How Much Should You Pay for Content?

Underwood KeyboardMarketers often ask how they can train engineers and technical people to blog, podcast and otherwise engage in deep online conversations with customers. My advice: Don’t bother. You’re better off investing in professional communicators and teaching them what they need to know about your business.

The ability to communicate well in any media demands a certain amount of innate ability and it’s a difficult skill to teach. The technology trade media learned this long ago, and that’s why they have hired professional journalists to fill their pages for the past 75 years. It’s a lot harder and costlier to train  technology experts to write than it is to teach writers what they need to know to about technology.

So if you’re going to create your own blogs, white papers, e-books and such, you should probably use professional communicators to help you do it. What’s that going to cost you? Like most things in life, it depends.

Media Dividend

The rapid decline of mainstream media (more than 45,000 journalists have been laid off in the last five years in the US) has put a lot of good communicators out of work, and many can be had today for pennies on the dollar compared to what they made a few years ago. I recently noticed a bylined article by a veteran Wall Street Journal reporter on a Cisco promotional website. And I’ll bet he was happy to have the work.

The cost variable is the level of technical skill you need. If you’re in a consumer industry where the necessary level of technical knowledge is quite low, decent freelancers can be hired for as little as 25 cents/word, although the norm is between 50 and 80 cents. Demand Media, whose formulaic, keyword-driven approach to topic selection enrages many journalists, is rumored to pay as little as 10 cents.

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Five Ways to Protect Against Crummy Market Research

I recently received a truly awful survey that illustrates many of the problems inherent in published research we see these days. Below are some of the questions. I’ve tried to disguise the publisher’s identity as best I could; the source was a respected industry publication:

By what percent do expect your reliance on your [Acme] operation to either increase or decrease in 2011? (Input a number representing a percent from 1 to 100; if your answer is zero, leave that box blank.)

Will the current rise in spending through [Acme] buying cause you to increase the amount you sell through this or other similar platforms in 2011?

And my favorite:

Envision a scale with Highest Revenue at one end, and Highest Control of the Buyer Relationship on the other. Where would you put yourself on this continuum? (We don’t have the ability to draw a “dial” so please try to balance your answers on this scale.)

From a research methodology perspective, these questions are a disaster. For example, none makes a distinction between individual and organizational plans. In other words, “you” is neither singular nor plural.

The first question presupposes that respondents are already using an “Acme” operation, so doesn’t capture any information from those who don’t. There are also no instructions on how to enter a negative number.

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Do Fans and Followers Really Count?

One of the most popular new marketing tactics on Facebook is to entice members to “like” brands in order to gain access or favors. The New Yorker is the most recent big brand to give this a try. Last month it concealed a feature article behind a wall that could only be penetrated by “liking” its Facebook page. Its success at attracting 16,000 new “fans” was impressive, but only if those passers-by can be converted into loyal readers.

B2B companies are also into the numbers game. One client told me his company’s Twitter follower count is an agenda item at every board meeting. Another said it’s a metric in her performance goals.

This simplistic fascination with big numbers is old-media thinking that misses a key point: The unique value of digital channels is audience interaction.

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Tip of the Week: ObjectDock

Unlike many of my friends, I never caught Macintosh fever. I used a Mac as a second office machine for about a year but couldn’t quite get the hang of it. 25 years of PC use has corrupted me, I guess.One feature of the Mac I did enjoy, however, was the “dock,” a scrolling toolbar of frequently used applications that pops up whenever you need it and is quicker and more intuitive than Windows’ aging taskbar. So I was delighted to recently stumble upon ObjectDock, a free utility that brings the Macintosh dock functionality to Windows. The free version does everything I need, but you can also pay 20 bucks for the ability to add multiple docks, create tabbed docks in Windows 7, and get better task switching.

ObjectDock screen

Just for Fun: The Ultimate Steven Wright Archive

Steven Wright“I’ve never seen electricity, so I don’t pay for it. I write right on the bill, ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t seen it all month.'””I bought some powdered water, but I don’t know what to add to it. “”If you were going to shoot a mime, would you use a silencer?””In my house there’s this light switch that doesn’t do anything. Every so often I would flick it on and off just to check. Yesterday, I got a call from a woman in Germany. She said, ‘Cut it out.'”

If any of those jokes sounds familiar, you’re probably a fan of the comedian Steven Wright (left), a deadpan standup artist who has raised one-liners to a new art form. I first saw him in a small comedy club in Boston more than 30 years ago and have followed his career ever since. I once counted the jokes he delivered during a 90-minute performance and stopped at 300. It’s hard to keep count when you’re laughing so hard. Here is ultimate archive of Steven Wright humor.If you aren’t a devotee, it helps to get a sense of his unique style. This YouTube video will give you an idea.

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