Friday, January 27, 2006

Content Bubbles

Following is a concept for content managment on a professional Web site that I am working to implement. This post is really a summary from my Web site, rather than an original idea posted here, but I wanted to get it in the blog for reference. It is essentially the starting point for the ideas I want to play with in this blog.

"Content Bubbles" is a nickname we've given to an entirely new strategy for generating high quality marketing content for the site. The name comes from the contrast between this new strategy and the more traditional methods we have used thus far. The current content strategy consists of isolating several main marketing topic areas (Advertising, Internet, Research, etc.).

The online editor's role is to keep these "buckets" full of new content. This works fairly well as an organizational strategy, but it does not ensure that we are covering the most important topics in the profession.

Our content team comes from a journalism background. While they can tell if an article is well written, they less suited to judge if the marketing information within the article is valid or timely.

Content Bubbles replaces this static, editor-driven organization to a dynamic one driven by audience behavior. By combining new technology such as blogs with sophisticated site search technology that incorporates audience feedback, the topics covered on the site become a constantly evolving mix of articles, discussions and other content. Essentially, we take the "buckets" and set them to boil.

In keeping with the Bubble metaphor, each topic unit within this constantly evolving mix is a Marketing Soapbox -- a coherent collection of content on a particular subject.

Marketing Soapboxes are in constant competition for position on the site. Those that attract strong user feedback and activity rise to the top. Those that don't drop down in search rankings, to be replaced by new Marketing Soapboxes. Over time, the best content wins out over the rest -- creating a source of high-quality content for the site on the hottest topics in marketing.

The latest online buzzword is Web 2.0. As with any good buzzword, the definition of this one is rather vague. Generally it refers to a shift in how people use the Internet.

The first 10 years for the Internet had authoritative content providers (such as the AMA) producing articles and other information to deliver online. The audience's role was to show up and read it.

Today the situation is far more interactive. Our audience has their own opinions, and unique information. They want to share it. The most visible manifestation is the growth of blogging.

The AMA introduced a workshop series on blogging about a year ago. The program now runs six times per year around the country, and is overbooked at each venue. If we can offer a format where our audience can share and discuss their ideas, it has major potential to generate timely new content on the site and cement the loyalty of AMA members.

Wikipedia vs. Britannica

High-quality, audience-generated content is a proven idea in some formats.

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia with audience generated content. The idea is that a massive number of writers and editors who are passionate about a subject will produce higher quality, more comprehensive content. The regular user feedback and interaction provides a constant quality control mechanism.

The traditional method for producing an encyclopedia is the one used by
Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica has a small pool of highly trained editors and experts who research and write individual entries.

Wikipedia is eating their lunch.

It has almost a million entries. Britannica, by contrast has about 100,000 entries. The kicker is that on average, Wikipedia has more omprehensive and accurate entries than Britannica.

By soliciting active and ongoing user content, and tying that to several user feedback mechanisms built into our site search, we have an opportunity to transform our site into the Wikipedia of the marketing profession. As we find compelling new topics by scanning blogs, discussion groups or feedback on our own site we can locate a founding group of authors to launch a new content topic on the site -- a Marketing Soapbox.

Once posted, the MarketingPower audience will have opportunities to evaluate the content and contribute to it themselves. Those topics that rank highly and generate a lot of user activity will rise to the surface in search results and retain a prominent position on the site. Those that don't will drift downwards in results to be replaced by a new topic.

Users have a major role not only in deciding what subjects the site covers, but in driving the conversation and content. Through the feedback mechanisms, we use our audience's expertise to identify and promote the highest quality content.

The primary obstacle is user participation - if we build it, will they come? Judging by the massive growth of blogging in the past year -- and there are several quality blogs focused on the marketing profession -- individual marketers have strong opinions and a desire to share them online.

The key for this Content Bubbles strategy will be attracting these marketers and encouraging them to interact through the site.

Additionally, we will need to upgrade our site search technology to incorporate several user feedback mechanisms -- primarily traffic and user rankings. The new search ranking elements will need to be incorporated in the search algorithm without overly taxing the servers or slowing the delivery of ranked search results to the site.

We produce a monthly e-mail newsletter for AMA Job Board candidates. Each issue has a Q&A with a selected job candidate or employer, as well as other content recently posted to the Marketing Jobs section of the site.

The December newsletter featured a Q&A interview with a woman who talked about dealing with potential age discrimination issues in her job search. She perceived that several companies she interviewed with in previous months had intentionally chosen younger applicants for high level marketing management positions. Her article generated more audience feedback than anything we'd published in the newsletter before -- we jokingly refer to the December 2005 Marketing Jobs newsletter as the "You go girl!" issue.

She agreed to produce content (format yet to be determined) and host a temporary blog discussion on age discrimination for the site. Additionally, she has referred several other potential authors for the section.

We will be posting this online in February as the first Marketing Soapbox. While it won't include many of the dynamic elements in the full Content Bubbles strategy, it will be a proving ground for whether we can generate enough audience participation to produce quality content for the site.

If it works, in the next year can become a major online nexus for marketers to discuss the latest ideas and trends in the industry. This group would be fertile ground for AMA Membership and other services.


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