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An updated guide to designing for the web
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He was also editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal for thirty years.You read that right… for THIRTY YEARS.
During those thirty years, he learned some important lessons about the type of content that people really want to read.
He reveals these lessons in his autobiography called “The Americanization of Edward Bok The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After” (1921).
Bok’s Three Lessons on Choosing Content Marketing Topics
Here are 3 of his lessons:
1. Don’t write “down” to people.
Bok said, “…the average popular magazine of 1889 failed of large success because it wrote down to the public—a grievous mistake that so many editors have made and still make.No one wants to be told, either directly or indirectly, that he knows less than he does, or even that he knows as little as he does: every one is benefited by the opposite implication, and the public will always follow the leader who comprehends this bit of psychology.There is always a happy medium between shooting over the public’s head and shooting too far under it. And it is because of the latter aim that we find the modern popular magazine the worthless thing that, in so many instances, it is to-day.”
Think about the type of content you enjoy most.
Is it content that talks down to you and makes you feel like anidiot?
Or is it content that speaks to you as theintelligent personyou are?
The kind of content I enjoy most is the kind that speaks to me as anequal,shares intriguing insights, orhelpful information.
It is information that make mefeel better about myselformy situation.
It is not the kind that makes me feel stupid or hopeless.
You need to make sure thatthe topics you chooseandthe ways that you address these topicsdo the same.
Now let’s look at Bok’s next counter-intuitive suggestion.
2. Don’t give the public what they say they want.
That might sound like strange advice, but listen to why he advises this.
Bok said, “It is the rare editor who rightly gauges his public psychology. Perhaps that is why, in the enormous growth of the modern magazine, there have been produced so few successful editors. The average editor is obsessed with the idea of ‘giving the public what it wants,’ whereas, in fact,the public, while it knows what it wants when it sees it, cannot clearly express its wants, and never wants the thing that it does ask for, although it thinks it does at the time.But woe to the editor and his periodical if he heeds that siren voice!”
This reminds me a lot of what Steve Jobs said,“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
When I write blog posts, I never just write about topics people are wanting.
I try to write about things peopledon’t even know they wantorIat least want to approach common topics in uncommon ways.
Do you see how these post are topics that are beyond what people would even realize they want?
You need to do the same thing when you choose the content you create:move beyond just the topics that people say they want.
If you’re wondering how to do this, then listen to what Bok says about this in his last lesson.
3. Determine what they need by focusing on the basic psychological needs and desires we all have.
Bok said, “The editor has, therefore, no means of finding it out aforehand by putting his ear to the ground. Only by the simplest rules of psychology can he edit rightly so that he may lead, and to the average editor of to-day, it is to be feared, psychology is a closed book.His mind is all too often focused on the circulation and advertising, and all too little on the intangibles that will bring to his periodical the results essential in these respects.“
In my last post, on ContentMarketingInstitute.comI shared some content marketing lessons from Ben Franklinand I said,“Never forget that technology changes constantly, but in general, people do not change. Their collective desires, needs, and even their idiosyncrasies have all remained much the same throughout the centuries.”
Bok is expressing the same kind of idea here.
The topics that he found to be the most popular were the ones where he focused on these types ofcollective desires, needs, and idiosyncrasiesthat are in all of us.
If you want to come up withmagnetic content marketing topics, you must do the same.
When you are searching for topics to create content about, make sure to base them on these basic things.
And when you create content make sure to be as creative and intriguing as you can in how you approach and present these topics.
The next time you sit down to come up with ideas for your content marketing topics, then keep Bok’s unique lessons in mind.