Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Content Marketing and the Hegelian Dialectic


In the olden days, the watchword was: “Content is King!” Thinking on this now, however, I’m not sure that that it was ever really true.

Certainly, if your site featured lots and lots of stuff that lots and lots of people wanted to read, look at, and/or share, if it was “explorable,” in other words, then it may have, at least for a time, stood shoulder to shoulder with its peers in the interwebs’ pantheon of much-favored destinations.

Still, though like any great house it may have owed its rank and status to the tireless service of its retainers, the site itself was the true lord and master; the content, on the other hand served as knight and page, courtier and courtesan attracting visitors to the gilded halls, making their stay enjoyable, and vanishing like the April snow when the favor of these visitors or the sovereign turned from them.

Which is not to say, of course, that content is unnecessary. On the contrary, the content on your site – and I’m thinking both of information generally (address, phone number, product descriptions, client lists, etc.) as well as articles, stories, reports, white papers, opinion pieces, user reviews, videos, podcasts, and consumable images (i.e., NOT stock photos evanescently embodying your brand’s look and feel), and so on – is your site for all intents and purposes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Two Thoughts on the Link Economy

This Sunday past, Richard MacManus published an article on entitled, “Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried.”

MacManus believes that Google et al. should be worried because ranking algorithms use in-bound links as an indicator of authority but, due to the rise of “content farms” such as Demand Media and, which can effectively generate links to their own content at scale, the number of in-bound links may indicate little more than the ability for an organization to generate in-bound links.

A conversation that I had with two SEO jedi back in October at the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer caused a similar thought to haunt the darkened corridors of my tortured mind. That is, it became clear to this novice that building links is, in part, merely a question of resources and effort. If, like the one jedi claimed, you have “guys in India” who can help by Digg-ing content and taking care of directory submissions, you’re gonna rank. If not, good luck.

Thought #1: If link-building is primarily a question of effort, then search results in Google primarily reflect this effort, rather than some quasi-meritocratic invisible hand.

In other words, the problem with this aspect of the link economy is that, in effect, people can print their own money. Now I ask you, how many “real world” economies could survive that kind of devaluation of its currency?

Still curious about the link economy, I hit the Googles and discovered a raging conversation about the value of links being waged from the content producer side. This dispute started with an article by Arnon Mishkin on “The Fallacy of the Link Economy” in which he argued, in effect, that links ARE content so that link aggregators should be paying the sources for these links.

Read the rest of this entry »

You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure

1577697374_e9a0f7f9dc_mAs usual, I’ve been thinking about ontology a lot lately (I mean, who hasn’t?) and specifically what distinguishes some-thing from no-thing.

While I strongly lean to the nihilist perspective, which leads me to believe that nothing, after all, exists, I’m really a physicist in the sense that I define “thing-ness” in terms of the physical. For something to be, it must physically be in the universe and we know something to be physically there when we can measure it.

Nevertheless, I’m at times ill at ease with this notion – Can it really be true that the immeasurable does not exist? Can love be measured? The soul? God? – and was reminded of my malaise by this micro-post from Todd Defren which pointed the latter’s followers to some words from Seth Godin on the “coming era of hyper-measurement.”

Among the Godin One’s words, which took as their leaping-off point news that the Washington Post may have laid off a columnist for lagging blog traffic, I found these, “…in a digital world where everything can be measured…,” and then I wept.

Well, “wept” is a strong word, but I did “think” (which often leads to weeping with me as it did my patron pre-Socratic saint) and my thoughts issued into this question: Can “everything” truly be measured in this or any digital world?

Certainly, one can measure many things, including blog traffic, and such traffic may be important if your business model ties ad revenue to number of views or even click-throughs, but can you measure something like the meaning of a writer’s words or the traces they leave in the thoughts and feelings of a given reader? Can you measure the quality of writing? It’s originality? It’s humor?

And if you can’t measure those things in any meaningful way, does it mean that they do not exist and don’t, in a very literal sense, matter?

Image Courtesy of hoyasmeg.

Coltrane and the Face of God

103148874_3d354e74e3_mListening to Coltrane’s Settin’ the Pace. It’s not one of his greatest hits and even the various jazz cd review books give it second tier status, but I really enjoy it. “I See Your Face Before Me” is the lead track, an exquisite ballad that I humbly believe outshines the more famous “I Want to Talk About You” from Soultrane.

Still, saying this or that by Coltrane is better than this or that by Coltrane seems trivial and, frankly, beside the point (much like I found Ben Ratliff’s book on Coltrane’s sound). These are just opinions, after all, and vanity, moreover. Who cares what you/I think about any particular work by this man? It’s a mixture of hero-worship and elevation-by-association that frankly demeans the opiner by revealing a lamentable failure to listen.

I read an interview with Matisyahu once in which he pointed to the number of love songs out there as an indication of how much people are yearning for the love of God.  “People feel abandoned by God, they feel alone. You see by the number of love songs there are, it’s a proof of that,” he said.

Coltrane’s devotion to God causes me to hear in his ballads blessed celebration and the joy of reunion. The face he sees before him, is the face of God. The “you” he wants to talk about is You, My Lord.

Image Courtesy of Flykr.

Some Models of Enlightened Behavior

If you drop something, pick it up.

When the bill comes, pay it.

When the phone rings, answer it.

When the light turns green, go.

Some Definitions of Enlightenment

To be the same person in every situation, whomever you meet, whereever you go.

To be the same person, without masks, without ruses, without guile, without anxiety or greed, without schemes, agendas, or goals.

To be the same person you were before you were born and after you’re dead. A carbon atom doesn’t change when it belongs to a carrot or a rabbit or a hawk.

Why should you?

This Statement Is NOT True

I first posted this back in August 2008 but think that it’s as true (or false) today as it was then. – Matt

Talking with a friend yesterday, he noted that my wife was a writer and then asked if I was a writer as well. I said I was, but explained I was in marketing. “So, you write lies,” he said with a smile.

As every hip marketer knows, thanks to the ever-wise words of the all-knowing Godin-one, all marketers are liars. With his semi-snide snarkiness, my friend was merely echoing the folk wisdom that that holds marketers and marketing more generally in contempt, a subject about which I’ve written before.

Godin playfully invokes this contempt in his “provocative” title, though he was careful to avoid the the liar paradox through use of the modifier “all.” To whit: If Godin is a marketer (albeit one who has achieved “guru” status), then, if his statement is true, we must assume that he may be a liar, in which case his statement may also be a lie. If it’s a lie, however, then it is not true that all marketers are liars. If I remember anything from the “Intro to Logic” course I took as a freshman, the negation of “all marketers are liars” is not “no marketers are liars,” but, “some marketers are liars.”

Proclaiming the undeniable truth that “some marketers are liars,” of course, would not have gotten Godin much attention. Instead, he fans the flames of virulent anti-marketing-ism and tars “all” marketers with the same mendacious brush. Although I wouldn’t accuse Godin of lying with his claim that “all marketers are liars,” I would say that he was “willfully misrepresenting the truth,” and not just about the marketing profession.

If you read the book, or at least the five free pages I linked to above, you discover that he is primarily accusing marketers of “telling stories,” a common parenting euphemism for “lying,” as we all know. Though I agree with him that the goal of marketing is to tell stories, I resist his equation of “stories” with “lies.” Stories may be fabrications and fictions, but that doesn’t make them “lies.” That being said, the problem with Godin’s title isn’t that it’s a lie, the problem is that it’s false (remember that a lie is not simply or necessarily “incorrect”).

But would the book have been so popular if he had called it, “All Marketers Are Wrong”? Is the one thing going for this alternate title the possibility that it could actually be true?

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

I wrote this about a year ago but still think it’s relevant and true. What do you think? – Matt

On Twitter the other day talking with the Conversation Agent about the Associated Press’ decision to go after sites that quote too much of their content — they had called out the “Drudge Retort” (not to be confused with the “Drudge Report,” – though some confusion is undoubtedly intended by the author of the former) for quotations ranging in length from 39 to 79 words — I got to thinking.

I’m no lawyer but I learned about “fair use” as a graduate student and always assumed that, if you were using a quotation in certain expository contexts, that the copyright holders would just have to grin and bear it. I can see there being a problem with populating your blog or website with entire articles penned by someone else – but even then, if you have given proper credit and linked back to the original location of the text, is that really so wrong/bad?

Though I tend to lean in this direction, I’m not saying that all content should be free or that copyright doesn’t mean anything. I am saying, however, that trying to control where your content shows up on the web goes against the tide of history as well as the essence of the web an sich, as the Germans would say.

On the “tide of history” front, “give it away” is the order of the day. I’ve referred elsewhere in these pages to an essay by John Perry Barlow on the power of giving away “content,” and my ideas have not changed on the subject. Specifically, every business should focus on their absolutely unique, inimitable, and irreplaceable offering, and deploy their “content” to sell that.

Barlow uses the example of the Grateful Dead allowing taping at their shows because they realized that circulating bootlegs increased interest in their music and, more importantly, promoted attendance at their shows which were always one of a kind. As the bumper stickers used to say, “There’s Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert,” which is why concert revenue was the core of their business.

Apply this to your business and ask yourself, “What is my live-in-concert moment and how can I use my content to get people through the proverbial door?”

On the “essence of the web”-front, I see the distinction between sites as more conventional than actual. Every page on the web is exactly one click away from any other page. That means, not just one click away from any page that belongs to your site proper, but one click away from any other page you can find anywhere on the web. To tell the world, “It’s ok to look at my content here but not there, one click away,” is like saying, “You can access content via your computer but not your iPhone.” In other words, it’s absurd.

More importantly, however, we’ve got to face facts and concede that the site is no longer the absolute home of content, nor is it necessarily the place where the content will be viewed, consumed, or otherwise processed by the end user. Content circulates freely. This circulation can be influenced, but not controlled. Since it cannot be controlled, any business based on selling content or access to it is going to have a shorter and shorter lifespan.

Am I right or am I right?

Image Courtesy of frankh.

I Recommend Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

aquenteverybody.jpgIt’s not a revolution if nobody loses. – Clay Shirky

I just finished reading Clay Shirky’s masterpiece, Here Comes Everybody, and feel compelled to recommend that you read it. It’s thoughtful, insightful, and well-written. It also a “business” book that is so rich in detail and far-reaching in implication that you can’t easily reduce it’s thesis to a PowerPointable sound-bite.

Although ostensibly about technology – “social media,” broadly speaking – the book’s focus falls less on the geeky details of wikis, blogs, and tweeting, than on the way these technologies facilitate the organization and actions of groups in an historically unprecedented, even revolutionary, manner. In the words of His Shirky-ness, “[W]e are living in the middle of a remarkable increase in our ability to share, to cooperate with one another, and to take collective action, all outside the framework of traditional institutions and organizations.”

If you feel like you or your business could benefit from greater participation in the social media revolution, or if you feel that these new, powerful, group-forming-and-coordinating tools pose an existential threat to your business or occupation (as the rise of the printing press did to medieval scribes), then you can’t afford not to read this highly readable book.

Image – “Everybody was here” – Courtesy of {dpade1337}.

Content and its Discontents

1176663820_ecc5f27a17_mThe other day I posted, “5 Rules for Creating Content that RULES!“, which I wrote with PJA’s Mike O’Toole. We were walking a fine line because we wanted to talk about ways to effectively conduct content-driven marketing but, at the same time, we said that your content strategy had to flow from your marketing strategy AND that content itself, in order to be useful and ultimately shareable, had to be created with the audience in mind.

In other words, if you want to create content that rules, actually creating content is the last thing you should do.

The underlying message is: Don’t confuse means with ends. The goal of marketing is not to pump out advertisements, for example; the goal is to market products and services and use advertising or pricing or merchandising or channel management or whatever to do that.

But there is another, more subtle message underlying the aforementioned message: For content to be of use to you, it has to seem like you created it primarily for others. That is, if your content is too obviously self-serving (by being “salesy” or overtly promotional), even if others could use it, they will probably choose not to.

If you are going to give something away (valuable information, useful tools, practical insights, etc.) in order to get something, you have to give it away without expecting anything in return. I think there is some kind of life lesson in here somewhere.

Image Courtesy of dogeared-1144.