Category Archives: Content strategy

Three Amazing Things I learnt from News:Rewired (July, 2014)

I went to’s news:rewired conference held at MSN in London on Wednesday (23 July) and here are my random notes from the event.

1. “Newspapers will outlive sites”
This was by far the most provocative statement of the day, delivered by WSJ’s mobile Editor David Ho and beautifully crafted for a roomful of journalists. However, his statement was heavily qualified as he pointed out seven signs that has led to this change:

  • News consumers are shifting to mobile.
  • Most data traffic on mobile happens via apps, not websites.
  • Mobile Web visitors tend to skip home pages and go straight to articles via search and social.
  • Tech companies are focusing on deep-linking technology to take users from one one app to another, bypassing Web browsers.
  • Technology is becoming more personal and anticipatory – contextually aware of user actions and environment.
  • User interfaces are evolving beyond screens to focus on voice and gesture control.
  • The Internet of Things and wearables loom right behind smart phones poised to deliver a profound change.

He spoke further:

Newspapers have been around for about 400 years and they have a lot of staying power. The people who like them really like them.People are beginning to understand something that we at the Journal figured out four years ago when we launched our iPad app. A finite self-containing non-updating content set still has value – the concept of the edition still matters, especially in a world of non-stop news.”

These are not new facts but they were eloquently put and Ho even got us to play Flappy Bird after his opening keynote which is no small feat. In short, think platform, not destination.

2. “Explain it in one sentence and why people should share it”
Bella Hurrell from the BBC raised some very valid points around infographics – and I agree. Sometimes you have to question if your infographic project is communicating knowledge in the quickest and most informative way possible or is it just an exercise in pretty looking graphics? Does it really need to absorb so much resource? What are your trying to achieve? Have you lost the plot? (This is a question I often ask myself). 

Further reading here.

3. Buzzsumo
There were a lot of social media tools presented at the event but Buzzsumo really stood out for me. If you haven’t explored it yet you can find out more here.

Until next time.

What makes great content? Global Producer’s Day at Global Radio

Last week we held the first of our Global Radio Producer sessions in London, discussing with Global Radio producers from around the UK, not only our digital plans for the year ahead, but also how to produce great content that can be easily shared across multiple platforms.

It was an interesting couple of days as was a great opportunity for the digital teams to hear about the challenges and opportunities the radio teams face on a daily basis and how to make content work in that unique environment.

Here’s some random thoughts from the event and I look forward to the next session early next year.

  • Amazing content doesn’t necessarily mean complex ideas, the ideas themselves can be quite simple. What’s more important is that they are executed brilliantly with an attention to detail that demonstrates you really understand your audience. Sometimes executing brilliantly means stripping away the idea to it’s simplest (and most understood) component.
  • Make it as easy as possible to share these ideas in your organisation. Identify silos and training requirements otherwise you’ll have teams trying to reinvent the wheel every time they sit down to plan the week ahead. Avoid the trappings of email where there is often the illusion of communication and understanding.
  • Radio is an extremely reactive environment buzzing with brilliant ideas so getting the right balance between proactive planning and spontaneity can be tricky.
  • Discussing what makes great ‘content’ is a fruitful conversation to have in any organisation – but let’s talk about content with a small ‘c’ shall we? Take radio as an example, there are very slight but important differences between digital and radio editorial ideas and sometimes we run the risk of obscuring this with conversations around Content. Let’s recognise the differences so we can recognise the best ideas and facilitate them through the best platforms available.

Getting Engaged: Content, context, community and sex toys?

If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘Rock Box’ or ‘Squealer’ was, well, tonight was your night at the latest UXPA UK event hosted by Lisa Moore at City University campus.

We heard from there great speakers on the topic of ‘Content, Context and Community’, presented to the mostly UX crowd but with a healthy contingent of content strategists now appearing in the ranks. Kudos to Lisa for getting more of us involved at these events.

First up, Yelp London Director Alex Shebar on ‘Putting the ‘U’ and ‘I’ in Community’. My notes as follows:

  • Did you know Yelp is the largest local review website in the world? (No I did not know that Alex)
  • Their strategy is to get people to talk about the local issues and services that are important to them.
  • Alex flagged early on you need to listen to what people are saying in your area of interest. If you don’t, you are already failing.
  • Alex pointed to Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising study which indicated that content on your site is less trusted than a random stranger talking about you on social media. Go figure.
  • The Xbox Elite Tweet Fleet were heralded as a great example of community interaction. Once upon a time no one was responding to gamers in the evening and during weekends – now not proving 24/7 support is unthinkable. Alex flagged them as the first, true ‘responsive brand’.
  • When building a community, Alex highlighted that quite often managers get scared by negative reviews left on their websites. Alex’s advice was simply: “Get over it. People will say bad things. There will always be haters. The best response is not to delete but to respond.” People trust sites more with mixed reviews.
  • Alex talked about the Yelp Time Traveller’s ball which Yelp organised last year. He said that Londoners are challenged by having too many options for things to do in London and, as a result, are more likely to stay within the vicinity of their local pub. The fancy dress ball which featured a) free food and b) free booze offered the community to meet learn about local services in their area. It also enabled Yelp to tap into ‘Active Contributors’ which makes up about 2% of their total audience but who generate the majority of the comments.
  • Alex didn’t advise every band to be on Facebook or Twitter – only if your community used these social networks.
  • Alex had some advice around using your community for redesign purposes. Generally, he said, try to avoid asking your community if they like a specific design or change. If possible show examples of other sites you may be taking inspiration from. Be broad in your research. However, if a community member or members really hate something you have proposed then be very direct in asking specific questions to find out why they hate it.

Next up: Andrew Marcus, Deputy Head of Communications, Museum of London on ‘Building Community Through Integration’.

  • Andrew framed his competitive landscape nicely. He does not compete with other museums – he competes for your leisure time which means sports, shopping and your sofa!
  • The Museum of London’s objectives are to increase their current visitor number of 650k to 1.5million by 2018.
  • In order to do this, they are trying several methods including engaging with schools and installing collections, but Andrew wanted to focus on their use of video to aid their PR communications.
  • The aim of these videos was to be fun and informative – to counter the impression that museums are stuffy and po-faced
  • Their history of the three piece suit video was used to tap into the current drive in male fashion industry

  • Users who come to their site from a YouTube video stay twice as long and view three times the amount of page views. Hence they see video as a valuable engagement tool.
  • Expect great things in the year ahead including a Sherlock Holmes exhibition plus a digitalised archive of London’s Oral history…

Dildos, butt plugs? It must be Lovehoney’s Matthew Curry @mattcurry ‘Sexy Content!’

  • Matt kicked off his session by warning us he was going to talk about lots of rude words. That got everyone’s attention immediately. Cock Locker anyone?
  • Although Matt was involved with usability testing and general UX practice, his focus tonight was on the content strategy behind the UK’s biggest sex toy provider.
  • Matt said they invested in video because it was difficult to sell products with static images. People want to actually see these toys in action – well not entirely ‘in action’ – but they are keen to know how much noise these products create, size, etc
  • It’s these video demos alongside user reviews that can make or break the product
  • That’s why Matt sends out more than 100 products per week to his pool of product testers, or as he labels them ‘My Orgasm Army.’
  • Matt also taps into his community to help the media connect with potential subjects, understand product requests media requests (interviews) and product requests, instant bug reporting, policy feedback.
  • Matt pointed to the value of video bloggers like Trak Gray for reviewing your products
  • Alex mentioned the RockBox vibrator. This piece of kit was so powerful that it use dot vibrate itself to pieces. This inclusion in this presentation was worth the price of the entry ticket alone.
  • He mentioned the fact that only 7% of people use site search in Google Analytics and he used it to ‘Searchandise’ – to optimise the journey from site search to basket
  • He also looked at failed site searches to optimise his content
  • To generate blog ideas he typed ‘How do i’ into google to generate topics
  • ‘Bang Dildo! – a term used to indicate if content on their site is too raunchy. Editorial care has to be taken as this could split the audience.

And that’s it folks! Great session by Lisa and nice to be blogging again!

Until next time…

Best content strategy links of the week, November 28

Each week I curate a list of great pages I've discovered online covering topics such as content marketing, strategy, mobile, seo and search. I've selected them for their practical insight, useful tools and guidance. I hope you enjoy them!

This Week: Top tasks with Gerry McGovern, SEO 2014 predictions plus find out what engagement really means to the BBC, ITV and Channel 4…
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What can Iron Maiden possibly teach us about content strategy?

If you can remember a time before the interweb then you’ll remember a time when your musical tastes where quite limited to what you heard on TV, radio and your immediate network. One of the advantages of having older siblings, or friends with eclectic tastes in music, was that it enabled you to break out of that circle and discover more. At a time when I should have been listening to Stock, Aitken & Waterman, my friends were turning me onto blues (Muddy Waters, Cream), prog rock (Rush), early 80s electro (Depeche Mode) and one particular heavy metal band – Iron Maiden.
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Kieran Flanagan on creating great content: The Content Marketing Show, November 2013

Hubspot’s Kieran Flanagan banged the drum for personas which should be the central focus of any content marketing strategy.  If you don’t use these then you won’t be able to create compelling content for your target audience – you’ll be producing spam.

  • Creating ‘remarkable’ communications is not marketing ‘fluff’ – it’s about targeting…
  • Content is important but so is context. Distribution is essential to any campaign – if you spend ten hours making a piece of content, you need to spend another ten hours promoting it.
  • Target your communications – Kieran took us through Facebook ads and Twitter.
  • He recommended paid content discovery services like Outbrain.
  • Always know the right time to promote your content to your desired audience. Ask yourself: ‘when is the right time I can really add value here?’

Here are the presentation slides…

Simon Kaplan on the GOV.UK content strategy: The Content Marketing Show, November 2013

GOV.UK Content Product Lead Simon Kaplan introduced us to the history behind the GOV.UK website. Kicking off with the Martha Lane Fox report that said the public service network needed to be updated.

  • They had to introduce a process that could work across all departments. Their first task was to ‘fix publishing’. It was all about simplification – easy to read, easy to use.
  • Everything starts with User Needs.
  • They read every page on their website and asked if it satisfied their user needs. They asked questions like: what’s the point of the content? Do people want it? Do people expect the government to meet this need? Is it only government that can meet this need?
  • They always ask themselves what is the best method of communicating this information. They always want to be clear and cocise, hiding the complexity.
  • GOV.UK team then recorded their content audit on their ‘Need-o-tron’ tool
  • The result was a massive content cull. They only use one ‘content type’ – one question/answer format.
  • GOV.UK tells you the facts that you need to know and nothing beyond that.
  • Fewer pages have resulted in more engagement.
  • Currently they have moved 26 departments onto the GOV.UK domain. Resulted in the departments and policy section – everything need to be simplier, clearer and faster.
  • Simon referred to the Afghanistan example – to illustrate duplicate content on this subject across multiple sites. Now only one page that directly answers the question, 3 tabs. All information in one place.
  • Simon referred to the GOV.UK style guide which is also online (design section)
  • Plain English in mandatory e.g.the word ‘tackling’ was often used e.g. ‘to tackle crime’ which are now considered ‘words to avoid’.
  • “We have a responsibility to write well. We are about openness and transparency.”
  • Faster: interacting with government is finding information easily and acting on it. We do not seek to entertain our audience.
  • Simon also showed their use of Google snippets to show people the information at the start of the user journey. Or in the second sentence on the site (the google snippet).
  • They have saved £500 million on IT savings. Closing down business link and other older resources has saved them £42 million.

Coffee break musings…because GOV.UK is such a well executed website, it is dominating search results at the expense of other professional services. Is that a good thing?