Damn It Feels Good to Be a Content Strategist in NY

According to Indeed.com, a job posting site, content strategists in NY earn 25% higher salaries than worldwide. That’s good news for the home team!

View Larger Salary Graph

Content Strategy is still such a new concept to most CEO’s, so it’s an exciting field to be in at the moment as more and more jobs pop up. And it’s not surprising that NY is where the most competitive salaries are being offered. This is probably where companies are located that are most willing and able to invest in the cutting-edge, highly valuable yet relatively new “service”.

Hiring someone whose role is to survey and improve your website’s content is not considered a priority by many companies, especially those outside the digital media and web world. So those precious few that realize the value of excellent content and its impact on a business, are likely to invest in the matter.

Companies in the higher educational sector are the least likely to invest in Content Strategy, for a few good reasons outlined in this terrific post by blogger .edu Guru:

…when a problem is so big and you can’t even pinpoint where to start, many will choose to do nothing. Since many university sites lack any comprehensive business or marketing strategy when it comes to the creation and maintenance of content, literally every piece of information gets put out there, and it’s put out there by hoards of individuals that are ultimately not qualified to edit web sites.

It’s a pretty understandable scenario.

Now all I have to do is land one of these buggers.

IDEA: An Infographic of Typical Social Network Users

Last week I posted a comment on Google+ (after remembering that it exists for the 1st time in a few weeks), about how there are too many social media networks to be consistently active in all.

I then wondered: there must be an infographic to illustrate the typical user profile, for each social media site. For instance, typical Flickr users might be completely different from Instagram users in terms of age or profession. I think it would be extremely interesting to see such data, and tried to find some fun, graphically composed poster with bright, bold colors and shapes pointing out just what that data is from a macro and even entertaining perspective.

I came across a few interesting infographics: Social Media Demographics, on Flowtown.com; and Twitter Users Profile, on InfographicsShowcase.com to name a couple.

I’d love to pool these and other related concepts and presentations together, and see what pops out. Or, would getting real actual user data constitute for privacy violation?

Content Detecting Patterns

Spotting patterns is fun. Addictive. And as it turns out, professionally useful.

Especially if you’re a content strategist.

Patterns 1

Street Art, Tel Aviv

Literature & Interpretation

In a literary sense, patterns and themes are woven into texts. This is the type of stuff that non-lit fans claim is “looking too deeply into it”. I feel like you can’t look deep enough, when it comes to analyzing a well-written work of literature as long as you’re in a classroom with a great teacher, or are surrounded by people who know at least as much as you do about the author/topic and are open-minded.

patterns-2

In college, my whole world changed with one literature class – “Comp Lit 333: Psychoanalysis and Literature”. We examined the appearance of certain themes and symbols with psychoanalytic applications, in a wide range of classic and modern literature. Specifically symbols related to narcissism and Ovid’s myth. Ever since this class I cannot help but look twice everytime a mirror or a fountain appear in a love story, or a protagonist refers to his lover’s eyes as pools.

patterns-3

Content Curation & Content Strategy

In the world of content strategy, the ability to notice patterns is huge. A topic that keeps popping up, or a behavior that emerges and suddenly becomes so popular you don’t even notice it anymore. Recognizing these phenomena and calling attention to them is something a content curator like Brain Pickings does. You collect a bunch of something worth sharing, and organize them together under an interesting headline. Other people thank you, for said collection and neat packaging.

patterns-4

I love it.

Here’s an article in The Content Strategist with a slightly more professional explanation of the topic: http://bit.ly/t8It0z.

I think my college literature rofessors would be proud that I’m beyond content detecting patterns.

“The best art makes your head spin with questions. Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clearer.”

– John Maeda, Laws of Simplicity

“Become a light bulb instead of a laser beam…You can either brighten a single point with laser precision, or else use the same light to illuminate everything around you.”

– Nicholas Negroponte

BOOK REVIEW: Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

Laws of Simplicity

This was my first read on design theory – the title, subtitle, cover design and author of Laws of Simplicity all appealed to me at once. The book presents a convincing case for the importance of simplicity and user-friendliness in the field of product design.

The author, John Maeda, is a digital artist and computer scientist. He’s a former Associate Director of MIT’s media lab, and currently the President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
The 10 Laws of Simplicity – Put Simply

There are 10 “laws” of simplicity – each presented as a chapter. My personal favorite is the # 1 Law: Reduce – “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

I even found a nice desktop image of the Reduce law, by the author/digital artist:

Laws of Simplicity - John Maeda - Desktop Pattern

This blog post does a nice job of summarizing each law one by one. They’re pretty straightforward and although I read this book almost a year ago, I only recall the 1st Law causing me to pause a moment in consideration; the rest are sort of common sense presented in style.

Simplicity of Product Design

Apple is constantly referred to throughout the book, for creating consumer products with an emphasis on usable and attractive design. The iPod stands out as a prime example of a product whose form factor contributes significantly to the overall appeal. It’s not just a way to carry music; it’s an attractive, sleek & simple way to carry your music. There’s a discussion of the successive generations of iPod, with improvements made to the physical interface for improved usability. Remember the circular trackpad? Sort of a precursor to gestures.

I especially loved Maeda’s analysis of the iPod’s reflective mirror-like backside, as a way to make the device look and feel even smaller and lighter.

Noteworthy Mentions:

  • Raymond Loewy = Coke bottle, 1930s. Concept of “streamlining”
  • Wolfgang Weingart = master of Swiss typographic design. Repetition breeds simplicity.
  • Paul Rand – logo design for ABC, IBM, UPS, Westinghouse
  • Jonathan Ive – Apple
  • Ikko Tanaka – father of modern Japanese graphic design
  • German design: gestalt. Design fits perfectly with the mind’s idea of what it should be. (e.g. Audi, BMW, Braun)

The Creative Economy and Right-Brained Thinking

fred-tomaselli-fungi-and-flowers1

“Fungi and Flowers”, Fred Tomaselli

One night recently I found myself in an internet wormhole, researching the question of whether a graduate arts degree was worthwhile.

I wound up on a simple, one-page article in the NYTimes from 2008, titled “Let Computers Compute. It’s the Age of the Right Brain“. It discusses the powerful potential of “right-brained” thinking and how it can be applied to the business world. The whole “think outside the box” cliche is essentially this; creative thinking when applied to problem solving can be far, far more valuable than standard, logical approaches.

Programming, number crunching and data analysis can be outsourced; creativity cannot. So for those of us with a creative inclination, this is wonderful news. Right-brained thought is commodified as it is celebrated.

I found it interesting that this article was pre-economy crash of 2008. I don’t think it would have made sense to publish this piece directly after the bank collapses in fall of ’08. So I’m happy this article made its way out there in time.

It’s a message Dr. Sperry seemed to understand when he accepted the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1981. “The great pleasure and feeling in my right brain,” he said, “is more than my left brain can find the words to tell you.”

BOOK REVIEW: Googled by Ken Auletta

Ken Auletta’s book “Googled” is about the birth and development of the company through 2010, when the book was published. It discusses how founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came up with the idea of indexing the web. How Google expanded into such diverse industries as technology, advertising (AdWords and AdSense), media (YouTube), publishing (Google Books), news (Google News), and others.

My job as an SEO content writer is to cater to the whims of Google – making it so my client’s websites perform as well as possible in Google Search. As a Search Engine Marketer at a web start-up, “Googled” is a useful read.

If the internet makes information available, Google seeks to make information accessible. Connecting people to the information they need is Google’s goal. They accomplish this by gathering data about consumers as they search online. The process is refined constantly – an estimated 400 tweaks are made to Google’s algorithm each year. The intentions seem good, and the company is associated with concepts like efficiency, productivity, clarity, usability and simplicity.

Google was a pioneer practitioner of the freemium business model (offering a basic product for free and building a user base before monetizing). Google’s goal is actually to send users away from its site, and toward the information they seek.

Questions raised:

  • Is Google’s corporate culture so prosperous because the stock value is so high? Or the other way around?
  • Where is the boundary between usability and invasion of privacy?
  • Has Eric Shmidt really never taken advantage of the free massages at Googleplex?
  • “Will Google become ‘a source of content, a platform, a destination that seeks to keep people in a walled Google garden?'”

Best Snippets & Quotes:

“I’m a well-trained introvert…Being with people drains me of energy” – Marc Andreessen, Co-Author of Mosaic & Co-Founder of Netscape

“Content is how the consumer chooses to spend time.” – Herbert Allen III

“YouTube succeeded in democratizing information.” – Auletta

“Is Google’s customer the advertiser or the user?” – Auletta

“People with the right information make better decisions for themselves. People presented with the right commercial opportunities will buy things suited for them.” – Sergey Brin

  • Emotional equity = trust by consumers that companies care not only about profits but also about them – Jim Stengel

“Why would you go to work at a place where your contribution is not seen as central to the success of the organization?” – Peter Thiel, CEO of PayPal

  • The emotional power of a commercial is weakened by the informational power of the Web. – Auletta

“Instead of a company asking what’s going to change over the next 5-10 years – you should ask what isn’t going to change?” – Jeff Bezos

“If you don’t listen to your customers, someone else will” – Sam Walton

“You know you’ve won when the government stops you.” – Ted Turner

“Insecurity tends to breed fear, and at worst, paranoid. Neither emotion produces clarity.” – Auletta

New things/people/concepts to explore:

  • Irwin Gotlieb
  • “Faustian”
  • the semantic web
  • Talgam (conductor)
  • Google employees are given the opportunity to spend 20% of their time at work on “passion projects”. Marissa Meyer claims over half of Google’s products are results of the 20% time.

Further reading:

  • The Cathedral and the Bazaar” – Eric Steven Raymond, 1997, Linux developer
  • Bill Gates’ “creative capitalism” speech – 2007, Harvard graduation ; 2008 – World Economic Forum, Davos
  • The Big Switch, Nicholas Carr
  • The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
  • DLD – Digital, Life, Design Conference in Munich

Content Strategy is Like the Tao

Content Strategy is like the Tao. You cannot speak of it, for then it will cease to exist.

@GerryMcGovern, a web expert with 18 years of experience, wrote ablog post today in which he declares “content” something that is best when not mentioned to senior management. CEO’s don’t place content at the top of their bottom line. Or the bottom of it. Or wherever is the best place for a concept in relation to a company’s “bottom line”. So when pitching content strategy to your CEO, McGovern posits, it needs to be presented in words that make sense to the CEO, and senior management. Things like improving the user experience, lowering the churn rate, enhancing sales flow, etc. are much more relevant and attractive concepts to someone managing a brand.

My take on McGovern is that he actually does believe in content, and content strategy. But that content strategy must grow a sort of thicker skin, or something, in order to thrive. It is sort of upsetting to read this, but I think McGovern sort of realizes this, and is rationalizing it by acknowledging it, and suggesting a strategy-to-strengthen-the-strategy.

Reminds me of an old SNL skit with Will Ferrel as George Bush, and the word “strategerie”.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: