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Talking Content Marketing – Interview With Tom Webster

Interview With Tom Webster_The ID Group_Content Marketing Consultancy Lets keep the Talking Content momentum flowing with an interview with Tom Webster.

Tom is Vice President of Strategy for Edison Research (best known as the sole providers of U.S. Election exit polling data for the past ten years). He has been studying consumer behavior–what we do, and why we do it–for two decades. Tom tells the stories of numbers.

Six answers, six questions where we look at the end of the age of the independent blogger, audiences, being human and how Tom learns.

You’ve stated that the ‘age of the independent blogger is over’. Is it now even harder than ever to be found and others to read/hear our perspectives?

Absolutely it is! Think about all the content that we are consuming now, and its provenance. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Business Insider, and Medium (to name but a few) have become formidable content machines, and authorship has taken a back seat to “reach.” The big bloggers are still the big bloggers, of course, and many have seen their traffic grow. But the ones in the middle–bloggers who had modest audiences–are facing a withering torrent of competition for audience, and there’s no question that those audiences are being siphoned away.

Of course, when I say that the “age of the independent blogger” is over I will no doubt be assailed by anecdotal evidence to the contrary. But I think that “the age of…” means “the dominant paradigm.” Independent bloggers are no longer the dominant paradigm.

Before companies jump feet first with a content mindset, is the importance of understanding who the audience is first, the most important aspect to consider?

Given what I noted in my answer to your first question, I think it is incumbent upon companies who want to attract an audience to understand that audience first. It used to be that if you were a software vendor, your competition was other software vendors. But if you are a software vendor trying to gain competitive advantage through content marketing, your competition is Buzzfeed, like it or not. You can write helpful content, answer questions, and create all kinds of marketing and sales support content. But if you want to compete on the big stage, you have to think like a media brand. Media companies start with audience.

We certainly don’t have a shortage of content anymore. Should we not worry too much about the abundance of information but more about the ‘landscape of the content you are sharing (as highlighted in your ‘Rethinking Content Curation’ article)

I am a firm believer in the power of humans. Algorithms can piece together content that I might like given my previous clickstream history, but no algorithm can tell me why I should bother. Humans can do that. Honestly, I think Twitter should invest in more humans to curate and prune really helpful and high signal-to-noise specialty lists to make their service more useful. The good stuff is out there–it’s just harder to find.

In order to become successful with the content we create, is it vital to represent our own voice and not the voice of others (or what we think our audience should be reading)?

That’s a false choice, I think. You absolutely need your own voice–that’s the secret to not becoming a commodity–but you need to understand where your audience is at all times. Too much content marketing is based around buyer profiles and the like. I don’t know about you, but a very, very small percentage of my readers are likely “buyers” of my services. So I don’t write as if they are.

I do have three basic criteria for any content, whether it’s the content I create, or the content I choose to consume. Content should fulfill at least one of these three conditions: It entertains, it challenges, or it comes from genuine expertise–not content marketing expertise, but actual subject matter expertise.

In terms of shaping your opinion and way that the world is changing, how do you learn?

I question everything at least three times. I don’t allow myself to be satisfied with assumptions, received wisdom, or crappy data. I also keep a very, very open mind. One of my personal mantras is to treat data as if it’s information, not “evidence.” I wrote about that here–it’s one of my personal favorites from my blog: http://brandsavant.com/brandsavant/information-vs-evidence

Who are the content curators that you would never press the ‘unsubscribe’ button?

No one is immune to the unsubscribe button. I think that’s the best thing I can say here–you don’t own your audience.


Thanks to Tom for his time and insights, why not head over to the spaces where Tom shares his voice.

Tom’s blog: click here

Edison Research: click here

Tom’s Podcast ‘The Marketing Champion’ (with Mark Schaefer): click here

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