The following diagram has been in my head for ages, but after the recent Huffington Post acquisition, it takes on increased importance. It describes how I see the publishing model surviving and thriving into the future. And coincidentally, it closely mirrors what the HuffPo do.
Aol have acquired not only a ferocious and driven editor-in-chief, but a new publishing model. The HuffPo has the following aspects of note:
- a lot of aggregated and curated content to enable a massive publishing volume, including a mass of unpaid contributors
- high visibility on search results (partly due to the above)
- an analytical approach (story titles, and which stories are featured on the front page, are determined by AB testing for click-through rates)
- a technological approach (for example, HuffPo bought Adaptive Systems to automate the comment moderation process using semantic technology)
- last, but not least, for it is this that separates HuffPo from aggregators or content farms, they pay some very good journalists and commentators to create lead editorial pieces and pull up the average quality of content
The Content Pyramid
This model reflects what we have been doing with our clients. Building a good mass of relevant content, using community, external and internal sources, and then leading it with well-planned and executed premium content.
Here are the key elements:
- The editor becomes a voice rather than just a content creator. Some of the content is other peoples’, curated. Some is original. The aim is to provide value to readers, and thereby build influence and authority in the market.
- The community-generated and syndicated content allows for a much higher content volume, which is vital for good search rankings, and is curated to allow the editor to maintain their voice.
- The variety of content types and sources help meet the individual needs of the audience members, providing snippets, links away, full reporting, and varying opinions.
- Because of the reduction in time taken to create new content, and the percentage of content that is authored by the editor, the average cost of an article goes down dramatically. And that’s good news for the guys trying to make a publishing P&L balance again.
The insight gained from the wealth of interactions with the huge amount of content bubbles up and significantly shortens the idea generation process and production cycle of original content.
The influence gained from the market-leading content that is authored by the editor trickles down and increases the authority of all content.
On that last point, when someone I read regularly tweets a link to another site, I follow it. The authority of a good thought-leader really does trickle down in practice to their every activity.
The challenges we are busy solving include:
- How can each piece of content, regardless of its format or source, be analysed across the same dimensions so that they can be compared and used within the same system?
- How can this much increased pool of content be targeted and recommended to individual audience members. based on their explicit and implicit preferences and behaviours?
- How can each user-content interaction be tracked, to deliver better value for that individual reader next time (ie some prefer short articles, some might only read tweets, and some only read about certain topics)?
It might sound simplistic, but from an editorial perspective its a great little framework to help editors get to grips with the benefits of blended content production.