Everything Is Content Marketing

in the same way that everything is event promotion

Everything Is Content Marketing

A while back, I did some training from a PR company in how to get eyes on you, and while things started off fine—make sure you have a nice website that puts your best foot forward, consistent social media handles and post tone, blah blah blah, as it went on, things started to be a bit more... how can I put this ? Vacuous? About finding ways to get yourself quoted in news stories as an expert on something, or getting yourself mentioned by influencers, or making a podcast solely to get people in who might talk you up and I found myself thinking: do I want this? Is there really only 'exposure at any price'?

I'm not saying the things I make or want to make are perfect and should be accepted without question; I'm not saying that (for my businesses) I want to make absolutely no compromise with the commercial world, I'm saying I want to do the thing that I'm doing. If it's Seagull, I want to be doing local news, or at very least admin and tech work that supports the doing of local news. I do not want to be pitching journalists on facile bollocks that'll be forgotten in a few days. If I'm writing or podcasting or making videos, I want to be writing or podcasting or making videos; I want to be making the thing that I'm making, not trying to come up with gimmicks to get eyes on it.

I think this is partly rowing back what I'm talking about in this piece from a few years back. I do agree with my original point that they're actually selling fake dreams, but I have realised that actually the cohort-based courses are often just as bad. Their work has developed a void at its centre; they originally had something their work was about, not a specific topic, but some matter of substance, some desire to communicate their ideas and something about themselves beyond a nakedly commercial grasping. Eventually, though, it does in fact become just sell, sell, sell; it all becomes content marketing

I've been trying to do some video-making because I've not done that in a while and I enjoyed it when I was a teenager. I watched one of the afore-mentioned cohort-based course people's free videos on how to make Youtube videos, and while there's a lot of flanelling about the benefits to the person of just having a time making stuff, so many of the resources are about making videos that might be "successful". Not good, quality always seems to be a secondary consideration; not fun to make, I can't actually think of any time the idea that the creation process itself might be pleasurable is considered. (I find myself put in mind of something I read recently about seeing much more parenting advice about setting your child up for future success than about trying to give them a happy childhood.) The video on actually making your first video is shorter than the video about making thumbnails.

Views are a lagging indicator—once you start chasing that you're already lost. "Is this fun/interesting/good-challenging to make?" might be a better leading indicator. But behind all the puff, they're basically giving you pro tips on how to commercialise your videos. And sure, some of it might be fine—tweaking a title here or there to grab the attention a bit more. You want people to watch these videos, right? Taken individually a lot of these tips seem harmless, but whenever you hear the people giving them talk about how they think about their videos, they seem to have given themselves Terminator vision for getting views.

I know a surprising number of people who make Youtube videos professionally. They range from names you would have heard of if you're into nerd shit to people who are bumping along at a sub-minimum wage level. They all seem to experience it as a job, and not a fun one—a real stressful takes-up-your-whole-life grind. Many of them also seem to have had their brains taken over by the view-o-vision. I remember one of them earnestly suggesting that Seagull cover something some Youtuber was doing to try and get more engagement. They were trying to help and I really appreciated their making the effort, but there was a real disconnect somewhere between "community news" and "biggest leverage to make number go up".

You're always drawing the line somewhere. I think the trick is to work out where you want to draw it without getting pulled into Views Mindset. For most of the stuff I do, the line is "if it even slightly conflicts with the vision I've got for the thing, or my desire to have fun". I've been doing a podcast for nearly ten years and we have never been troubled by worries about listenership, largely because we're not in any way a viable commercial proposition—an active choice on our part. There's a line of David Kadavy's that I frequently find myself thinking of:

I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?

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