By Joe Pulizzi published February 9, 2013

Content Marketing: The Fallacy that More Content is Better

content-marketing-better-not-moreEverywhere I go, I find marketers who are challenged with creating more content. More blog posts, more eBooks, more videos, more podcasts… more, more, more. Even our latest content marketing research found that the number one challenge for business marketers is producing enough content.

I’m done with more.

Here’s a little state of the industry that I’ve noticed:

  • There are hundreds of marketing gurus out there who will tell you that more is better.
  • Brands and publishers alike are setting up massive newsrooms to newsjack every possible opportunity.
  • Keyword phrases are being locked and loaded, as we speak, into thousands of content marketing programs around the world — curated content and original content alike.
  • Organizations of all sizes are figuring out how much content they can get out of every contractor they work with, and how to get that investment down to as little per hour as possible.

Now, I’m not saying that any of this is wrong; but it’s definitely not better.

There was a time for more

“Ecclesiastes assures us… that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh… and a time to weep. A time to mourn… and there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore.” — Kevin Bacon (Ren) in “Footloose” (1984)

Going back almost a decade ago, I believed more was better — more of any and all types of content helps us market all types of things (as long as it’s good content, right?).

Good sites like Mashable and Huffington Post came along and started to show us what amazing traction we could get with more. More content would get more play on Reddit and Digg, and then Facebook and Twitter. Inevitably, this led to thoughts like, “Hey, we need to target these 150 keywords. We need more content.

And then media companies like Forbes added a million [exaggeration] contributors, and started to create more content and cover more niche areas.

More eBooks for SlideShare. More videos for YouTube. More content for syndication. More blog posts for Buffer to buffer… and on and on.

There was a time for more, but that time has passed.

Epic content marketing

My upcoming book, out in September, is called “Epic Content Marketing.” I have one goal for the book: to say something worth saying.

There are many definitions of the word epic. According to dictionary.com, the sixth definition given for epic is “of heroic or impressive proportions; an epic voyage.” This is the one I’m focusing on for my book.

In North America, nine in 10 businesses (of any size in any industry) use content marketing. Content marketing is not new, but it is getting cluttered; contaminated, if you will.

How do we break through this clutter? We need to be epic with our content marketing. We need to do it better.

What do I think of when I think of truly epic content marketing? I think of Marcus Sheridan and his blog posts — when I read them, I can tell that he spent way more time than any average human would take to make what he was saying worth saying.

I think of IBM and its amazing research reports, which are always helpful. The company never, ever takes shortcuts with its research.

I think of thinkMoney magazine from Ameritrade. Heck, I’m not even a trader and I enjoy this publication immensely.

The next phase of content marketing

Think about your current content marketing program. Now read the questions below:

  • Do you have a documented content strategy as part of your marketing program, or are you just filling channels with content?
  • Is the content you are distributing truly best of breed — meaning that it’s as good or better than anything else available?
  • Are you really making an impact on your customer’s lives or careers with the information you provide to them?
  • Are you in the game just to sell more, or are you in it to make a difference?
  • Are you setting up your content marketing department around more or around best?

How do you know if your content is truly epic?

Here is one easy litmus test: Are you seeing behaviors change?

Are customers sharing your content? Are members of your customers’ networks sharing your content? Is your content a central part of conversations on the web? Are prospects signing up to receive your content on an ongoing basis? If you don’t deliver your content at the regularly scheduled time, are customers calling you to find out where it is? Are influencers creating new content from your old content?

If the answers to all of these questions are “yes,” then your content is worth saying. Your content is epic.

This responsibility falls on every one of us. It is on us to change our wicked ways and stop the contamination that comes from the endless, and misguided, quest for more.

(Okay… getting down from my soapbox now. Thank you for listening!)

Looking for tips on better content creation (rather than just “more” content creation)? Register to attend Content Marketing World Sydney, in Sydney, Australia on March 4–6.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

  • Pamela Muldoon

    Thank you for writing this post, Joe. As a content strategist assisting an education company with 5 brands, 30 Community managers and multiple programs “more” is one of our biggest challenges. I use your words of wisdom as I work with the content marketing team to look at better vs. more. And you are also spot on with the keywords and search component to all of this. The marriage of SEO and Content is a delicate one and finding a balance is integral to success. Keep up the evangelizing, Joe! We are listening;-)

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Pamela…so glad you piped in on this. Your epic podcasts are a good example of content done right.

  • http://www.brainondigital.com/ Brain On Digital

    More content is, all things being equal, better than less content. So, more is better in one sense of the word. If you have more epic content that is better than less epic content. I think the argument you’re really making here is that if you have mediocre content, piling more of it onto the interwebz will not your problems solve.

    When people ask: “Should I have 3 really good posts or 10 so-so posts?” I always say “you should have 10 really good posts.” You’re right, everything that is published needs to pass the litmus test of: does this add value, does this inspire action in some way. If it does good. That’s a good start. Now do more of it. More epic content is definitely better than less.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Yup!

    • aboer

      Maybe the right metric to think about is something like Cost per Audience, which backs into an ROI. If your content drives an audience (either organically or paid) that you can convince/convert at terms that make economic sense, then more is more. But there are diminishing returns to attention — as well as constraints on the ability to create “epic content”. The more content you create, the more your cost per audience will likely go up, and your ROI will go down. Firms should therefore create content they hit an equilibrium point where their cost per audience still results in a positive ROI.

  • http://www.graymatterminute.com/ usegraymatter

    Amen!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

    Joe…

    I’m so freaking on board with this… and not just in our blog posts in our social media posts as well. Instead of writing ten quick not-well-thought-out posts on Google+ I’ve begun to really hash out ideas and create in the space. I hashtag them #ideawarfare and now I have a running collection of quality thoughts… Social media posts actually worth reading.

    Quality is the new Quantity.

    Looking forward to the book.

    All the best,

    Hanley

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Ryan. re: Quality is the new Quantity.

      Agreed

    • http://twitter.com/alexcliff0rd Alex Clifford

      Yeah I’d agree with you Ryan and Joe. In a sense, I think we have to stop thinking of ourselves as content creators.

      Instead of hashing out oodles of mediocre articles and list posts we should think of ourselves as top journalists. People who carve out something new all the time. Always saying something new.

      • http://www.ryanhanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

        Alex,

        I think that’s very important distinction. Content creators get paid per article. Journalists or thought leaders create discussions through ideas which sometimes come in the form of blog posts….

        The world needs both.

        Hanley

  • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

    I think there is a time when a more-is-better approach make sense — if you’re trying to raise the page-rank profile of a site that isn’t getting a lot of traction it might a good idea to post a blizzard of cheap SEO-friendly content. A site with 4,000 articles should do better on Google than one with 400, or 40. But if you’re not planning to upgrade your game once your page rank rises, you’re really not getting anywhere.

    The real problem, though, is not just wanting more: it’s wanting more but hoping for some magic exception to the reality that you’ll have to pay more. If creating good content were easy or economical there’d be no $4 million Super Bowl ads. As I said in a post on my blog today: if you go cheap, you get cheap.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Tom…I agree that “used” to be the case, but I don’t think Google is fooled by that anymore. Thoughts?

      • http://tommangan.net/ Tom Mangan

        Without violating my NDA, let’s just just say that this approach is still being attempted.

      • aboer

        Author rank/Panda/Penguin have not completely changed the game yet, but they are progress in the right direction. But will it ensure quality? Seems like the next iteration of search will see content creators trying to game Authority and Engagement, just as they previously gamed keywords and inbound links.

  • http://twitter.com/AlexMorask Alex Morask

    Joe,

    Truly awesome post. You can see all over the web that a mass desire for more content has has lowered the standards for the quality of the content as well as for the purpose of creating that content in the first place. Many sites still consider search engines before their readers, and that’s when you end up with content that blends into the masses.

    It seems pretty evident that 10-step lists and other easily digested pieces are not the sole key to the future. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them (most of them at least), but the more thought-out, thought-provoking and detail oriented content is what’s going to turn brands into thought leaders and keep readers coming back.

    Can’t wait for the book Joe. Best of luck!

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for the quality feedback here Alex!

  • http://managedformimi.com/ osbennn

    I totally agree that plenty of brands have taken the idea that “more content means more impact” too far. And I totally agree that the quality of the content suffers, as does the reputation of these brands, as a result. However, does that mean that one killer post is necessarily better than two killer posts?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Well, sure two are better, as long as that’s part of the frequency plan. Two and hour apart and unexpected by your audience…not so much.

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    The pressure to scale has companies becoming mechanical vs. meaningful about their content marketing efforts. The “more is better” trend, especially in the SEO and social media communities, has been a pet peeve of mine for a while. Thanks for making sense out of the myth and bringing more attention to importance of being remarkable Joe.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for carrying the flag Lee!

  • Eric Bear

    “More content” is the mantra of those who do not truly understand the Internet. The web is awash with great content. In my 17 years of publishing online the #1 issue is always having talented engineers who are zen masters of database publishing & UX design. Content is easy. Serving it up brilliantly is hard. At the heart of every great publication and/or platform is solid elegant engineering.

  • http://ItsDifferent4girls.com/my-links Linda Sherman

    I think that there must be an insistance on quality content. At the same time, quality writers who increase the quantity of their posts have seen an increase in traffic, social proof (eg Facebook likes, Google +1′s) and page ranking.

    Tonight at 9pm ET, there will be a Twitter chat on this topic. Lee Odden suggested the topic and tweeted this article. The Twitter chat is #BlogChat, hosted by Mack Collier. I’m a regular at these Sunday BlogChat’s.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Linda…I missed the twitter chat. Hope it went well.

  • http://twitter.com/marcusbowlerhat Marcus Miller

    I think there is a time and a place for short, long, quick and truly epic content but the fact of the matter is, with just so much content out there now, if you are just putting out something that is ‘ok’ then you are just another voice in the crowd.

    One post that is truly epic will do 100 times more than 100 posts that are just okay.

    I have one piece of content that I have been working on that is slowly turning into a book, so that may be the other end of the spectrum as you do actually have to get it out there sooner or later!

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Congrats on the book!

  • http://writtent.com/ Sergey

    I totally agree with what is written here. One epic piece of content is worth ten average articles. It’s better to post something worth reading once a week than to post something no one is going to read on an hourly basis.

    Very informative, Joe, thank you.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      The end of average…Yes!

  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    Great post, Joe. The constant push for “more” could be the undoing of content marketing. One thing I wish we could get away from is the close connection between content marketing and SEO. When a primary purpose of content creation is to obtain backlinks and search engine visibility, the thirst for more links and more visibility is hard to quench. Whether or not the content has any true value becomes a secondary issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jnthibeault Jason Thibeault

    As George Orwell once said, “if you don’t have anything worth saying, don’t say it.” But what if you have a ton of stuff worth saying and you say it well? I don’t think that “being epic” has anything to do with volume. It has to do with having a reason for each piece of content (I’m writing a blog post on this and will share shortly). It all has to tie together. if you can create a lot of good content that all ties together, I think that becomes epic. If you can write 1 piece of awesome content that stands by itself, I think that can become epic. There are a lot of factors and variables that make up the success (or failure) of a content marketing strategy. Volume is just one of them.

  • http://www.Smead.com/ John F. Hunt

    What is interesting about all of this is that there always has been too much content. The same things were said about cable TV when it added a few hundred channels to the TV landscape a few decades ago. Thus, we need to focus on nurturing our highly targeted audience with content they can’t find anywhere else because as producers we truly have a unique edge and different story to tell than anyone else. If we don’t we just get lost in the volume of clutter. The company that comes up with the ultimate content filtering system to aid the end-user in only seeing what is relevant to them will be producing the next big thing because the end-users are getting numb to all the content that is being dumped on them.

    • Henley Wing

      Hey John, I’ve built a tool that helps marketers filter out the content in the web, and show the most engaging content for any particular niche. It’s an useful way to find out engaging content ideas, IMO. Care to give me some feedback on it, specifically whether you see value in it in your day to day work? It’s not launched yet, but it’s currently at: http://www.buzzsumo.com.

      Feel free to reach out through the email in the footer.

  • Jim Lodico

    I couldn’t agree more. Inbound marketing has always been about the quality of the content. Although it used to be possible to make short term gains in the search engine rankings by adding keyword stuffed pages full of nothing to a website, did any of those pages actually convert? One high quality piece that hits on all the right notes can be effective for years.

    If the content is of true value, provides information of need and does it so well that people keep linking to it and coming back to it, Google will reward it in the search returns and it will outperform those hundreds of pages of filler.

    I don’t think this is anything new. Quality is the old quality. Quantity for the sake of quantity only got you so far. At some point, there has to be something behind the fluff.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent Jim! Thanks.

  • NenadSenic

    Thank you again for a very hormonal-like reading of yours again, Joe. :) I’ve read this post several times since last weekend.

    However, I don’t understand why more frequency equals less quality. It depends on an individual case, doesn’t it?

    I also can’t find what epic really means in your case. Not all lessons need to be epic. As long as you learn sth from it. Or is that what you meant?

    To say your content has to be epic, I’m afraid it may scare some away.

    Here’s my reaction: http://www.zemanta.com/blog/content-marketing-strategy-wrong-questions/

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Nenad…every depends. There is no silver bullet. But I guess you are right, I would rather companies not do anything at all rather than doing something that is not quality content. I was on a webinar the other day where I told a group of marketers to stop publishing content until they developed a true strategy for why they are creating the content and the purpose for that content in every channel. I’m still amazed by the number of companies that are just creating “stuff” because they think they have to, not because there is a strategic reason for it.

      Nice post by the way.

      • NenadSenic

        Thanks. You’re right, well, of course you are. :) I just came from a meeting with a client that wants to do a step forward and listened to what I had to say, but as soon as we started working on what we agreed upon, he suddenly became reluctant and quite uncertain and kept coming back to how they used to do. That’s when I’m afraid they’d give up and go back to doing the old way which wasn’t working anymore that’s why after so many meeting they hired me to help them move forward. I think this is what an anthropologist might explain is feeling uncertain, not comfortable (like wanting to lose weight and all, but when you go to the gym for the first time, you feel sick at the end and although you know you should continue it’s too “painful”). Constant struggle, I guess?

        • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

          Maybe set a 6 month pilot program looking at key metrics. Sometimes it’s easier for companies to look at it as a time bound test so they don’t think they have to change everything they are doing.

  • Dennis McCafferty

    Thank you, Joe. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is a message worth repeating and sharing. You absolutely nailed what I’ve been preaching for quite some time now.

  • aboer

    Joe,
    Glad you came out and made this point. There are a couple of additional observations I would make.
    Brands are always going to be underdogs when competing with publishers for the same audience. Publishers like Forbes/HuffPo can leverage their brands/authors and occasionally publish mediocre content; they can spray and pray — Brands don’t generally have that luxury, as they are hampered by three intrinsic weaknesses.
    First, they generally want to make sure that the content reflects the brand, and that it “does no harm”. This makes it harder for them to be provocative and interesting.
    Second, they are generally making a first impression as content destinations. If you visit Amex Open Forum as a reader and aren’t wowed by the content, are you going to make that your small business resource? Or will you stick with Inc and Entrepreneur. Brands not only have to meet the quality standards of publishers, they need to exceed them.
    Finally, Brands will be presumed to be biased. Readers are going to be much more wary of any proscriptive “advice”, which further limits their scope.
    So brands need to create great content within some narrow constraints, which doesn’t lend itself to quantity.
    The good news is that quality (due to social, author rank, etc.) seems to be making a major comeback.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Beautiful sir…well done. I’m not quite sure I agree that the third point is “as” critical today, but all in all I agree with you.

  • http://twitter.com/boostsuite BoostSuite.com

    Good stuff Joe. Are you saying that longer articles aren’t necessarily better for content marketing if they don’t provide “epic” insight or results?

    I’ve always read from the HubSpots of the world that longer is better from an SEO perspective. On the other hand, I believed that longer articles are intimidating to the every-day reader.

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Ryan…this article has nothing to do with length of article. I’ve always believed that your content should be as long as it needs to be.

      Thanks!

  • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

    Joe, this is what I was thinking of! Hope to see your continued insights on this issue.

  • http://twitter.com/MattLBrennan Copywriter Matt

    Great post. I’m discovering this myself, and ready to create more “epic” content. It makes sense. Readers want information.

  • Jason Bennet

    Thanks for sharing this piece of good content. I agree that focusing on Quality is more important. Erm it will be challenging to churn out good quality consistently over a period of time but it is definitely possible if enough effort is put in.

  • http://www.chamberspivot.com/category/find-new-business-blog/ Greg Chambers

    Good stuff. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/jamie_yost Jamie Yost

    Great piece, Joe, and THANK YOU for speaking out against mediocre content. There’s far too much of it on the internet already!

    I think it’s important to remember that the aggregators you mentioned (Mashable, HuffPost) are in the advertising business. They make their money selling ads. It’s in their best interest to drive as much traffic to their sites as possible because those big numbers look sexy to advertisers. The aggregators really don’t care about converting that traffic because they’re not selling anything directly to that traffic. They want their readers to bounce…preferably off to their advertisers’ sites.

    Most brands aren’t in the publishing business, though. Instead, they’re selling directly to the people who visit their websites. In that case, it’s in the best interest of these brands to create a smaller amount of valuable content focused around a specific topic. These brands want their readers to stick around and, ideally, to convert.

    The key to a winning content strategy is a simple one: set clear, specific goals and then make sure every tactic supports those goals. If your goal is high traffic and high bounce rates, then go ahead and create as much mediocre content as you want and pack it with keywords so it shows up in searches and gets lots of clicks. If your goal is well-qualified traffic and low bounce rates, then it’s worth it to spend the time to create a smaller collection of *epic* content.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Jamie…I really appreciate your take…although those advertisers in Huffpost and Mashable are starting to put a lot of that budget into their own content…so it’s going to increasingly get interesting.

      Really appreciate the take!

  • http://twitter.com/mariabrophy Maria Brophy

    I totally agree that quality is better than quantity. I only write about once a month on my blog, and I make sure that each post is of utmost quality and is truly helpful to my readers. My subscriber numbers increase daily, and I get a lot of reaction to my posts. I’ve been told by many that when my email reaches their in-box, they stop what they’re doing to read it. So I feel that I’m doing something right!

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Excellent Maria! Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

    Joe, just wanted to say I’m humbled with your kind mention here. Thank you my friend :-)

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      My pleasure brother! Very proud of you on the NYTimes article. Congrats.

  • John Waghorn

    Good post, I always think that if something is worth sharing
    and it’s genuinely engaging, then you can gain more traction by promoting this
    one piece of content, as opposed to leaving it and moving onto something else.
    If your content strategy has a lot of content within it, there is nothing wrong
    with this, as long as you have the time to make each piece count.

    @Koozai_John

  • Matt Shacklady

    A question for you, and it’s open-ended I don’t know the answer:

    Is ‘better, better, better’ any better than ‘more, more, more’? Are they both two extremes that are at odds with each other?

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Matt…anything more must be great. So the simple answer is, if you increase velocity you cannot sacrifice quality.