What Content Will Stand Out from the Noise in 2019!
“This article was written as part of the SEMrush Big Blogging Contest”
It’s cold in New Delhi, the sun is mellow, the traffic is omnipresent and silence in this city is often paradoxically deafening. As humans, we have collectively travelled a long way. We can now do, once seemingly impossible things such as land on the moon and collide electrons on our planet.
However, lately – we have been struggling, our attention spans have catastrophically shortened, post-truth theories dominate our popular culture and loneliness is growing to become the next big epidemic.
With so much noise around us, a lot of us who are digitally connected are finding it harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff – which is no cheap clique says Dr Jordan Peterson who made 80k a month through Patreon till December 2018.
Peterson is not alone, around two million Patrons now support over a 100,000 ‘creators’ to the tune of $350m in total. What do people like Peterson offer?
Since the dot-com revolution, the internet has influenced every facet of our human lives. Revolutions today can happen over the click of the proverbial button. However, with such a massive transformation, social media has changed the medium itself. It now takes discipline to not let social media and other platforms steal your time.
In the 2000s, humanity craved social connection, in stark contrast today – as we connect more, the more disconnected we become.
Filled with imposters, internet gurus, influencers and noisemakers, the need for long-form content that explores deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers along trustable content runs high. Not sure how, open Instagram – you could possibly be bombarded with coaches and quotes that claim to bring you closer to success.
Hence, how do people like Peterson seemingly defy the crowd, create an audience for themselves and then successfully monetize a sizable minority?
This is different from the traditional in face advertising or even donation appeals. Look at Aeon – a not-for-profit platform that publishes some of the most profound and provocative articles on the internet. It is reviving long-form content, often written by industry experts that include leading thinkers on science, philosophy and society. Despite the proven credentials, its homepage always conveys Aeon’s desperate push to keep the site online through its donation appeals.
Personally, as the appeal doesn’t really evoke any of my feeling which I believe would certainly be true for the majority of the casual readers who visit the website fairly often. This into the face appeal for donation is often counterproductive. I subconsciously ignore the donation appeals whenever I visit Aeon now.
It’s like the home screen of our phones, we may unlock our phones at least 110 times a day, but explaining the precise location of any single app on your iPhone can be difficult. With repetitive use, we exercise our muscle memory which steadily takes over our impulses. Don’t believe me, try to change the placement of the Instagram App on your phone and see how it goes. Also, can you recall the colours of the chrome app’s logo (exact colours) without looking at your screen? Could you tell?
However, in the case of content that targets our emotions, the dynamics change as it usually strikes and grips us where it matters the most – Our Emotions. Well, looking to learn how to attract girls or looking for that secret trick to increase your productivity by 200% – such content usually grabs our attention. Also, such content is mostly available on the internet for free. But is it really free? Because life is no fairytale and there are no free lunches in life!
Casual Readers: Scroll through content that they would like to read about. Selective about what they read.
Diehard Followers: Rely on premium and paid content. Want to dig deeper and get exclusive access to content.
Medium usually sits right between the two extremes. Open Medium and you can always find something that interest’s you.
Take a look at Shane Parrish, a former cybersecurity expert at Canada’s top intelligence agency who turned into an online blogger. Today, he caters to an audience in elite finance, Silicon Valley and professional sports with some 190,000 people who have signed up to Brain Food, his free weekly newsletter.
His about us page reveals and I quote, ”I take your trust in me and FS very seriously.” Certainly, while keeping a lot of stuff free, he has garnered the trust of his readers persuading dedicated followers to pay $250 a year to become part of his “knowledge community” — a premium site with a private discussion forum and meet-up suggestions in Toronto, Dubai and London.
However, the next time Parrish slips a hyperlink to his favourite book that changed his life. It is more probable than not that his followers are more likely to believe that the same book could change their life as well. Shane never markets the product explicitly, he just mentions it in his newsletter. Not bad in an era where traditional marketing still hard-sells a lot of product and services. However, the differentiating factor is the ”Trust” that Shane has garnered over the span of a few years. His growing fan base really trusts his content.
‘Trust’ as an emotion is certainly powerful. Indeed, triggering emotions is more useful for businesses, what really defines as a business – I leave it for you to decide!
People like Shane really shows his followers a way out of their misery or fulfils the longing for psychological development or mentorship. Ultimately, he fulfils the growing unmet social needs of his followers. Shane achieves strong customer retention with the minimum effort required to acquire customers. While you may argue that this argument is flawed but haven’t you been influenced by a particular author, writer or even movie star. The whole appeal of icons is the emotion drive we feel.
While developing apps through XCode or illustrations through Adobe Illustrator are intrinsically valued, the same cannot be said for writing, a cognitively difficult skill to master. However, the growth of “Trustworthy Content” has certainly saved people who can share immaculate ideas through writings, blogs and podcast from going broke. It may be perplexing for someone to connect ‘Honesty’ with ‘Content’. However, in the era of privacy concerns and nonchalant advertising which seeks to extract our emotions to sell us the product. The need for this fulfilling content has certainly developed as a niche.
Further, a look at Mark Manson – the NYTimes & Washington Post bestseller for his “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” started his journey as a dating advice blogger in 2009. Today, he garners over 2 million monthly visitors through his blog. Partially his success again has a similar metric in play i.e. ‘Trust’ and ‘Diversion’ from mainstream deception and dishonesty. His book “Models – Attract Women Through Honesty” was purely based on attracting women through honesty, in stark contrast to ‘pickup’ or ‘game’.
Mark has successfully integrated the power of digital platforms with long-form content. He has successfully harnessed the power of human emotions and as well all know – Nothing is more powerful than human emotions. Just like Farnam Street, Mark has a subscription plan for his fans who want to dig in deeper into his work. For $4 dollars/month, you can get access to the premium content. This helps sustain his work with objectively keeping the majority of his content free for his huge audience.
As technologies change and the cultural pattern of humanity evolving quickly, it’s inevitable that we’d experience a disruptive change in how we consume content. Similar parallels can be observed in the switch to coworking to the scooter-wars in Silicon Valley.
The differentiating factor seems to be the pursuit of quality over noise which ultimately the innate human emotion of transcending unmet social needs. Zat Rana promises the same – This means no pop-ups, no spamming, and no low-quality noise to steal attention. His content i.e. written words now reach to over 50K+ readers through his exclusive Design Luck newsletter, ranging from CEOs to teachers to NYT best-selling authors.
The Age of Freemium & Trust!
However, the one converging theme with Zat, Mark and Shane seems to their Affiliate Terms which clearly mentions their platforms that include newsletters and online content are part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon.
This form of advertising is so subtle that users hardly notice as ‘Trust’ is the underlying factor in content provided by all three of them.
This form of content is exactly like a theatre, just there is no entry fee and the exits are open. But most often than not, people stay back, they connect and revisit the theatre again and again. Some start paying for the premium front seats, some are happy to with the seats that are free of cost. Ultimately, they get to see the movie, good or bad it’s for them to decide.
This resurgence of the freemium model is here to stay. As the saying goes “Change is Permanent”, content creators have certainly adapted. Medium is based on such logic. Just log in and you can read complex content in a digestible form. Want to vent out and play identity politics? Then you’re welcome to Twitter. Once you find your niche – then you and your customer base is here to stay.
As tech moves deeper and deeper into our lives and makes us more lonely. Someone has to fulfil our social needs. So, do you still feel such content is not powerful? If not, think again!
Also, such a transformation help brings back the power of the medium and makes it what it originally thought to be – just a gateway/ a portal/ a platform – nothing less, nothing more. The content on the internet wasn’t meant to overwhelm or distract you, it was meant to assist you and such content is continuously bringing that back. As the year 2019 zooms ahead, the likes of Nat Eliason(Founder of Growth Machine), Brett Mckay(Art of Manliness) & others is certainly growing to grow.
But what do I know, this could be the medium too, but if you clicked on Zat Rana, Mark Manson or Shane Parrish. Well, then you just got sold, my friend!
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