It’s usually through my own personal interests that I stumble into something else that I might want to share with you that could be helpful. This very thought, if you pause and read no further, is useful. I start most every post from this perspective: “I’ve just thought about something or learned something. How can I impart this information on others?” The big point I want to make with you is that it’s up to us (and by “us,” I mean YOU) to make useful media.
Think About Goals
It’s easy if you’re a company. When I think about our client, Citrix Online, the folks who make GoToMeeting, I know that they’d like more customers. That’s a goal. You might not always have that cut and dry of a goal. You might want to inform. You might want to make money somehow. You might just want to talk about the city where you live.
If you don’t start at the goal, how will you know what kind of product to make? For instance, a few years back, I produced a podcast for moms called Career Mom Radio. My idea was simple: there are tons of mommy bloggers, but not all moms can sit still to read. I reasoned that I’d get a show together that a busy mom could listen to via an iPod. (Easier to have 1 earbud in while the kid watches Barney than it is to crack open the laptop and read through a post, was my logic).
The goal was: reach busy moms in a medium where the marketplace wasn’t over crowded. (For the record, there are still way more blogs for moms than podcasts, despite the fact that I still believe it’s easier or a mom to keep a Shuffle clipped to her shirt and an earbud in. (Anyone?)
After the Goal, some Research
Once you have the idea for your project, you might look into the space around it. For instance, if you’re thinking you want to start a tech blog today and hope to live off it, good luck. Ditto general opinion blogs. Ditto general review blogs. At this point, you’ve really got to figure out a unique angle for pretty much any product.
Some quick ideas for research:
- Search for terms that you’d use to find this new project’s URL using Google Blogsearch. Do the same on Technorati.
- Check out Alltop and see if there’s a category for your idea. If so, read a few example blogs in the space (even if you’re doing a podcast, a book, a whatever).
- Now, depending on the goals of your project, you might also want to see whether there is a market for the information. For instance, if you’re hoping to monetize and sell ads, you might check out platforms like Commission Junction, or LinkShare or Share a Sale and see if there’s anyone selling affiliate opportunities in your project’s space. (Again, if you’re thinking of making money.)
Format, Function, and Your “Customer”
Here’s a thought: what if your project isn’t best suited to be a blog? Or, what if a blog is just one format, and there could be others? Take a site like Instructables. I could see them making a killing on selling little $1.99 downloads, either as a PDF or maybe to your iPhone for their various DIY projects.
What’s the best format for what you do? Is it text? Think about Gary Vaynerchuk. Would he come off as interesting if all you did was read him? Should J.C. Hutchins stop making books and podcasts? Hell no.
Think hard about the format you intend to use for your project, and then think about function.
By function, think about this: how will someone use this work? For instance, look at this very same blog post. I’m writing something that you will read, and then hopefully, you’ll take it to heart, and consider for your next projects. However, this post, as a reference piece, is very much poorly designed. It’s an informational piece.
Thus, if I went further with this, what would be the right function to build in, would be an attached PDF file with the ideas bulleted out, that you could refer to when starting a new project. Now that would add some functionality. Make sense?
Think of your readers/consumers/audience/participants as your customers in this case. This piece is getting long, and I’m not really done writing it. Should I go back and add pictures? Should I do something to break it up? Should it be in three parts? That’s what I think when I think of you as my customer, and consider this post. What do you believe your “customers” want from your media product?
Go back and answer that truthfully, not with what YOU wish they’d want.
Do What You Like
Technically, you can do whatever you want. Never let others tell you you’re doing it wrong. Not even me.
My dad, Steve Brogan, is writing Dad’s Poker Blog, about his experiences as a semi-professional poker player. I read him every day as a completely amateur (and bad at it) poker player. He and I didn’t do any research before making the site. We didn’t see if the world needed another poker blog. We did look at http://poker.alltop.com, but we didn’t think much about whether or not we should do it.
Sometimes, you might just want to blog about something or make a project of another kind just because that’s what you want to do. We’re doing the Media Hacks podcast in audio form on a phone dial in, which means it’s not top audio quality, nor is it the more popular video format. Who cares? We just want it out there, and this is the best no-fuss way to get us all together.
Attention is the new distribution. I’ll talk about this more at some other point, but just know this: the choices you make to better equip your would be audience of participants, the more you’ll benefit from that (in whatever form you’re seeking via your goals and strategy). It’s not good enough any more to just put something up without thinking.
So, what does this all make you think about your media? And if you’re not in the mood to pick apart what you’re doing, feel free to pick apart mine? What should I do differently? How can I help you even more?
Let’s talk about useful media, shall we?