What My Paper Route Taught Me about Content Marketing

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr. See his bio at the end.

My career in content marketing started at age 12. Every day I’d load up my red Schwinn Varsity bicycle with The Aurora Beacon News and head out to make deliveries, learning valuable lessons about digital content marketing that just starting to sink in lately. Here are a few of these lessons, which I’m sure you will pick up a lot faster than I did!

Old man using a laptop with his grand son reading a newspaper1.     Content Marketing Is Hard Work

Delivering content may not be as physically demanding as it once was, but today it is a combination of strategic planning, thorough execution, meticulous review and continual improvement. There are no shortcuts, either. Back in the day, if I cut across a neighbor’s yard to get to the next house … I’d get yelled at. Today, if you try to skip steps or gloss over them, you’ll similarly be punished. Shortcuts to avoid include things such as –

  • Trying to pass off lame, rehashed content as something new and relevant
  • Relying on automated feeds to push content rather than building genuine social media connections
  • Putting content marketing processes on autopilot in order to shift attention to shiny new marketing toys

2.     Reader Convenience Is Everything

In the print era, there was nothing more convenient than having the latest news delivered literally to your doorstep. Newspapers thrived in part because of their efficient and ultra-convenient delivery system. The principle still applies in the age of digital content. Making content easy for the reader to obtain and consume makes all the difference:

  • Site loading speed. A big consideration, one that is so important that Google now uses loading speed as a ranking factor. If I showed up at a subscriber’s house an hour late … I’d get yelled at. Today, if readers have to wait five seconds for a page to load, they will click off.
  • On-page usability factors. Facilitating easy content consumption means adhering to best practices for typography, navigation, page layout and design. Tripping up in any one of these areas invites readers to make a hasty exit and leave with a bad taste in their mouths.
  •  Multiple search options.It should be as easy as possible for readers to find relevant content on a business site or blog. Among the techniques to accomplish this:
    • Internal search engines
    • “Most Popular” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • “Most Commented” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • “Recent” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • User-friendly archiving
    • Meaningful blog categories
  • Multiple delivery options.  In the past, there weren’t many ways to deliver news. Today, content marketers must support readers who find content via RSS, email subscriptions, bookmarking sites, social media, and organic search. This necessitates optimizing content for search and social sharing, and engaging with multiple communities on multiple social networks.

3.     Consistent Delivery Matters

My paper route taught me how much we humans are creatures of habit. If I showed up 15 minutes behind schedule … I’d get yelled at. Some people would even freak out if I showed up early. Well, even though content marketing technology has changed enormously, human nature remains the same. This means content marketers must bring a certain degree of consistency to their execution, including –

  • Theming. Is the big-picture, underlying message consistent, or does it change from one day to the next? Inconsistencies dilute brand identity and put obstacles in front of prospects that are trying to figure out what a company does and why they should care.
  • Publishing. Are blog posts and e-newsletters delivered on a consistent, predictable schedule, or haphazardly? Digital marketers can learn a LOT from the newspaper industry on this score: when people know when to expect information, they have a greater appetite for it.
  • Social Sharing. Because people are habitual, they hang out on Facebook, Twitter and other networks at fairly regular times throughout the day. By testing and analyzing re-shares and mentions, content marketers can develop intelligent timetables for both scheduled posting and active engagement.

About the Author

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a search engine marketing firm in Chicago. They work with middle market B2Bs in industries as diverse as restaurant merchant processing and bulk gloves. Brad is an experienced content strategist, SEO copywriter and blogger. He still rides a bicycle. 

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