Plato said Socrates thought very little of the then-newfangled objects that were books, arguing that the written word impinged upon man’s ability to remember and to think.
In the early 60s, Marshall McCluhan went on to write about “media determinism,” an idea suggesting that our communications technologies shape the way we think. Anyone who has ever written out a manuscript with pen and ink will be able to attest to the notion that how we write with various tools is fundamentally different.
Blog Post Categories
It’s understandable that when blogs were devised, the various blog posts were categorized. After all, that was easy to do with a database-driven system — you simply needed to associate each post with a category. There is also something about computer programmers: they seem predisposed to ontologies and organizing information in structured frameworks.
Magazines, on the other hand, aren’t so easily divvied up. Sure, in your monthly gardening magazine, there may be a monthly column Garden Pests, talking about raccoons this month and aphids the next — but we, as readers, don’t tend to move about through our magazines going from one category to another; we live within the particular issue.
Future Of Blog Categories?
The focus on content marketing has had many blog editors rethinking the need for categories. Will Critchlow, the CEO of Distilled, has been investing heavily into more substantial content and foregoing the traditional categories.
In a recent conversation, Critchlow told me that Distilled is evaluating whether they want to keep blog categories. “The current analytics shows us that [blog category pages] aren’t really entry pages; not really navigation pages. It’s not how people browse our content.”
Deep Content Experiment
According to Critchlow, Distilled decided to experiment with a deeper piece of content, titled Brandopolis, commissioned from an outside writer, Lydia Laurenson. The piece required weeks of writing, along with dozens of hours of editing and input from internal team members.
“We didn’t really have many expectations about what success would look like,” Critchlow confided. “The results were positive: it drove thousands of email signups, received attention and links from some major sites, and it was the catalyst for some new relationships.
These larger, deeper pieces of content have suggested new ways to navigate the blog. “You want an editorial opinion of what you should read. You go to a magazine like a New Yorker where they’ve got a strong editorial tone of voice. It’s not only that they have a strong tone of voice within an article; they’re also pretty opinionated about what the next article you read is.”
“The people who come to our site are broadly interested in online marketing,” Critchlow says. “They’re not so narrow as to say that if they read something about content strategy they wouldn’t want to read about conversion optimization. And so, we can be a more opinionated about pushing them towards our best content.”
Smaller pieces can be seen as more immediate resources that, in turn, help to promote the larger featured pieces, creating a healthy eco-system of content.
Critchlow tells me a theory they have about the value of larger pieces: “You can have some very, very lightweight content that ends up doing disproportionately well, and you can do big-ticket stuff that does pretty well. There’s a very dangerous place in the middle where you spend hours or a day on a piece; a kind of heavy-weight blog post. You can do that day after day and not really gain any returns from it. And so what we’re trying to do is the two ends better.”
Content Consumption Changes
Blog categories are still a logical framework for sites that are fundamentally about resources more than editorial (like Marketing Land).
There are changes, though, in the technologies used in consuming online content, and more people are becoming accustomed to using tablets to read magazines, books and blogs. For some organizations, a move to deeper, more substantial content is going to make a lot of sense.
Image courtesy of Distilled, used with permission.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.