Content Inc. Second Edition Review – Impossible Expectations Mostly Met

A review of Content, Inc. – Second Edition by Joe Pulizzi.

The bottom line:

  • Should you buy this book? Yes
  • Will this book be very useful to you? Yes*
  • *Will this book make you want to hurl your phone/tablet/hardback against a wall and imperil your puppy?…. probably several times? Almost certainly…. but the big fixes are easy (… read on)

Disclaimer – When I heard that I could get an early review copy, I jumped at the chance. I read this in digital form and have already ordered a hardback.

I have been in the “content business” since 2006 (though I didn’t know it) when I started my first blog which led to a book. I’ve been an informal student of “content marketing” for at least 9 years. In 2020, I started listening to Mr. Pulizzi’s and Robert Rose’s “This Old Marketing” podcast (highly recommended) and read, and loved, Killing Marketing…. I came to this book with impossibly high expectations.

There are three books colliding uncomfortably inside of “Content, Inc.”:

  1. A history of Mr. Pulizzi’s founding, growth, and sale of his company “Content Marketing Institute”.
  2. A handbook capturing the current state of Content (Content Marketing 3.0?).
  3. A business guide for aspiring Content Entrepreneurs.

2021 is a truly exciting time in the world of content. It is a time of transition with Content Marketing, which Mr. Pulizzi helped found and articulate, is now an established, almost routine part of businesses big and small. But, Content is evolving. It is in the beginning of a merger (or acquisition) of the media industry – a vision set out in Killing Marketing. The online world is in flux with entire new distribution channels like social audio emerging, a newsletter renaissance, privacy is back, the content/creative/passion economy is becoming a movement… and we’re gone through a massive pandemic.

… by rights, the book should be double its size.

It is probably unfair to expect a road map when the terrain is changing so fast.

There is great content on Content everywhere in the book.

But…

Finding it is hard.

The Tilt

The Table of Content follows Mr. Pulizzi’s overall Content Inc. strategy:

  1. The Sweet Spot
  2. The Content Tilt
  3. The Base
  4. Audience Building
  5. Revenue
  6. Diversify
  7. Sell or Go Big

This is more than a content marketing strategy, but a strategy for a content business. While much of this is familiar to anyone who has followed in Content Marketing, the “Content Tilt” is central to Mr. Pulizzi’s approach – the tilt is finding a unique perspective / voice / position / or something on your content topic… finding your “Blue Ocean” in the massive Red Sea of content.

In fact, he considers the Tilt so critical, he is building his next content business at https://www.thetilt.com.

But, the Table of Contents does not break things down to individual sections within chapters (there is a space for an index, but it was not included in the review copy). There is no outline for each chapter, so knowing what to read or focus on (or find a juicy bit again…).

Even worse, each chapter cover page has the line:

“If you’ve got this covered, just skip to the next chapter”

DON’T DO IT.

Instead, get a black marker and cross that phrase out… Problem solved.

Read the whole book.

All of it.

There is gold buried in virtually every chapter. Gold that is worth mining for. I think this was done because Mr. Pulizzi was trying to talk to both experienced content professionals and new content entrepreneurs. But, the lack of lower-level structure makes the book much harder to use for either group. Two such nuggets on Repurposing Content and Collaborative Publishing are hidden in the latter part of “Finding Content Help”… which looks like a chapter on hiring contractors which you might be tempted to skip.

And, the case studies are ALL worth reading. They highlight content tactics and strategies that you may want to “borrow”… or inspire you to tilt on them further.

I’ve provided an expanded Table of Contents at the end of this review. It will both give you a better sense of the content in the book as well as the significant value of the book.

/quibble – Selecting Your Platform Earl(ier)

When I talk to someone considering starting a book, a blog, podcast,the very first thing I tell them is to start collecting email addresses. It was a mistake I made for my 6 years of blogging and almost certainly hurt the success of my book and business at the time. Permission marketing and control of (some) platform is central to smart content marketing as regularly cited by Mr. Pulizzi and has become a mantra of the industry.

It has a good chapter in Content Inc. (Chapter 9).

But, given the centrality of direct audience access and platform control to the resilience of a content business… AND the regularity with which failing to have direct audience access and an independent platform has led to content business failures…

It should be given more visibility.

/endquibble

Mr. Pulizi ends the book with an invitation to “Join the Movement”. It is a generous chapter at the end of a generous book citing the numerous people, books, blogs, and resources that are shaping and reshaping the Content industry today.

I eagerly look forward to the third edition.

The Bottom Line

For the three books within Content Inc.:

  • The story of Mr. Pulizzi’s company Content Marketing Institute is well-told and instructive (how many business’s think about their exit at the beginning…?).
  • For experienced content marketers/businesses/entrepreneurs, don’t skip anything and you’ll find material that you can use today or tomorrow (feel free to skim the new business stuff, just don’t skip anything).
  • For new or aspiring content entrepreneurs, first, Good Luck. Mr. Pulizzi has given you a general approach to build a successful content business. It is just the start however. There is plenty more to learn. Just get started.

Expanded Table of Contents

Introduction

  • What’s the Big Deal
  • The True Story of David and Goliath
    • Goliath the Underdog
    • Changing the Game
  • Entrepreneurs are given bad advice
  • Can Content Inc. be replicated?
  • The Content Inc. future is now
  • The Content Inc. Model
    1. The Sweet Spot
    2. The Content Tilt
    3. The Base
    4. Audience Building
    5. Revenue
    6. Diversify
    7. Sell or Go Big
  • The Audience for this book
  • How this book is organized

Part 1 – Starting the Journey

Chapter 1 – Beginning with the End in Mind

  • A thinking project: Your Ideal Self
  • Two Actions and Their Impact on the Content Inc. approach
  • From Goal areas to Actions
    • Record
    • Repeat
    • Remove
  • Warren Buffet’s 25/5 Rule
  • Do this First
  • Content Inc. In Action
  • What you are risking with a Content Inc. approach
  • What you can control
  • Pulling the Goalie

Chapter 2 – The Content Inc Opportunity

  • What changed
  • Enter Content Inc.
  • A thought on why
  • No Product? That’s Good!
  • Content Inc. Learnings from Napoleon Hill

Part 2 – The Sweet Spot

Chapter 3 – Expertise + Desire

  • Game Theory
  • The Sweet Spot
  • Anthony Fasano (Engineering Management Institute)
  • Allessandra Torre (Torre Ink)
  • Andy Schneider (branded as The Chicken Whisperer)
  • Finding your expertise area
  • Why passion is not mandatory
  • Nothing matters without the audience

Chapter 4 – Audience Deep Dive

  • Who’s the Who
  • The story of River Pools & Spas
  • Making it real
  • Putting it all together

Part 3 – The Content Tilt

Chapter 5 – Tilt or Bust

  • Telling a different story
  • Content titling
  • Case Study: Ann Reardon
  • The odd struggle with startups and content
  • Case Study: Miild
  • What if your content were gone?

Chapter 6 – How to Find and Test the Tilt

  • Use the Amazon.com Press Release method
  • Leverage Google Trends
  • Or… ask a question Google cannot answer
  • Leverage Udemy
  • Ask your potential readers
  • Setting up listening posts
  • Test different tilts
  • Reposition the content area
  • Try Tilting Thoughts
    • Audience Focus
    • Platform Tilting
    • Recombindation
    • Personal Tilting
  • Case Study: David Portnoy
  • Do the work

Chapter 7 – Finalizing the Content Mission

  • Your Content Mission
  • Case Study: Digital Photography School
  • Case Study: Sectionhiker.com
  • Wants, not needs
  • What’s in a name?
  • The Pulizzi Mission

Part 4 – The Base

Chapter 8 – Do One Thing …Great

  • Where to start
  • Master of none
  • Case Study: The Joe Rogan Experience
  • The Six Key Principles

Chapter 9 – Selecting Your Platform

  • Content types
  • Trial and error
  • Choosing a platform
  • Beware of Social Channels
  • Case Study: Twinsthenewtrend
  • The Safest Bet
  • Podcasting on a budget
  • Content Type/Platform Match
  • Platforms in Action

Chapter 10 – Coming up with Ideas

  • The Content Audit
  • 50 Questions
  • Leveraging Freewriting
  • Having fun with Google Alerts
  • Hashtags
  • Analyze your analytics»
  • Employee discussions
  • Ask your social networks
  • Talk to your customers or prospects
  • Helpful tech
  • Read a completely irrelevant book

Chapter 11 – The Content Calendar

  • Plan for consistency
  • The basics
  • The consistency of Michael Schøt
  • Setting up the calendar
  • Keeping your calendar filled and focused
  • Content Velocity
  • Working ahead

Chapter 12 – Finding Content Help

  • Content Roles
  • Chief Content Officer (aka Founder)
  • Managing Editor
  • Chief Listening Officer
  • Director of Audience
  • Channel Master
  • Chief Technologist
  • Creative Director
  • Influencer Relations
  • Freelance and Agency Relations
  • Content Curation Director
  • Outsourcing your content to freelancers
  • How Game Theory Operationalizes Content
  • Budgeting Factors
  • Content through Curation
  • Test First
  • Try Fleecing the Masthead
  • Working with contractors
  • Content help through repurposing
    • The benefits of content repurposing
    • The content repurposing process
    • Get the most out of your own content
  • The Collaborative Publishing Model
    • Why consider collaborative publishing
    • The process

Part 5 – Audience Building

Chapter 13 – The Metric that drives the Model

  • Case Study: Charlotte Labee
  • Quick-Quilting Capital of the World
  • The subscriber hierarchy
  • You need an email offering
  • The email relationship
  • Autoresponders matter

Chapter 14 – Maximum Findability

  • Take advantage of search engine optimization
    • Your “hit list” of key words
  • 12 Keyword selection tips for SEO
  • Make guest appearances in OPC
  • Create more lists with your content
  • Create unique research
  • Answer questions on Quora
  • Syndicate your content
  • Leverage HARO
  • Make sure most of your content is ungated
  • Try Brandscaping
  • Test your titles
  • Consider paid content distribution options
  • Advertise on social media
  • Use news release services

Chapter 15 – Stealing Audience

  • Making the case
  • What’s your goal?
  • Identify Influencer types
  • How can you identify the right influencers?
  • How to manage the program
    • Recommended listening tools
  • Create content worth sharing
  • Build your hit list of influencers
  • Ways to identify potential influencers
  • How many influencers should you add to your pool?
  • Begin outreach
  • Social Media 4-1-1
  • Making the first connection
  • Nurture Influencer Relationships
  • How far can your content go?
  • Assess and optimize the program
  • Measuring the program
  • My first influncer program
  • Getting the attention of influencers

Chapter 16 – Social Media Selection

  • Focus
  • Test
  • Customize
  • Social and other channels
  • The key elements of a social media content plan
  • A note of caution

Part 6 – Revenue

Chapter 17 – Survival Monetization

  • In search of money
  • The benefactor model
  • Making the pivot
  • Generating revenue until the product is identified
  • When should I start monetizing the platform?

Chapter 18 – Building the Revenue Model

  • Revenue Ripples
  • Why more than one
  • Case Study: Chef Michael Symon
  • Content Inc. Revenue Examples
  • Under the Hood: Content Marketing Institute
  • Revenue Options
    • Direct Revenue Options
      • Advertising/Sponsorship
      • Conferences and Events
      • Premium Content
      • Donations
      • Microfunding
      • Affiliate Sales
      • Subscriptions
    • Indirect Revenue Options
      • Win revenue
      • Products
        • Case Study – Slikhaar
      • Services
  • Keep revenue: loyal customers
  • Grow revenue: better customers
  • What if you already sell something?

Part 7 – Diversify

Chapter 19 – Building out Extensions

  • A word of warning
  • The boom in smart speakers
  • Getting started
  • Choosing the right extensions
  • Case Study: Queen
  • The story behind CCO Magazine

Chapter 20 – Acquiring Content Assets

  • Two things
  • The process of acquiring a content platform
  • Final Step: Maintain quality
  • Valuing a Site with No Revenue

Part 8 – Sell or Go Big

Chapter 21 – Exit Planning

  • Your exit
  • Exit planning starts at the beginning
  • (the exit planning process)
  • From contractors to employees

Chapter 22 – Evaluating your Options

  • selling part of the business
  • Intellectual property
  • Venture capital or not
  • Valuation
  • Going the distance
  • Managing burnout

Part 9 – Next Level Content, Inc.

Chapter 23 – Putting it all together

  • The Content Inc. timetable
  • One word: Patience
  • Getting Stuck
  • Are you risking enough?
  • Moving forward

Chapter 24 – Join the movement

  • Next Generation Content Inc.
  • Final thoughts

Acknowledgements

Index (not available in review copy)

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