June 13th, 2012
Q. When is a piece of content a success?
A. When it isn’t a failure.
When content attracts the “right” audience, the content can be considered successful, at least by comparison with a piece of content that isn’t seen by a targeted audience. The fundamental truth about content is that its inherent value is extremely limited, in the sense of being an asset that a company or marketer can exploit on an ongoing basis. Content without an audience is as mute as that famous tree collapsing alone in the forest. Everything that content is meant to do—educate, inform, influence, entertain—stems from the audience.
Audience is the key to evaluating the success of a piece of content.
Marketers and publishers have many tools at their disposal to make measurements and allocate their resources: web analytics, research tools, and assorted embedded measurement tools. But for the most part, when it comes tofeedback and audience measurement on their content, unless they are running their own blog or the publishers use a fancy tool like Chartbeat, freelance authors mainly get bupkis.
At the same time, authors are increasingly being asked to be responsible for developing the audience for a piece of content.
This needs a fix. In fact, the division between marketer and author is growing: while the tools for marketers to assess success are expanding, the tools for authors to measure their success have stayed largely stagnant.
This asymmetry in tools is being compounded by the simple fact that more and more content created by authors lives away from “traditional” content repositories, like the author’s website. Authors post their content into social channels, where the channel provider may not have the means, or the will, to share many—or even any—details about the audience who actually saw the content.
In fact, for the most part authors and other types of content contributors need to satisfy their desire for metrics about their content’s audience by pulling together fragmented facts from publicly available data. These include things like observing the number of retweets an author receives, the amount of “likes” a given article may generate on Facebook, or if they are really sophisticated, how much traffic comes to a site from a tag on a guest post.
How can authors address this disparity? First and foremost, by asking for data from the operators and prime beneficiaries of the venues where authored content is increasingly living. We are moving towards a world in which data helps to make clear the value of an asset, and authors need to better understand the value they are creating.
Second, authors need to equip themselves with technology. Even a step as straightforward and inexpensive as deploying Google Analytics on the author’s own blog can reveal a tremendous amount about the audience for an author’s work.
But tools like Google Analytics are only helpful on the author’s website. At Movable Media, we see a need for tools to help authors understand the audience for their content on third-party websites. So we built a tool to do just that. It’s not (yet) applicable for all situations, and certainly doesn’t (yet) capture all the data that an author could possibly hope for. But we are beginning to address the tool and information asymmetry that authors and content creators face when their content resides away from the author’s control. In other words, we are helping authors learn to make Author Driven Content a reality.
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