Content Marketing Doesn't Scale

honor the craft damnit

Content marketing is "not scalable."

Or, said more accurately, content marketing is not as scalable as some marketers would like it to be.

Posting to social networks? Somewhat scalable. Thanks to Buffer, HootSuite, Tweetdeck, and a long, LONG list of apps, you're doing much less work as a marketer by leaning on technology.

Buying banner ads? Super scalable. You can automate almost all of it. 

Bidding for keywords? Supremely scalable. In just a few minutes, remove all humans from the process.

Sending email, whether once or in a drip campaign? SO scalable. You can set it and forget it. It'll repeat for you over and over and over again, all on its own. It's called marketing automation for crying out loud.

Curating links? Stupendously scalable. Tons of apps and products exist to help you automatically find and insert relevant content in your work, making you the very best of the best at adding zero original thoughts and value to the world.

But creating original, unique, compelling, useful content that emotionally and intellectually resonates with an audience?

The robots haven't replaced the writers.

Or the designers. Or the video producers. Or the podcasters. Or any truly great content creator. 

"Just publish whatever -- it still works."

Sure, marketers can fake their way to some results with the bad stuff. They can take some shortcuts to save time and money rather than view their content as craft-driven work. They can push out more "stuff" or louder "stuff" or sneakier, more sensational-sounding "stuff." They can over-market a crappy piece of crap created by writers they paid crap.

But we can and should do SO MUCH MORE with our content. It can and should be SO MUCH BETTER, which can and should yield SO MANY MORE results!

If you believe Seth Godin (and you should), content marketing is the only marketing that's left. And the only marketing that's left can't REALLY be automated. The distribution part? Sure. The creation part? Nope, and that is (or should be) more than half the battle -- creating great content. 

You need actual humans, preferably both healthy and alive, to produce great work.

Many marketers don't want to admit that. They don't want to admit that there's hard work to be done. (Not YOU, but some.) That's the rub in all of this content marketing stuff -- it seems hard because it IS hard. Pundits will talk your ear off about content marketing, but they glaze over the creation process. They say things like, "Tell great stories," or, "The secret is to create great content." Then they spend hours talking about all the ways to PROMOTE content, leaving you to figure out the majority of the production stuff.

"Create great content"? How? Who can do that? Were we trained? I wanted to be a sports journalist, so I think I can write, but it still took YEARS of my life to get to that point. (Do our companies have YEARS to spare?) 

And nobody taught me design, audio, video, interactive, and so forth. I'm just faking it, and if you enjoy my work, it's because I either hack away at stuff at nights and on weekends or because I fake it better than others. (By the way, if you do enjoy my work, THANK YOU!)

So, sadly, instead of acknowledging that the hard part -- the craft-driven part -- is worthwhile, we avoid it.

In the blue ocean of the creative and media worlds, we act like bottom-feeders. We behave like our entire existence depends on getting more sustenance out of scraps, or else we scramble and fight and claw to get MORE scraps.

Seriously?! If we'd just do the scary thing and look up, we'd see a big, wide, open ocean -- a vast array of creative creatures who aren't overly concerned with squeezing a few extra vitamins out of crap. They're doing awesome flips and underwater ninja moves, while we're stuck debating SEO tactics and whether some new tech or metric will save the day ... all because we're convinced we have to deal with scraps. Those creative creatures doing awesome flips above us? They're doing what we consider impossible (quality and quantity) and feasting to their heart's content. (By the way, that's pronounced "conTENT.") 

But that's uncharted waters (heh...) for the majority of content marketers.

That involves caring deeply about our production, not just our distribution.

That involves treating content marketing as a craft, not an automation. 

And that "doesn't scale."

Posted on February 4, 2015 .