Let's be clear: it's a miracle that you're reading this story right now. After all, the odds are stacked against anything that is published online in 2019 -- of the millions of pieces of content that are produced every day, less than 10 percent receive traffic from Google.
Thanks to the explosion of content marketing in recent years, it's a jungle out there. According to data from eMarketer, 60 percent of marketers create at least one piece of content every day, and it seems like every shoe store, restaurant and influencer has a blog. Though more brands are creating content than ever -- whether on their own platforms, through sponsored content or via partnerships -- they still need to bend over backwards to get people to read it.
So, what exactly is creating this jungle?
For starters, the competition is fierce
No matter the medium, we're all fighting over the same scarce resource: time. Audiences might be consuming more content than ever before, but there's still only so many hours in a day. Your blog post about great hiking trails isn't just competing against other marketing content: It's also competing against editorial, creative and personal digital products. It's you versus Bird Box, The New York Times and everybody's Instagram accounts.
To make matters worse, organic reach is dead
Organic, unpaid reach is now the unicorn of the content industry. Even if your story is great, it's unlikely that your target audience will ever get to see it.
In the earlier days of Facebook, it was incredibly easy to use the site to reach your desired audience. However, the platform then started changing the way it treated organic reach, tweaking the algorithm so that the audiences that companies and news outlets had been working so hard to cultivate were suddenly harder to reach without a paid boost. Engagement dropped 50 percent over 18 months in a survey conducted by Buffer, resulting in a devastating decline for many brands.
The way we're buying content is broken, too
It's incredibly hard to get your content seen without some help. As a single brand, you have limited reach, so you either need your network to share your content with more people or you need to partner up with a media property that comes with a baked-in loyal audience. But I believe the traditional flat-fee model used for content marketing -- where you pay a media property or influencer for placement only, regardless of actual delivery -- just doesn't cut it anymore. This can be attributed to the same problems noted above: First, organic traffic is at an all-time low, and second, even if people are stumbling upon your content, getting them to click on it over other competing content in their feed can be a huge challenge.
For example, a tourism client of mine worked with influencers and media properties to help their travel stories take off. But lately, their numbers have fallen off a cliff. It's not that their stories are suddenly disinteresting, but their partners are still selling on potential reach rather than guaranteed engagement. The content landscape is different today, meaning that a "post and pray" approach simply doesn't attract attention the same way it used to.
Luckily, not all hope is lost
While it's an uphill battle to get your stories in front of the people who matter, it's certainly not impossible.
For one, you can look at new ways to spread your story. The industry is seeing a revival of tactics that are all about having a direct relationship with an audience, such as personalized e-newsletters.
When it comes to sponsored content, I recommend looking for better value by compensating partners for the goals that you're hoping to achieve. Your goal with anyone, whether it's with a media property or an influencer, is to make sure they're leveraging their own reach, newsletters and social media amplification to help push your story even further. If they don't yet have a system in place to accommodate this, propose implementing a "cost per read" model (which we use in my business) that covers their amplification spend. This way, you can help them help you.
And while I certainly advocate for the power of analytics to improve your content's reach (as Peter Drucker famously wrote, "What gets measured, gets managed"), it could also be helpful to get someone else to take a look under the hood for you. After all, bias can cloud your judgment, and when we have specific goals in mind for a story, we may look solely for those wins and miss other trends or issues. Working with an unbiased third party could create an audit-like situation where problems can't hide, in turn providing you with the data you need to make smarter adjustments and improve your content's reach.
Ultimately, the most powerful thing you can do to improve readership is to create content that delights, inspires and informs your audience. Quality over quantity is the name of the game for 2019; clickbait sites are on the decline, while long-form stories presented with beautiful design are attracting serious attention and engagement. There are no shortcuts to capturing an audience; when it comes down to it, you need to tell compelling stories. Thanks for reading mine.