It’s not so much about ‘consuming’ content as having rubbish rammed down your throat, complains Morag Cuddeford-Jones


I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get up tomorrow morning and consume some content as I consume my Rice Krispies, consume my financial history and consume my calendar for the day. Look – here comes Pinterest with an email promising me ‘New topics you might love’. Well, I’m going to consume the shit out of that content.

Or not. The new topics selected just for me and my browsing pleasure are, in no particular order: Ducati, summer nails, tattoos, iPhone wallpapers, and kitchen and tattoo ideas (in case the first set of tattoos didn’t give me pause for thought).

Now, without telling you more than you ever needed to know about me, let’s delve into this magical example of profiling. I must preface this with the fact that I’m a data tart. I scatter it about with wild abandon. So it’s not like I’m some inscrutable dark horse. Neighhh.

First, Ducati. The only interactions I’ve had with a motorbike are in my dreams and Keanu Reeves is perched atop it (are you noticing a theme here, viz my last column?) I have a beaten up people carrier that is largely held together by cinnamon rolls from the garage and mud from the rugby pitch.

Next, tattoos of every stripe. I confess, I have a tattoo. A small, discreet blotch that even I forget about most of the time. I’m indecisive and can’t decide on jewellery, let alone more permanent adornments. Also, I’m a wimp. I will google anything about avoiding pain. I am not your core tattoo customer.

Summer nails. I live in the UK. Summer was one afternoon three weeks ago. And I’m a slob. My nails are 90% tissue paper and best viewed while I’m sitting on my hands to hide them.

iPhone wallpapers. I’m not 13. Moving on…

Kitchen ideas. Now, here they’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. I have just demolished my old kitchen and am about to build a brand, spanking new one. I am clearly googling ‘kitchens’. And I have a particular taste. Not shiny, not modern, not anything circa 1980s, basically. Shaker, country style – now you’re talking. And my browsing history clearly reflects this. What do I get shown? Gloss, sleek, more gloss.

Poor Pinterest, it’s not just your fault. My inbox is full of similar nonsense and social media isn’t much better. Sponsored posts keep showing me dresses that are admittedly very lovely and even in my price range but designed only to fit tiny Japanese ladies, not an Celtic Boudicca like me.

Brands, your end of term report card says ‘Must. Do. Better.’ You know all this stuff about me, your ads pursue me to the ends of the earth with all the junk I’ve already bought. If I need to know what I could wear this weekend, I don’t go upstairs to my wardrobe, I open Facebook and see what you’ve sold me. But when it comes to offering me content (bloody hell, is there ever a more soulless word in the English language?) your efforts are slapdash at best.

I get the impression marketers and their algorithms are torn. Torn between trying to be the ‘spirit of discovery’, because so many claimed data would kill serendipity and the all-important impulse buy, and being hyper-efficient by showing you just what your data says you want. As a result, what they churn out is usually just a bit …meh.

What’s the answer? If I knew I would be making pots of money doing it, not writing about it dear reader. But I think in the first instance, marketers have got caught up in the idea that the content is the product. It is a product, of sorts, but take it off the pedestal. I scan a blog and glance at an email. I do not consuuuume it. Passion consumes, content informs and occasionally, entertains.

Secondly, stop trying to be all things to all people. You have customer segments for a reason. Hedging your bets just looks a bit mealy-mouthed, stab-in-the-dark-ish. If you’re not sure how to appeal to the whole customer group, pick one that has clearly defined needs and speak directly to that one at least.

Take lessons from the content kings, otherwise known as publishers. They know their audience and talk to them every day. They don’t sidle up to the Grazia reader and tentatively waggle some hard rock content from Kerrang! at them in the hope it’ll stick despite you also be a small but significant sub-group of both readerships. Bauer Media, for example, successfully manages to speak directly to its readerships on a regular basis through its clearly defined mag content – and as a result, these readerships are fully turned on to what each Bauer property has to say.

And you don’t even need to be an expert publisher to get content right – Newmarket Holidays lets pictures do the talking, allowing customers draw themselves into the travel rabbit hole before giving them a path to follow. There is an art to content, one that is increasingly boosted by science. Just, remember to apply the human brain. Don’t let the bots take over.

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