Blogging is no more about writing content than running a TV network is about starring in a hit show.
Until you embrace that blogging and content development are two separate & distinct practices, you will be stuck in an endless cycle of never creating enough, or on on time.
Part 1 -Why Blogging Is Like Running A Television NetworkA big part of “blogging” is about scheduling the content, structuring the blog, inter-linking the posts, and a number of other tasks that are critical to the blog’s success, but have little to do with actually creating the content.
Turns out, there’s a similar job within television networks, and that person is the Media Coordinator.
If you were the Media Coordinator for a television network, the core of your job would be to have an intimate understanding of your network’s target demographics & develop a schedule that airs similarly themed content within the same time block .
That’s why it’s called “Programming.” You’re scheduling similar content so it attracts the same market at the same time every week. Doing this doesn’t just keep people on your network longer, it means you can reliably report demographic data to advertisers.
As the audience grows, so can the cost of your ad units.
Online, this could operate similarly, and some blogs like Buzzfeed and EliteDaily are stepping in the right direction, but the truth is, most blog editors and independent publishers just aren’t there yet.
The other reason is when most of us were wondering, “how do I start a blog?” we were thinking about the technical side, not about viewing the blog as a channel for “layering” content.
We’ve locked ourselves into thinking blogs can only be for one audience. While this may have been true in the early days of blogging, readers have grown and matured. It’s ok to appeal to different audiences. TV’s done that for years.
I honestly believe if you take a step back and separate running a blog from content creation, you’ll give yourself a new level of clarity, as well as give your readers room to grow and enjoy the content.
The Monumental Impact This Will Have On Your Content CalendarOnce you start thinking like a media planner, you have to think about the variety of content you’d like to publish.
At this stage, we’re still not talking about content creation, but rather developing a framework that allows a different styles of content to be featured, with a theme that ties everything together.
First, Let’s Talk About The Overall Structure Of Your BlogIf you look at the Fox schedule above, you see the theme between all of the content being aired around the same time. When you’re starting a blog, this isn’t done through the time you publish, but rather by the categories on your site.
For example, if I believe “Online marketing” breaks down to “Analytics,” “Landing Pages” and “PPC,” those would be the major categories on my site—and these topics would become the framework for pretty much all of the content I publish later.
Tentpole FeaturesLet’s use TV network AMC as an example.
As a network, AMC is primarily known for three shows—Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead—all of which air in “prime-time” slots.
On the surface, shows about a chemistry teacher, an ad executive, and the zombie apocalypse couldn’t be any more different. That variety has been critical to the unknown network’s growth, because it attracts multiple demographics to the same network.
But what makes each of these shows uniquely AMC’s content is that each is character-driven, no-holds-barred high drama. This thread makes it easier for portions of the audiences to overlap, without sacrificing the dimensionality of the network as a whole.
For example, if your blog were about “Online Marketing” you might do an interview-style podcast for the “Analytics” category, a review-style Youtube show for “Landing Pages,” and in-depth tutorials for “PPC.”
With these Tentpole features you’re allowed to do two very important things:
- Focus on growing specific audiences for each Tentpole feature.
- Cross promote Tentpoles to overlap audience.
Secondary FeaturesSecondary Features on a television network are the shows that are good but don’t have the same draw as the Tentpoles.
For AMC, these would be shows like Talking Dead, Comic Book Men, The Killing, or Hell On Wheels. These original shows might air right before or after the Tentpoles, or act as stand-ins taking over the Tentpole’s time spot while the Tentpole is working on the next season.
These shows can still be quite good, and if they develop a strong enough following, can become a Tentpole all on their own.
If you want to keep your publishing schedule consistent between the publishing of your main features, start working with guest bloggers to develop secondary features to round out your content categories.
For example, if your “prime-time” content in the “Analytics” category is the podcast, a secondary feature would be a great guest blogger covering additional Analytics topics—making the category fleshed out and more comprehensive.
Syndicated ContentIn television, this is content that comes cheap and runs when the majority of people aren’t watching. Looking at AMC’s lineup as I write this post, I see movies like Scream, Ghost, Men in Black and X-Men.
If you adopt this strategy within your blog categories, you would include video embeds, podcasts, and links to compelling articles with additional commentary.
The idea behind including this type of content is to continue to provide value without being responsible for the content’s creation. Though this requires less effort on your end, it still hinges on your ability to be a good curator. This becomes easier when you use services like Prismatic or OpenTopic.
Paid Programming (Infomercials)Finally, have you ever noticed that pretty much every television network seems to run infomercials? For the network, this is a great way to generate income while someone else pays to occupies the airwaves during the odd hours.
Some infomercial-type content you could publish might be:
- Affiliate products you support
- Sponsored blog posts (PayPerPost & ReviewMe are popular options)
- Beneficial Continuity Programs
The trick in using this direct sales approach is to make sure it’s very clearly marked, so people can choose to ignore it if they want. The truth is, as long as it’s a regular part of your content mix, it shouldn’t cause too many problems either.
And Just As A Quick ReminderEverything we’ve been talking about until now is about planning what kind of content is going to be featured on the blog, how it will fit together, and the overall content mix—not actually creating the content.
It’s important that you develop this framework ahead of time, and not jump to developing, because the blog can become convoluted mess that’s overwhelming to manage.
I wrote an article for Unbounce recently that goes into great detail on developing the content calendar and analyze the goals
Only after you have this stuff in place should you start looking into actually diving in and developing the content.
Part 2 – How Content Development Is Like Creating A TV ShowTake a minute to switch sides of your brain because now we’re looking at the content creation process.
For the sake of this brevity (hah!) I’m only going to talk about developing Tentpole Features here, because for the most part, your secondary and syndicated audience will end up being a smaller portion of your core viewership.
If there’s one rule you should follow when developing a feature, it’s this: know your audience!
It’s cliche, I know, but if you want to create great features, you must know who they’re for.