it only comes out in guides. Some is broken down in our knowledge base or email templates, too. Some makes an appearance in the newsletter. As a bonus, it helps streamline support and what we dedicate resources to has a much longer shelf life. I think there’s an ecosystem of potential content for just about any viable company. But the blogosphere in its glory is as dead as getting a job tweeting and calling yourself a Social Media Manager. Or, y’know, if longform’s not your company’s thing… there’s always YouTube. M-Theory is an opinion column by Melanie Baker. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Communitech. Melle can be reached @melle or email@example.com.