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Understanding The Rules of Great Content

In your quest for creating excellent content, you may have come across the following dilemma: I would love to create something important for my blog, but how do I, as a “mere” blogger contribute to that conversation at large? If I don’t create something de novo, will it be worth posting?

To answer that question, let me tell you about the 1 / 9 / 90 rule — and, in my humble opinion, its a rule that every blogger ought to live (and subsequently), die by.

A few months ago when I started blogging, I came across the transcripts of an SEO conference, where someone was overheard to have described how individuals (read: bloggers) create and interact with content.

1% create content
9% enrich content
90% consume content

I don’t know how much of this is true, but I take the spirit of it to BE true. Namely, that only a tiny fraction of us will actually create novel, ground breaking stuff, whether its reporting on new news that nobody else has found, or publishing research that no one else has done for example.

And I touched upon this in a prior post last week, but because only a tiny percentage of bloggers will create novel content, we ought to console ourselves with the knowledge that yes – it is “ok” to not be in that “1%” all the time.

Because we don’t all have the time, energy, contacts, or resources, to create that kind of novel content. And in the day-to-day swing of things, with the usual challenges of regular and daily postings, I would even suggest that you NOT let those kinds of posts interrupt your usual blogging activities.

While quality should never be sacrificed by quantity, keeping up a certain regular posting frequency is crucial to your blog’s success. Having said that, its clear where you OUGHT to be, if you can’t be in that 1% all the time — and that’s in the 9% … enriching existing content.

Its sort of like how the game of basketball has been described to me: talent might get you baskets, but defence is all about the hustle. Similarly, I view creating novel content the “talent”, and enriching the content, the “hustle”. So, what do I mean, by “enriching the content”? Its only the recognition that MOST of the time, novel content is created by others — but that you, as a blogger, have something worthwhile contributing to the conversation.

At its most literal level, its the permission to, heck yes, report on other content. But, keeping the spirit of “enrichment” alive, it also doesn’t mean mindlessly contributing to the echochamber.

How can you do this?

Its real simple.

Whenever you find something noteworthy someone else has already written about, whether its news,tips, or what have you, do NOT simply regurgitate what they’re saying in your own words, or, God forbid, simply “quote” them and leave a “for more information, go here” type of link with a one liner on your opinion.

(and yes, you should ALWAYS attribute your sources).

If you do, you’re not enriching content at all … merely parroting what someone else has done. This creates Bad Content, and demonstrates nothing about your knowledge, and perpetuates the stereotype that bloggers know nothing, contribute nothing, and merely quote other sources.

So, what can you do?

Use that original source as a springboard to your own thoughts, ideas, and commentary. So, specifically, what does this mean? Here are some suggestions:

If its news:

1. Comment on your own experience with the ideas on the source material
2. Put the news into historical context
3. Discuss how the source material might affect the rest of the industry at large
4. Connect how seemingly unrelated news might affect an industry
5. Summarize the prevailing news related to the source (with links)
6. Explore reasons why the news is good / bad above and beyond the scope of the article

If they’re tips/how’to/lists:

1. Add your own suggestions (i.e. give another 5 items for a list):
2. Discuss how some tips aren’t actually worthy of the list — and give reasons
3. Review your own history with these tips
4. Comment on if these tips are actually useful
5. Implement these tips, and report on your results
6. Create a related list on an issue that you think is even more important (that the authored missed)

If its a review:

1. Describe your own exeriences with the product — agree, disagree, with original review
2. Do your own review, with the original review as a springboard
3. Comment on what you would have liked to have seen reviewed
4. Put the review in an industry context; what were people expecting? Did it meet expectations?
5. Compare it to an existing line of products
6. Explore where the product or service might lead to developments in the future

So, what am I advocating here? That to produce good content, yes, of course you cannot rehash stuff that is everywhere else. On the other hand, its unrealistic to believe that you’re going to create new stuff out of thin air — all the time. You can’t let that desire consume you, or stall your blogging efforts.

Rather, a regular part of blogging will require you to take the time to create content by enriching others content. There’s a way to do it and to do it intelligently. And yes … it *does* sound like I’m suggesting that perhaps there was some use for that critical writing class back in high school.

Because that’s all that “enriching content” means … providing a critical perspective and commentary to existing content.
And if you do that, you’ll be on your way to hustling your way to the top, rather than languishing your way to the bottom.

*Tony Hung guest blogs every thursday. He usually blogs at Deep Jive Interests

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Comments

  1. David Krug says:

    When you start creating lots of content you tend to leave something wanting in the consumption arena. So its a hard ball to juggle. Good post Darren.

  2. Darren Rowse says:

    Actually – it was a good post… Tony :-)

  3. Allen.H says:

    I think there’s a tiny border between those who “enrich” content and those who “recycle” it. Nevertheless – the difference in the result is huge.

    Those who recycle content in my opinion go out, read blogs with good content, but not necessarily a well known blog, get the main idea of any post, and just reword, reformat, and repost it. I’ve seen this happen 1 or 2 times with my own personal blog. But then again – i get only dozens of visitors, so i wonder how will i cope with this when it gets a bit more traffic.

    Great post Tony!
    Allen.H

  4. David Krug says:

    Oh woops helps if I read the author area. You need pics or something in the posts so I can tell who wrote it.

  5. Richie says:

    I put myself under a lot pressure when starting my blog to create original content, but under the stress of regular posting I decided that my original content was actually suffering due to the time constraints. Now I try to create original content once or twice a week, with the other postings being based on stuff I find on the net.

    This way, I think the quality of my original content is a lot higher. At the same time, I never just stick up a link without adding something to it-what you describe as “the hustle”. I think the hustle is a justifiable way of maintaining a high-quality blog without the pressure of constantly being new and original.

  6. Nick says:

    This is usually the case with many political bloggers in which punditry is actually encouraged…

    And as long as you have an interesting take on the issues, original content doesn’t have to be your master… although, it does make a good mistress =)

  7. Nick says:

    P.S to tony, yet another excellent post… you’re on a roll!

  8. Ron Fontaine says:

    The truly great content, and the stuff that will get you a following, is as Original as possible. Original ideas and experiences are what people are looking for over the oft repeated regurgitated drivil found in most blogs.

  9. This post came at a great time for me. I’ve been working towards starting a new information based blog (not quite ready to publish it yet) and recently came across a resource that contained much of what I wanted to say. But I definitely can add and interpret to be part of the 9%, even though I’ll be in the 1% less often than I’d hoped.

  10. Tony, nice post! Good job entering that elusive 1%.

  11. Lyman Reed says:

    Thank you, Tony. I implemented some of the suggestions in this article, and actually wrote something useful, rather than just saying “Hey, go look at this…” Outstanding post.

  12. Izual says:

    Thx needed that. this one will be bookmarked, for times I’m in doubt again, and again.

  13. Will says:

    It’s hard to try to write original content for your site, as there are so many things and topics that are already covered. So with that, I try to write content original to myself.

    I try to write about personal experience. If I come across something in life, or on the Internet, or on my computer, I try to think of a way I can express what I’ve found with other people. I tend to use alot of applications in my Web Design, so I compile a list of the top ones I use, do some research on the apps, and I have original content.

    Maybe I had some trouble in my IT department networking computers. After I’m done I site down and write my process out into an article.

    Stuff like that I find is easier to write about and be good, then pulling new content and articles from thin air.

  14. john says:

    “…do NOT simply regurgitate what they’re saying in your own words, or, God forbid, simply “quote” them and leave a “for more information, go here” type of link with a one liner on your opinion”

    I found this part quite amusing considering that this is EXACTLY what Darren does on his ‘Photolog’ and “Camera Phone’ blogs…

  15. Good to find Richie here as well.

    Tony this was a succint and usable digest. I heard it defined by a journalist guest speaker at one of our live events that we ought to consider ourselves “filters”. It is our obligation to imprint and infuse the information with our own take, ideas, experience, etc.

    You make it very actionable, thank you.

  16. I guess one aspect of the “write original content” idiom, in regards to virtually everything already having been written by someone, somewhere, is that while that may be (almost) accurate, it’s not like a lot of it is even properly indexed, or displayed to a large audience.

    That is what makes the difference. Write good, compelling content, that is original so far as it is not simply regurgitated stuff people *see* everywhere, and use that to leverage ever increasing traffic – and the two start to work.

    Matt

  17. Wise Bread says:

    Jakob Nielsen reported the 1/9/90 rule in an Oct ’06 useit.com article:

    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html

    That inequality is not just for bloggers, but applies to the rest of the Internet AND society! That means what we see in Digg, forums, blogs, email threads, etc etc is basically controlled by the most vocal 10 percent of society.

    If someone is a “blogger”, then they’re already in the rarified 10 percent level.

    Cheers, Greg

  18. Tony says:

    Greg — great pick up. I knew I picked up that rule from somewhere. ;)

    Cheers
    tony.

  19. Tony says:

    Valeria,

    I think its a job we should all be doing to a greater or lesser extent as bloggers. Great point. ;)

    Cheers
    t

  20. Sarit says:

    Well, this post just summed up almost everything I learnt in a year of blogging. I guess if it makes sense for so many people- you’ve got it all right, Darren.

    Of course, I am going to write my own opinion about this post- but that just proves I’ve learnt something :)

  21. Come to think of it, this really is a great post. I myself have been feeling kinda guilty and queasy about just re-wording other people’s posts and putting it on my blogs.(I run a a gadget blog which has been abandoned for a while, but i hope to resume soon). But the 1-9-90 rule has sparked up new ideas in my mind. first of all I’m gonna do a post on it a blog i run with a couple of friends(www.unilagfaces.com), then I’m gonna try out the stuff in the post.
    Big ups Tony…Nice one indeed.

  22. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. It’s amazing how many times I have gone into a panic thinking of what I would write next, fretting over the idea that I would have to come up with something fresh, shiny, new, novel, breaking.

    I’ve actually not written about certain subjects thinking that someone surely has written about it already, why would they want to hear it from me?

    This puts my mind at ease and as Gideon mentioned, sparks some ideas. Thanks for the post.

    Cheers,
    Ryan

  23. Jim Lane says:

    Something that might bear on this would be the purpose one started their blog. In my case, I found a lot of co-faculty were totally out of tune with what was going on in martketing today – they were stuck in their pasts and textbooks, so I decided to aggregate information into one place they could find it so they would not have to hunt for it. Consequently, reportage was the main thrust of what I was doing. Over time, I have added some atitude/analysis to those posts, but largely, I blog to provide a service for those who do not have the time, knowledge or energy to do it.

    Your post makes a great deal of sense if you are blogging for yourself, but if it is for someone else, then your audience/target market will dictate the way you approach blogging. There is no one rule fitting all situations and, is my case, reportage would be the most appropriate.

  24. basketer says:

    Awesome article. The way you write things make it look so simple and intutive. I am actually wondering why I didn’t do that before. This is .like a golden post for me which I can follow when in need. Thanks!keep them coming.

  25. Creating value for your readers is the single most important thing a blogger can do for themselves, and for their audiences. If you’re creating value, then readers are getting practical advice and great benefits out of reading your content. If you follow this advice, your blog will go far.

Trackbacks

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