The first question to ask before creating content

In All Posts, Freelancers, Lessons Learned by Jay Clouse

I’ve been writing this blog for several years now (what a crazy thing to say), and podcasting for nearly a year. Through experience and observation from being inside the world of content, there’s one major truth that I’ve come to believe.

We “consume” “content” (gross words but the best we have) that is either:
a.) educational
b.) entertaining or
c.) both.

If what you’re making isn’t educational or entertaining, it’s going to be dead in the water.

“Entertaining” is a little bit broad and includes emotional appeals, escapism, and general “enjoyment.”

Educational is pretty straight-forward.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they start creating things is that they aren’t clear if they are trying to educate, entertain, or both.

It matters. It matters because it gives fundamental guidance into what you’re creating, how, and for whom.

Our podcast, upside, is predominantly an educational show. We want people listening to learn about angel investing, early stage startups, and ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley. That’s the headline, major value prop of our content and what we hope people are referred to it by.

With that as our primary goal, we then layer on a level of entertainment. The more we can augment education with an entertaining experience, the better off we are. Accomplishing both sides of the spectrum is the holy grail – and super hard to do.

This dichotomy also informs who you are competing with. Our time and attention is so scarce – we each have a finite amount of attention we’re going to put towards content.

But if I’m trying to unwind, I’m going to want something entertaining – Netflix, Conan Needs a Friend, etc. Entertaining content is competing for that time in my day.

If I’m sharp and trying to learn, maybe on a drive or flight, I may go for educational. Educational content is competing for this time.

See the benefits of landing in both camps? It’s obvious, but it’s hard to do.

This newsletter historically has fallen closer to entertaining than educating. And, not surprisingly, the SEO value has been pretty bad. Why? Because Google loves to answer questions.

When someone is looking to answer a question, they are looking for education.

If I’m not answering questions, and not educating, I’m not providing much value to a search engine.

But I wasn’t thinking through that lens, and didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting more organic traffic. For me to win in the entertainment game, I’d have to win through social sharing and word of mouth – were my newsletters more entertaining than YouTubers? Memes?

Not a chance.

Focus on doing one of them really well and build up from there. Understand who you are serving, how, and pour gas on that.