Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

By mlinn published May 28, 2015

Content Reuse: A Super-Simple Way to Get Started

This is a story of content reuse in action. At Content Marketing Institute, we collect content marketing examples to share with our audience. We used to collect content marketing examples in an ad hoc way, but we have recently started to collect these in a systematic way that lends itself to reuse – and time savings for our team.

Maybe you can relate to how we used to do things?Continue Reading

By mlinn published May 8, 2015

Stop the Checklist Mentality: Why You May Not Need a New Video, Podcast or Infographic

video-podcast-infographic-coverAdmittedly, I was cranky with sick kids and snow days when I started this post (OK, rant), but even though spring and health are upon us my feelings haven’t changed:

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.Continue Reading

By mlinn published May 7, 2015

Put Users at the Center of Your Content Strategy: A Look at This American Life

Any This American Life  junkies out there? This public radio show, which reaches over 2 million listeners every week, captures extraordinary stories of ordinary Americans. We fans are a passionate crowd. We easily recall our favorite episodes. My friends often hear me say, “Did you catch that story of  . . . ?” (Don’t even get me started on the episode about the blind boy who rode a bicycle.)

While I could go on and on about these stories and how  they’re told, what I want to talk about here are the intelligent ways this team presents these stories – this content – to listeners.

While I have considered This American Life a great example for a while, this idea resurfaced when Scott Abel presented the seven rights for excellent customer experiences with content during our recent Intelligent Content Conference. As Scott explained, this is what today’s content creators must aim for:

The right person to get
The right content
At the right place
At the right time
In the right format
In the right language
On the right device

7Rights_ICC (1)


Today’s content creators must aim for these seven rights for excellent customer experiences with content.

The right person

Who is the right person? If you’re the content consumer, that person is you. If you’re the content creator, well, many books have been written on the topic of knowing your audience.

Anyone who creates or manages content can learn a lot from the way This American Life presents content to audiences that it obviously knows well. Its listeners are clearly at the center of its content strategy, as evidenced by the popularity of the program itself and by the usefulness of the website. For example, fans who sign up for a free account can mark their favorite episodes and the episodes they’ve listened to. Throughout this article, you’ll see evidence of a well-understood user who is at the center of this program’s strategy.

ASK YOURSELF: What more might my team do to get our content to the right people, and to give them a more satisfying – maybe even more personalized – experience with that content?

The right content

A lot of forethought is required for the right person to get (that is, to receive or find) the right content. Here is a snapshot of the This American Life home page.


The This American Life website gives people multiple ways to find the “right content” – the episodes they’re most interested in.

One thing I love about this rich site is that it provides a variety of ways for members of the show’s audience to find what they are looking for – the content that’s right for them. For starters, every one of the 555 episodes (and counting) is archived the same way, including elements like these:

  • Episode number
  • Original air date
  • Transcript
  • High-level summary
  • Summary of the prologue
  • Summary of each “act” (story)


 Every This American Life episode is archived the same way.

Each episode is also tagged with metadata – semantic categories that are surfaced in a prominent way – so that people can search for the right content according to not only what’s most recent but also what’s most interesting to them. This kind of search experience (sometimes called faceted search) requires rigorous analysis and categorization (sometimes called faceted classification) on the part of the content providers, as long-time technical writer Tom Johnson describes in his post Faceted Classification, Faceted Search.

This American Life provides several facets, or parameters, to help people find what they want. People can search in the following ways:

  • By date
  • By tag (topic)
  • By contributor
  • By location


To find the content you want on the This American Life website, you can search by date, by tag (topic), by contributor, and by location. These four search facets are created by metadata (specifically, by semantic categories). For more on semantic categories and their role in intelligent content, see Getting Started With Intelligent Content [e-book].

ASK YOURSELF: How might we set up or modify a taxonomy of our own to help our audience find the right content?

For website visitors who don’t know exactly what they’re looking for, the top navigation bar features a “Favorites” tab, which enables searching by these subcategories:

  • The short list (the best of the best)
  • Other favorites
  • Early shows
  • Topical
  • One location
  • Contributors


If you don’t know which This American Life episodes are right for you, you can look through the most popular ones (favorites), which have been grouped in various ways.

I also like that the home page features a “From the Vault” episode, a rotating story from the archives – yet another way to help people discover the right content.

ASK YOURSELF: How could we better serve people who come to our content and don’t know what’s right for them?

The right place and time

So far, I’ve talked about helping the right people get the right content. Let’s move to the next rights in our list: the right place and right time.

This American Life was first a radio show. For years now, it’s also been offered as a podcast so people can listen wherever and whenever they want. Mostly gone are the days when I sit in my driveway to hear the end of a story or when I time my car rides to the radio schedule.

Whatever your preference for place and time, This American Life has you covered. If you want to catch a live broadcast, the website helps you find the radio stations near you.



If you want to catch a live broadcast of This American Life, you can find local radio stations by entering your ZIP code or clicking your state.

ASK YOURSELF: Is our content delivered in a way that enables people to use it at the right time and in the right place? How might we give our audiences more flexibility – or even take location and timing into account automatically to improve their experience?

The right format and device

We’ve touched on ways that This American Life enables the right person to get the right content at the right place and time. Four down, three to go. Next, let’s look at how the show reaches people in the right format and on the right device.

People can get the podcasts in lots of ways:

  • Subscribe to the podcast from iTunes or Stitcher
  • Download the current episode from the website
  • Stream episodes from the radio archive
  • Download episodes via iTunes and Amazon
  • Stream episodes via This American Life
  • Purchase CDs of the best episodes

And, as mentioned above, for those who prefer reading to listening, This American Life also offers transcripts of every episode. Interestingly, they include this disclaimer:

“Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.”

As for accommodating a variety of devices, the website – as you would expect – has a mobile version that’s well-suited to small screens.


The home page looks like this on an iPhone.


The This American Life app looks like this.

ASK YOURSELF: How do we enable our customers to consume our content in what they would consider the right formats on the right devices?

The right language

The last right in our list is language. While This American Life does not appear to translate its podcasts into languages other than English, it does have customized home pages for Canadian and Australian listeners. It’s a nice touch that increases its relevance for these listeners.

ASK YOURSELF: What ways might make sense for us to accommodate audiences in various regions and languages?


Now that we’ve reviewed what Scott Abel calls the seven rights for excellent customer experiences with content, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve noticed the parallels with the classic definition of intelligent content: “content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.” It’s by creating content with these qualities that the folks at This American Life – and other organizations – can do such a stellar job of delivering on those “rights” and putting the user at the center of their content strategy.

What are some other examples of content that puts users at the center? Leave us a note below. Or, if you want to share your favorite This American Life moments, feel free to do that as well.

Learn more

You can purchase access to the video recordings of all conference sessions (except workshops), including Scott’s “seven rights” talk, at the Intelligent Content Conference 2015 Video On Demand Showcase Site.

For more on this topic, check out How to Create Content That Resonates With Every Reader: The 7 Rights of Content by Andrea Fryrear.

Want to learn more about intelligent content? Sign up for the Intelligent Content weekly email newsletter. Not only will you receive our new posts, but you’ll also get an exclusive article from Robert Rose each week.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

By mlinn published March 1, 2015

The Next Generation of Content Marketing: 6 Insights About Intelligent Content

Linn-Intelligent-Content-CoverIn a few of the interviews I have done recently, people have asked some variation of the question: What gets you most excited about content marketing these days?

While I’m constantly interested in and thinking about content, one of the ideas that excites me most is intelligent content and the conversation that surrounds it.Continue Reading

By mlinn published January 2, 2015

10 Research-Driven Insights about Content Marketers in 2015


Each year we publish a series of core research reports that highlights the state of content marketing:

While you can read the individual findings at the links above, it’s useful to look at the trends and differences across each of these markets.Continue Reading

By mlinn published January 1, 2015

A Blueprint to Jump-Start Your Content Marketing Strategy


Even though CMI’s mission is to advance the practice of content marketing, we find that a lot of people still need help with the basics. Even more specifically, people need help connecting the dots with all of the information available (and, according to Google Trends, searches for content marketing have been skyrocketing).

In 2014, we published a series of posts to help marketers get back to the basics of content marketing or to improve what they are doing. In case you missed some or all of the series, here is a quick primer.Continue Reading

By mlinn published December 29, 2014

125+ Most Thought-Provoking Tweets from the 2014 #CMWorld Twitter Chats


If you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong #contentmarketing #CMWorld

Andy Crestodina @crestodina

This sentiment from Andy Crestodina aptly describes our feelings about our #CMWorld Twitter chat community, which is hundreds of content marketers strong.Continue Reading

By mlinn published December 25, 2014

14 Checklists, Scorecards, and Worksheets to Set Up Content Marketing Success

Content-Marketing-Success Cover

I’ll admit it. I have a love-hate relationship with checklists (and templates, which we shared in yesterday’s post). On one hand, I thrive on process and consistency. On the other hand, I think check-the-box mentality can result in unoriginal and rote thinking.

That said, checklists are great for some activities. When you have so many moving parts, lists can keep you grounded. Or, if you want to figure out how to tackle a new project, templates can provide the framework to get started.Continue Reading

By mlinn published December 24, 2014

Essential Templates to Help with Content Marketing, Social Media, and Influencer Marketing Planning


Whenever I look at the stats to see how CMI’s content is performing (which I do more often than I like to admit), one conclusion is always clear: You LOVE templates. We published template roundups in 2011 and 2013, which consistently receive a lot of traffic, even years later.

As I was reviewing the templates we have, I realized they fall into three categories: editorial planning, social media, and influencer marketing. If you are someone who loves Excel (and we know from our #CMWorld Twitter chats that many of you do), then this list is for you.

Continue Reading

By mlinn published November 14, 2014

4 Content Marketing Initiatives You Need in 2015

B2C Research Roundtable We all know content marketers are working on too much, but some of our latest research puts this challenge into perspective.

When presented with a list of 28 initiatives, B2C marketers indicated they are working on an average of 13 initiatives now, and they’ll be working on an additional nine initiatives on average in the next 12 months. And, these initiatives aren’t easily achieved (i.e., better converting website visitors, creating higher-quality content, developing a better mobile strategy).Continue Reading