One of the misnomers when it comes to content strategy is that it requires a large team of writers, dutifully working the day away to produce a steady stream of content. But there’s a new standard emerging, one where shareability matters much more than timeliness. Where quality matters more than quantity. And the best example of this shift can be found by studying the career of Jonah Peretti.
Peretti was one of the co-founders of Huffington Post. In its early days, HuffPo’s ability to take advantage of the inefficiencies of the web led to its success; scheming your way around these inefficiencies was really the basis for most Search Engine Optimization. Several years ago, Google was the primary means to discover new content. Google rewards timeliness: pages that have been updated get a bump in search rankings. Additionally ranking highly for oft-searched “keywords” meant more readers.
Publishers scrambled to capture the attention of Google’s index by publishing often and including keywords that users were searching for. Peretti and the Huffington Post were the industry leaders at maximizing search referrals with posts like “What time is the Super Bowl” and its pursuit of low-quality (but free) guest writers to help feed the beast. Publications like Sports Nation and Demand Media sprouted up to ride Huffington Post’s coattails.
But now, Peretti, like other publishers, has changed his focus. He’s since left the Huffington Post and founded Buzzfeed. Peretti has all but abandoned traditional media like email and SEO in favor of social. Buzzfeed has gone for sharable, whimsical lists that practically beg users to share. What’s more is that Buzzfeed has created a analytics backend that tracks and optimizes what is more likely to be shared. In a brilliant move, the company is allowing other companies to use its analytics platform as long as they contribute data, so Peretti is sitting on top of social data from the web’s largest publishers.
The company is so good at optimizing for social that the world’s largest brands are partnering with the company to help power their own editorial strategies.
The takeaway for brands? Don’t fall victim to the school of thought that commands a waterfall of new content everyday. Think like OK Cupid or Buzzfeed and instead optimize for social media, not the search engines. Thankfully it seems natural order has been restored: a sweatshop of writers is no match for interesting, sharable content.