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Quantity VS Quality: Defining the balance for your effective, modern content factory
Quantity VS Quality: Defining the balance for your effective, modern content factory

Marketers that scale up their content operations will often have made business cases to the organisation that tie them into creating exponentially greater volumes of content as part of the deal to secure more investment and resources. 

It makes sense that if you’re going from good to great to epic that you should be planning, producing and publishing more and more content, right? And if you are ‘doing more’ with your content, then the thought of ‘how much is enough’ is going to come up as well. This is a classic growing pain for marketers when they’re scaling up their content operations as they quickly feel they should be producing more content - perhaps at the cost of quality.

'Not all content is created equal'

Bobbi Mahlab, founder and managing director of Mahlab, is more familiar than most with the debate about quantity and quality of content. Having worked in editorial and publishing roles for media outlets before starting Mahlab 20 years ago, she has an informed and practical perspective on the issue.

“Not all content is created equal and my view is that it's better to have less really good content than it is to have much more ordinary content,” says Mahlab. “I think that's the trend we're seeing everywhere and I think when organisations are looking to scale their content operations, a view on quality and what will be useful to their audiences are the most important things.” 

Mahlab is right that this trend is being borne out across vast swathes of content, both marketing and editorial. BuzzSumo’s annual content trends report* for 2018 provides some refreshing but stark answers for marketers wondering whether they should engage in the quantity game.

Here are three key points from the report that puts things into perspective.

  1. You don’t need to make as much content as you think you do because people don’t want to share it as much as they used to. In fact, from 2015 to 2017, the median number of shares for an article dropped from just eight to an even more minuscule four. 
  2. There’s been a seismic shift to engaging, deeper, quality content over the ‘snackable’, high-volume content popularised by social media in recent years. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than when comparing two of the world’s largest digital publishers: BuzzFeed has seen its social engagements drop by 60% in three years while average shares of New York Times articles have tripled. 
  3. One of the oldest arguments for high volumes of content has been that you need all that content to deliver backlinks and organic traffic for your owned channels. That may have been true 10 years (or even five years) ago, but the same perspective doesn’t hold water today; of the 100 million items sampled for the BuzzSumo report, not a single article or post included backlinks. Not one. What’s more, the report found that “authoritative evergreen content consistently gains shares and links.”

Quality with quantity

So it turns out that quantity isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Does that mean you shouldn’t increase the volume of content you produce? Definitely not, but it must be done with quality in mind and, as you develop a greater understanding of what works for your target audience and customers, you’re able to produce this content in ever more efficient ways.

This mentality of treating content as another product (or service) that your organisation makes, rather than a creative and weighty endeavour all to itself, can help you develop systems, templates and ways of working that move your operations into a modern, effective content factory.

There might seem to be a contradiction between this idea of a content factory and the creation of quality content on a consistent basis. However, quality doesn’t need to mean excruciating, unnecessarily time-consuming processes; it’s all about seeking out the right technology and building the right strategy to deliver useful, valuable and unique content on a persistent basis.

Utility and value should be the key determinants of what makes a quality content item for your brand. If you are delivering something useful that matches the audience’s needs and if you’re doing it in a way that is easy for them to consume, action and maybe even share, then you’ve achieved ‘quality content’

Being able to identify the key factors that make your content useful and valuable to your audience will serve you well in the long term as you can plan your content operations along those lines for better efficiency and a greater return on investment. 

Mahlab hones in on it by saying “the key to a great content program is a customer-first mindset. It's actually looking at what they need and then working out how you meet that need.”

Do you know the best ways that your audience likes to consume content? Is it short videos, long-form articles, email series? Find out and prioritise those formats and channels. 

Can you easily identify the topics and themes that derive the most engagement from your audiences? Get a handle on that and focus on those themes that resonate with them. 

Do you know how your earned and paid content is driving the audience to your owned content? Seek out that information and start smashing the channels that drive the most value.

Choose partners that align with your priorities 

This way of thinking must also bleed into the selection of partners, agencies, producers and other parties that join you as you build your modern, effective content factory. Mahlab makes it clear that you need to look for people and partners that understand your audiences and what quality content looks like because “ that’s the stuff that's going to move the dial for you.”

“It’s clear that content and media are constantly changing, so being up to date with different channels, the nuances of different channels, how those channels interact with different audiences, that takes a lot of time and effort,” adds Mahlab. “So that’s why brands choose agencies and content partners, because you can't be expert in everything internally, and you need that knowledge to be specialised.”

Identifying the right partners, priorities and technology can take you a long way on your journey to establishing a scaled up content operation that is consistently creating and publishing quality content. While most brands will focus on delivering against their own business or marketing priorities, you’ll be sure to be delivering content that is delivering substantially more value to your audiences and standing out from the pack.

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