The news industry is essentially creating a race to the bottom when it comes to quality. Major online publications like AOL have started cranking out cheap and tiny bits of content, hoping to cash in on local news and the long tail. With plunging ad sales and a tough economy, the only way to keep the online doors open is to cut costs (and lower standards). Or so they think. It’s not about being prolific any more, it’s about keeping the doors open with pageviews.
There’s really two schools of thought when it comes to producing online content strategies:
The School of Quantity
The School of Quantity, like the name implies, puts an emphasis on churning a lot of content. The more girth you can add to the site, the better. You’re hoping that the long tail catches you, helping you to reach a lot of people once or twice. You may not rank highly for competitive keywords (if that’s your thing), but the beauty is of the quantity approach is that you don’t have much competition.
The benefits of quantity is that search engines can’t read. They can parse text, find similarities and all that good stuff, but they don’t care about proper sentence structure. Just make sure that a few keywords are sprinkled liberally across the page, and you’re golden.
For the online world, an emphasis on quantity looks like it might be a promising plan.
The School of Quality
This school of thought is about creating limited content that has higher impact. Instead of publishing 10-15 short tiny posts, this strategy might only produce two incredible posts a week. This won’t get as many pages indexed in the search engines, but it creates more followers.
A fantastic example of this is The Oatmeal. Matthew Inman creates incredible cartoons that attract gazillions of links by publishing high-quality cartoons once or twice a week. And he’s created a viral, rabid following in the process.
If you’re producing content online, at some point you’re going to have to choose one of these two paths.
Why I Love the School of Quality
A long time ago I had a great gig at a popular tech blog that allowed me to post technology deals on a daily basis. For a college student, it was a fairly lucrative job. But I hated it.
Creating mindless, copy-and-paste content is exceptionally hard. There’s no thinking, just a process. The process got old quickly for me.
It’s draining not to be able to create things that measure up to our full potential.
Creating High-Quality Content
Creating magnificent content isn’t easy. Otherwise every website and newspaper would just be chock-full of fantastic writing. But that’s not the case, is it?
Creating powerful content demands a few things:
Sometimes projects just have to sit for a while before they’re perfect. Expect multiple revisions. Expect lots and lots of thinking and planning. Oh, and did I mention all that attention to detail that goes into it?
But eventually you’ll start seeing progress. In the end, it’ll all be worth it. You’ll actually be proud of what you created.
I’d bet everything in my wallet right now (er…$7) that more people are going to desperately start searching for Quality. As online content becomes less like a craft and more like a machine, it’s going to create a void of exceptional stuff online. Consumers need to be challenged and awed, and people flock to others who do huge things that they sink their whole heart in to.
If you’re just creating content to crank a buck, than the Quantity path might work for you. But if you want to create a sustainable business or lifestyle, you’re going to burn out. You’ll hate every minute you spend slogging away at the keyboard. Trust me.
It’s the perfect time to create something powerful. Drop some jaws. Spend that extra time and effort. (Jon Morrow believes that popular bloggers spend anywhere from 2 to 10 hours on each post.) Is it worth it? I think so.
You can’t change the world with a bunch of “meh”.
You might also want to check out The Long Tail (and Why You Shouldn’t Worry About It). It’s a nice companion article to this piece.