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Newsletter #1023: The “Great Content” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Recently we shared a series of tips from the popular podcast, Serial. One of the most important lessons: People love to share high quality content. But your content doesn’t have to be about a decades-old murder mystery to make something captivating.

Here are three examples:

1. Visual stories
2. Design tutorials
3. Useful information
4. Check it out: Puppy screen cleaner

1. Visual stories

Look At This, an NPR project, shares slideshow pieces on a variety of topics. Everyone hates slideshow articles — the ones that use multiple pages and slides to get more clicks. So why is this one about the end of Chicago’s public housing so good? It uses the format to tell a very visual story. With each new slide, the story’s photo series is enhanced. They highlight architectural design with shading cues, show neighborhood comparisons on a map, and share well-written stories that make you want to “turn the page.”

The lesson: In the end, Look At This uses the slideshow format to play to its strengths in visual storytelling — not SEO or traffic analytics. When you focus on the customer experience first, you tell more effective stories.

Learn more: NPR

2. Design tutorials

The marketing world went nuts over a 16-minute video of a guy building a logo from scratch last year. In it, Draplin Design Company owner Aaron Draplin shows you the fast and loose way he creates a logo from start to finish. He shares both the tactical and the philosophical points of his job, the books he reads, the inspiration he collects, and the way he works. And best of all, he does it in his own authentic, straightforward voice. commissioned the video — but this doesn’t look like marketing — it looks like art.

The lesson: Sixteen minutes is a long time to capture someone’s attention on the internet, but it didn’t stop several publications from sharing it and over one million people from watching it. People love when you can teach them something. And even if it’s knowledge they may never use, if it’s a really good lesson, they’ll stick around for more.

Learn more: Adweek

3. Useful information

Did you know that since 1915, American Express has been creating content for their customers? They started with travel tips and stories on brochures. Then they moved to publishing what became some of the best-selling magazines on newsstands, like Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, and Executive Travel. Now, they’ve created a popular digital content hub for small business owners called OPEN Forum. Notice something in common with these different types of content? None of it focuses on credit cards.

The lesson: If you want to make great content, don’t start with the product. Instead, start with something useful, something entertaining, and something worth sharing. The message about your stuff will follow after.

Learn more: Contently

4. Check it out: Puppy screen cleaner

Not all great content makes sense. Sometimes it just makes you smile.

Check it out: Puppy screen cleaner

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