A Few Thoughts on Content Creation, Monetization, and Strategy

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(Photo credit: Shewatchedthesky)

This is short post on content creation and monetization.

Below is an e-mail I received from a friend of a friend. My answers to him are inline after “TIM”, and I’ve elaborated on a few.

The e-mail itself is also a great example of a thoughtful approach to a busy person (me). I bolded one key phrase.

For those who want to explore further, here are two related posts:

How to Build a High-Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself
Tim Ferriss Scam! Practical Tactics for Dealing with Haters

Now, let’s read that e-mail…

The Email: Questions and Answers

Tim -

I realize you are a very busy man and you mentioned in your last reply that you are taking a couple of months off from doing interviews. I respect your request and, having read your work, understand the motivation behind it. I certainly don’t mean to intrude, but I’m working on a project for my work as a Content Strategist and would greatly appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind taking two minutes to answer two questions. I promise they are short and to the point and that I will not follow up your answers with more questions, unless you specifically allow me to. I thank you for your time in advance.

TIM: No problem :)

The questions are as follows:

When working with brands, specifically big multinational brands, I often run into the mindset that volume and velocity are the most important aspect of content marketing. Yet, it seems to me that agility and ensuring the content is found, consumed, shared and acted upon – meaning that content leads to conversions of direct business value – are more important than simple speed. What is your rule of thumb as it relates to content that keeps you from being in the news business and so focused on specificity while allowing for flexibility in topics and responsiveness?

TIM: You can’t out Fox News Fox News. Timely news-based content turns life (or business) into a keeping up with the Joneses nightmare. I focus on evergreen/useful content that is as valuable 6 months from now as it is the day it’s published. It might mean less immediate traffic, but it means sticky traffic and also Google traffic that will add up to monstrous traffic later. This all factors into conversion and sales, if that’s your priority.

My approach allows great flexibility and offers the option to hit STOP without losing it all. If I stopped writing blog posts tomorrow, I’d still make tons of income from my traffic (via books, start-up intros, speaking gigs, etc.). That was never the primary intent of my writing, but it’s a nice side-effect!

People prefer to trust other people, not brands (e.g. Steve Jobs versus Apple), so I have the advantage of being a single-person-based media provider. Brands can do this by singling out killer personalities to drive their brands (e.g. Bobby Flay for Food Network in the early days).

People want to follow humans, not trademarks. Plan accordingly.

How much of your content is planned vs. responsive?

TIM: 90% planned, at least. I write about the things that capture my attention and imagination, first and foremost. Guessing what other people want is exactly that — guessing. The remaining <10% is experimental and based on reader leads.

As a content marketer, the value of my work is often calculated in the same terms that media ROI is determined by. Yet, working in the digital space, it seems we can be so much more precise as it relates to causation. TV and media metrics often fall into the old logical fallacy of “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (“After this therefore because of this”) Knowing that you are devotee of Drucker’s axiom “that which gets measured gets managed” I wonder what model you use to calculate the ROI of your content. Can you make a recommendation?

TIM: I don’t quantify the profitability of each piece of content, as it would affect my editorial purity and stymie my curiosity to explore things on the edges… yet that’s precisely what’s built my reputation, if I have one!

I write about what most excites me and assume that will hold true for 10,000+ people… if I write about it well. If I get 100 die-hard fans per post like that, I can build an army that will not only consider buying anything I sell later (assuming high quality — most critical!), but they’ll also promote my work as trustworthy to other people. This compounds quickly. The product — here writing — needs to stand on its own two feet.

Furthermore, it’s much more interesting to me to sell something like a small-scale, $10,000-per-seat seminar every 2-3 years, instead of obsessing over monthly, weekly, or even daily Amazon commissions, for instance.

Many high-traffic blogs and publishers are coming to similar conclusions and doing much the same. Optimizing a bad business (or marginally profitable one) is not as elegant as creating a parallel, higher-margin revenue stream. Think TED videos and TED attendance. If TED charged for their videos from the beginning, where would they be now? Near obscurity.

As Warren Buffett once said, “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”

That said, if you’re operating in a CPM-ruled world, you might have other near-term pressures, but I’m building a snowball the size of continents. The catch: it sometimes moves at a glacial pace. Big things take time, but that’s OK — almost nothing can stop a glacier from moving once it reaches critical mass.

Thank you again for your time and consideration in this matter. I certainly appreciate it, as I do all of your work.

TIM: Thank you and my pleasure!

###

AFTERWORD TO READERS: What are your most burning questions about content, whether as craft or business? Please let me know in the commments, and I’d love to hear your own best practices.

Posted on: May 2, 2013.

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118 comments on “A Few Thoughts on Content Creation, Monetization, and Strategy

  1. Tim, You continue to put out such great content. If there is anyone reading this who is not already subscribed to his mailing list….What are you waiting for? Its not just internet strategy, he also goes into many other great topics. You are one of the three that I actually read every post from. Keep it up bud!

    Like

  2. First Poster Woop!! I’ve never said that before (is that what everyone says?)

    Tired of saying how great your content is Tim. You need to create crappy content just to spice things up a bit :P

    Like

  3. Good insights.

    Probably the best takeaway for my business is the idea behind:

    “it’s much more interesting to me to sell something like a small-scale, $10,000-per-seat seminar every 2-3 years, instead of obsessing over monthly, weekly, or even daily Amazon commissions, for instance.”

    I strongly agree with that because it’s more of a challenge to step up to earning and selling out a “high transformational value” seminar. Offering something worth a few bucks anyone can do. Selling (and DELIVERING) massive transformational value I think is more rewarding. It’s probably also likely to help customers get AWESOME results!

    Thanks for the valuable peek into your inbox :-)

    Like

  4. Thanks for both responding to the email, and sharing your response.

    It’s interesting that you don’t quantify earnings on a per-content basis. I set up a custom GA report to do just that and it’s been a big eye opener to see what’s earning well/poorly.

    I’ve made the GA custom report public if anyone wants it: http://bit.ly/ZDau9z

    Thanks again,

    Kevin

    Like

  5. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this email. As a young college kid building a marketing management and consulting business in Austin, this post was especially relevant. I appreciate that your response was not unlike reading your blog posts or perusing your books, so I thought I would post my first comment this evening as a thumbs up.

    Whenever it is appropriate, I would love to see more articles in which you reply to readers or friends in this manner. It would reinforce the principles you share in a directly applicative sense.

    Best,
    Kasai

    Like

  6. I’m Loving that more and more of what I’m coming across right now highlights the value of creating value instead of what I used to find which was all about creating instant results and to hell with anything else.

    Authenticity and forever valid content resonates. The rest doesn’t. Thankyou for further cementing my belief that I’m on the right track!

    Like

  7. Tim thanks for your thoughts.

    Here’s a question: How can we combine entertainment and education?

    Like most of the content you produce is hardcore education. And most of the content that tmz produces is entertainment.

    How can we fuse the two?

    Like

    • The writing genre is called: Creative Non-Fiction. It combines creativity, i.e. story-telling, in a manner that makes the fact-content interesting and fun. It’s “true stories well told.” I just read a great book which describes this genre: YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO WRITING CREATIVE NONFICTION FROM MEMOIR TO LITERARY JOURNALISM AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, by Lee Gutkind.

      Like

  8. Got into the same concern as your email sender had about a customer requesting for daily content writing on their blog. I had to oppose and encouraged them to work on the items you mentioned:

    – evergreen content
    – content that can stand on it’s own feet
    – valuable content even after 6 months

    They settled on twice a week but I have to monitor and see if they are making each piece as useful.

    Like

  9. As a corporate marketer in high tech, it seems that much of what is created is based on what we think is “hot” with our prospect base. I think this email brings up some great points about evergreen topics – those topics that drive searches and engagement month after month, year after year, are the topics that make most sense. Building up a cache of useful content that is laser-targeted to your space over a long period of time would definitely provide the most value for the company, but in a world where “what have you done for me lately” rules, it’s difficult to justify a long-term strategy.

    It would be interesting to hear thoughts on how this can be justified to a management team that is generally only interested in this quarter’s revenue (even though most sales cycles in the high tech circles I frequent are two – six quarters in length).

    Great post, and I know the emailer appreciates the feedback. And it has me thinking about how I can build my own personal brand to ensure long-term career viability.

    Thanks,
    Chuck

    Like

  10. Very interesting take on evergreen content turning into “monstrous” traffic later on. The content is seen as a long term investment.

    Posts where Tim shares his views on business and blogging are some of favorite ones.

    Tim I hope you someday sell recordings of those private coaching sessions you do.

    Like

  11. If your content works optimally on video (i.e tutorials) would you also build a parallel blog to ‘capture’ emails etc in case you wanted to monetize down the track?

    Like

    • @Dan Like your question. Currently trying to use video w/ text on one post per point with an invite to sign up for free for future “episodes” in that series. Point is to develop an email list for a specific practice area for my wife’s law firm. No good data yet though. But she has actually gotten clients thru her site, which is still pretty rare for civil business and real estate trial lawyers.

      BTW, @Tim, found you frm Ed Dales Twitter post just now, and subscribing. Thanks.

      Christopher

      Like

  12. Tim, “People want to follow humans, not trademarks” perfectly and succinctly answers a question I’ve had for the past year about where to go with my brand. I asked the question of Seth Godin last year and his response was like your advice. His example was Martha Stewart — the personality and face in front of a team of experts.

    Choosing a logo/trademark to be the face of a brand, rather than yourself, is so much less scary and safer (feeling). But hearing this from you makes it clear that the reason it’s harder is because it’s the right move. Thanks for driving home this point for me!

    Like

  13. Great and timely post for me. I’m re-focusing my efforts on my blog and content creation for rbutr right now. I have a few ideas which I plan on investing quite a bit of time in to make good solid original posts for long term sticky effect. Hopefully it all comes together to turn our blog in to an industry leading resource, rather than just a ‘what we have been up to’ startup blog.

    Like

  14. Hey Tim, just wanted to say good work on this point specifically:

    “I write about what most excites me and assume that will hold true for 10,000+ people… if I write about it well. If I get 100 die-hard fans per post like that, I can build an army that will not only consider buying anything I sell later (assuming high quality — most critical!), but they’ll also promote my work as trustworthy to other people. This compounds quickly. The product — here writing — needs to stand on its own two feet.”

    I’ve not met you, and probably never will. But I trust your opinion more than most people I know personally. Your recommendations are always very sincere, and credibly so. It’s helped simplify a lot of my purchasing decisions – I’ve never gone wrong buying something you recommended.

    I should say that the one time I felt you missed a beat was with your recent partnership with Merrell. Not because I think they make bad products. But rather, because I didn’t feel you clearly articulated what made you so excited to be working with them, or how you’ve used their products in your own life.

    Usually what makes your testimonials really powerful is that you show how a product has been helpful to you personally. That helps me decide if something would be useful to me.

    You said you’ve been using Merrell for a long time, so I know you’ve got a similar story for their shoes, but unless I missed it, I didn’t see it in your post. I.e. What effects you’ve noticed from barefoot shoes, and what differentiates Merrell from all the other non-vibram barefoot shoes on the market.

    I only mention this because it’s one of the few times I felt you missed a beat. Normally I find your posts very interesting even when the topic isn’t of obvious interest to me. And I know the Merrell campaign is a big deal for both you and them, so I wanted to give you that feedback.

    It’s meant to be well intentioned, so I hope it doesn’t come across the wrong way. And could just be me, I already know a fair bit about barefoot shoes.

    Like

    • Hi Graeme,

      Thank you so much for a very thoughtful comment and kind words. I really do appreciate it!

      This is great feedback and exactly the type of thing I want to hear. Merrell shoes are unique to me, and if I haven’t articulated the reasons I personally use their gear (as well as some stories from over the years), I definitely need to do that.

      Onward and upward! :)

      Tim

      Like

      • Great, looking forward to hearing more!

        I forgot to add, I’m mostly a reader. I had a look at the Merrell videos briefly, but if you told stories in a video but not the blog post then I would have missed it.

        Like

  15. This is great, thanks for posting. Would love to see more posts on content strategy, creation and where you think things are going in the future. Having a blog be a part of a bigger strategy really seems like the right way to go in order to write what you’re curious and passionate about. Thinking …

    Like

  16. Tim do you ever have a problem being to close to a topic or to passionate about a topic to clearly get you thoughts down on paper? What simple methods do you use for getting your head clear when writing? I know you say you write as if you were explaining something to a friend, but what if the subject matter is abstract any tricks for making it more graspable?

    I’ve read those other blog post and still find myself getting stuck at times… Any suggestion would be appreciated!

    Thanks

    Like

    • Have a friend unfamiliar with the subject interview you on the subject! I do this all the time. Be sure to record it all. I did this to break writer’s block when writing my first book and third.

      Tim

      Like

      • This is an excellent suggestion and works well with technical subjects. As a CPA, I constantly find myself having to communicate rather complicated concepts of tax law. I always try to run my content by a couple people outside of my field to make sure I am communicating on a level and with enough background that my audience will understand.

        Tim: Thanks for the info on the WellnessFX testing. Did mine this morning!

        Like

      • Tairuiki thanks for asking that. I had a different question but Tims answer to yours is really helpful for mine: I’m trying to deconstruct a process that comes so second nature to me now it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to be a begginer. This had promted me to take my rough draft instructions and record a couple friends using them and see where they stumble.

        There’s always something useful and actionable in every post – thanks Tim!

        Like

  17. Tim,

    I love the concept of writing whatever takes your fancy, I am a fledgling blogger myself and only really started to feel the joy of it once I stopped obsessing about a niche and decided to write about whatever took my fancy.

    As a newbie to this I have trouble with refining my writing to a level of coherence for other people. How do you go about refining your posts and other content and how do you judge when you’ve written enough vs you’ve written all you have to say.

    Much appreciated!

    Like

    • In my opinion you cannot market to all social platforms, you need to create content to target each platform e.g.

      Stumbleupon – visual
      Reddit – Off beat

      etc

      Like

  18. Thanks for sharing, even a short Q&A’s email like this is very helpful.

    I love your idea of writing about something that will be useful even in 6 months from the day it’s published, really smart.
    Thanks Tim!

    _Leo

    Like

  19. Hey Tim – I notice you include a lot of guest posts on your blog. (They are usually very good.) What is your strategy with them? Do you have in mind a % guest posts vs % your own posts, or is there something larger going on?

    Like

  20. I completely agree that high quality, evergreen content is the best long term strategy, but boy is it tough to remember that sometimes when starting a new site and trying to drive traffic. Thanks for the great reminder.

    -Bob

    Like

  21. Great post and outlook; strategically I couldn’t agree more. What’s so smart about this method is that not only does it add more value/less noise to fans than commodity bloggers (who try and nickel and dime you at every turn), but financially it can be just as rewarding, if not MUCH MORE SO.

    Everything is a market and all variables trend towards equilibrium in the long run. By playing it close to the vest and being selfish, you tend to not get much back from your community, thus really only hurting yourself over time. People have an incredibly acute sense of these things, and react accordingly — hence, you get what you give. So by taking the opposite approach and giving abundantly, outsiders are 10x more appreciative, and often eager to return the favor. This karmic surplus can furthermore compound over time as you continue to be generous over and over again. And when the right opportunity comes along (whether a 10k/seat “opening the kimono” type event or similar), that balance can be cashed out for literally 100+x what you could have made off of just littering your site with dubious product referrals, banner ads and pop-ups. Its a classic win-win for everyone involved, and even the people paying 10k per ticket will be thrilled (so long as you over-deliver on that too :) )

    One of my favorite examples of this outside of blogging is music, with more and more of a focus on free mixtapes to drive traffic, which can be used to compound passionate fans later. You can wallow in obscurity behind your 99 cent iTunes single or eat the cost of the recording session and be headlining festivals two years later. [if I was Ben Horowitz I would insert a reference to Drake's "Started from the Bottom" here]

    Corporate shareholders bitch about the Internet shaking things up but it really is an exciting time, as old Dinosaur business models are being tried by fire and forced to adapt or die. A bottom-up, community-based, give-first movement is as stable a venture as any these days.

    Like

    • Thank you for a great comment, Todd! (and all)

      You wrote:
      “A bottom-up, community-based, give-first movement is as stable a venture as any these days.”

      I would say it is THE most stable, most adaptable venture one can possibly create. It travels with you, no matter the platform or distribution or economy, assuming you don’t build the whole thing in someone’s back yard (e.g. YouTube).

      Cheers,

      Tim

      Like

  22. Tim, thanks for a brief, but useful post. I agree with your focus on rich content that’s actually educational or solves a problem. When we aim for this standard as creators, the long-term will take care of itself.

    Also, your commitment to only post when you have something valuable to say is worth mentioning. In this era of permission marketing, I think it’s easier to engage with a content provider (like yourself) who doesn’t flood me with tepid material. You post rarely, so I know it will be worth my time when you do.

    Finally, it would be awesome if you could elaborate in the future on your “people want to follow humans, not trademarks” comment. This advice seems to be more applicable for personality-based enterprises (like your 4H brand) than a typical company. Thanks!

    Like

  23. I’ve recently (re)branded a new website that is within the realm of health and fitness. The industry is vast but I believe I have a different spin on delivering fitness education and it’s lifestyle benefits.

    Like you said above, it’s better to sell yourself than to sell a crappy product.

    My question is: How do I maintain consistent readership and have individuals return, share and engage in my content?

    I’ve tested ideas with a recent blog that I was fully committed to keeping before I found this “niche”. People would follow my blog but they barely interacted. It was still small, but I’m thinking (and projecting patterns) long term. I’m writing an eBook that I am going to give away for free in hopes of building an early following and showcasing what the site is really about.

    Thanks for your time Tim. 4HWW was the push I needed to create something.

    — Benny

    Like

  24. I’m interested in the how you plan and execute on higher priced (ie 10k seminar) revenue stream. How do you assure that the quality and usefulness matches up to the price tag?

    Like

    • If the seminar is 3 days long, I try and deliver that value in the first 2 hours of the first day. Seriously. That means sparing no expense in terms of time investment, as well as capital (good location, guests, speakers, materials, etc.). I attempted to throw an event better than anything I’d personally ever attended, including similarly priced events.

      Like

  25. 90% planned?!? Wow, that makes a lot of sense, your style is completely all over the map, which makes the posts that much better. You’re not predictable which gives us a reason to come back again and again.

    On a podcast recently I heard someone talking about a blog post in how the goal isn’t to makes a sale immediately, that rarely happens. But to give your reader a reason to come back. You do this very well.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

    Like

  26. Here’s the content marketers dilemma: Step 1 – Create sticky, evergreen content. Step 2 – Do it faster.

    Where do you draw the line on the speed of your content creation?

    I really enjoyed this post and your commentary. Would love to see more in this format.

    Like

    • I truly only think about Step 1. I’m not competing with other blogs. I view myself as competing with internal drive to take the easier path, which is sugar-high traffic over timely stuff that A) I can write more quickly, but B) that will be forgotten just as quickly.

      Tim

      Like

  27. Great point about evergreen content.

    I have a blog on productivity and stress reduction and have found that pieces on new approaches to productivity / stress reduction have a higher cut through as compared to the app Reviews (that I also do).

    GIven your point that makes perfect sense: The apps are likely to go how dated pretty quickly but the fresh approaches prevail.

    It’s good to have that articulated so clearly in a clear concept. Thanks!

    Like

    • Oops: Just re-read my comment and picked up an error (too late). “How dated” should read “out dated” … Dragon Dictate isn’t as perfect as I once thought it was!!!

      BTW I typed the above sentences!
      :-)

      Like

  28. As you requested: “What are your most burning questions about content, whether as a craft or business?” I’ve got one:

    1. I understand, and completely agree with, your philosophy of quality over quantity and writing well on topics you’re passionate about. That, in itself, will create great content and lead to “sticky traffic” (as you put it) who act as a loyal followership and tell all their friends about you. However, what do you recommend doing to “jump-start” that traffic in the first place? How do you hustle your content to get the links/buzz from the highest leverage sources possible? My question assumes you are starting from scratch and don’t already have a group of influential friends already established.

    Like

  29. My career in materials science is really getting started. I’m first author on a couple of papers, and signed over copyright on them without really thinking about it. I discovered, in trying to build on past work, that some publishers only use that copyright to keep other academic publishers away, but others will really defend content from academic use by the authors of that content.

    Any advice for me, before my publishing habits calcify, on how to frame the balance between citation-based “impact factor”, other sorts of impact, and information freedom? Do you see much merit it exploring modes of communication other than traditional journals?

    I’m kind of worried I’ll either fall into the Charybdis of an obscure-but-nice set of publishers, or get eaten alive by the Scylla of well-funded but short-sighted publishers who lock things down first, and ask questions later, if at all.

    Like

  30. the only real question i have right now is: how to find out what is it you (me) really want to do?

    i make a habit of coming up with ideas, many of which get me very exited at first, but then when i ponder actually devoting the time and attention it would take to actually make them happen , i realize i dont want to do them. maybe its fear, or plain lazyness, the only really pleasurable part for me is just thinking them up. so, to summarize, how does one finds out what one wants to devote one’s time?

    Like

    • Ahhh, the question of the day. (And who doesn’t like to think things up without actually doing the work?) You sound like a “scanner” to me. I suggest that you first read about you “condition.” One place to start: REFUSE TO CHOOSE! by Barbara Sher. (I reviewed the book on my blog.) Barbara offers understanding (No, you are NOT lazy!) and tools to help scanners, yes, actually CHOOSE an idea/topic/subject/project and see it through to completion. Once you experience having one of your ideas materialize through your own efforts, you establish motivation and momentum. The process builds both your competence and confidence! And that’s the point: it is the process that matters, not necessarily the end goal, because the process demands that you grow and expand as a human being! To your success!

      Like

  31. Everyone thinks the web is a a lightning fast, state of the art, up to the minute medium, but its not. It’s closer to farming!

    Writing good content is like planting a seed. Interest starts slowly, building up and growing as people find your content and share it. Sure you can hype up a controversial post so that it goes viral but it’s likely to tail off to nothing over time.

    Evergreen content that answers perennial problems is surely the way to build huge readership over the long term. Tim you say ‘still useful in 6 months’, heck, some stuff will still be valid in 6 or even 16 years if you pick your topic well! Way to go IMHO.

    Like

  32. Tim: I am completely agree with you on your point of producing content that is timeless. I have a blog that targets web entrepreneurs and I am beginning to focus more on creating evergreen content. It’s a long-term strategy that may take a while to gain some traction, but in the long run I believe it will be a more effective approach.

    As for “building a snowball the size of a continent” — that is “The Dip” the we must get through. Most people in this business will not stick with it long enough to create that massive snowball. The desire for the quick profit and the easy way are just too tempting.

    Like

  33. Thank you! This is exactly what I’m struggling with.

    I know you advocate stoicism, though I haven’t yet studied it. Are your ideas for content creation in particular related to your reading of any specific author/book/subject? Anyone you’d suggest who provides a philosophical framework for dealing the confusing world of content creation?

    Like

  34. That’s a gamble, that last line: Big things take time, but that’s OK — almost nothing can stop a glacier from moving once it reaches critical mass.

    It is a beautiful line. Powerful. All that time, and you don’t get the snowball effect. You’re screwed.

    I notice that because I’m trying to do the same thing. And I recommend the same to others. But to “sustain” over the long run, you need some form of financial stability (not to mention other “sense and stabilities” that get ignored).

    I’ve been reading you long enough to know that you also subscribe to first covering the bases, then going all out, risking more and more (and hopefully, increasing your chances of gaining more and more).

    But. But. But selling a 10k seminar (or a book) every 2 to 3 years as a strategy. That sounds like the Barbell method (have you read Nassim Taleb’s AntiFragile?). But that is a well-oiled, ancient method.

    But I still feel like a rookie, a few years in the game. That’s my current concern. I don’t have the financial stability that I aspire towards, my content does have it high points, but I am not “shipping” as often as I should.

    And I have no clue why I felt like writing here the way I did. Keep doing what you do man. Rock on and God bless :)

    Like

  35. Confession: After first reading the four hour work week, I used to think you were a short-term thinker. All the talk of happiness being “doing what excites” and “being difficult to get what you want” had me fooled.

    However, this and other posts show that you’re probably one of the most strategic content marketers/bloggers out there today.

    Like

  36. Content marketing makes a lot of sense, but it also seems like a long slow grind. Tim, you seem to be a master at discovering short cuts to massive results. Aren’t there better ways to grow an audience than publishing lots of quality content over a long period of time?

    For example, the 4HWW book did more to build your blog audience, then your blog did to promote the book. Shouldn’t people be more focused on those ‘big ideas’?

    Like

  37. It’s quite surprising the results that are possible when you shift from putting out content on a schedule to putting out the best or most comprehensive content on a subject. I’ve even used arbitrary rules like 10,000 word post minimums to force better content out of clients with a lot of success.

    The best content gets shared. It gets used as a reference. People come back to it. They talk about it. It stops people while average content just passes by.

    There’s also this myth that timeless content can’t also use the Ryan Holiday style hook, that high initial traffic can’t be also high long term traffic. While the “news” blogs use the model of churning out hallow content designed to get attention for a day or two, if they simply delivered something worthwhile after they get that attention, they would get both the quick spike and the slow “glacier.”

    This can’t be done however with low paid writers under pressure to deliver 5-20 posts per day. This combined with a model centering around pageviews, rather than subscribers, time on-site, or real product sales from fans, results in a never ending treadmill rather than building a real asset.

    Half the blog world is trying to force their readers to leave via teeth whitening banners rather than making their readers want to stay and buy their own products at higher conversion rates and much higher payouts. /rant

    I’m probably going to build my own product around teaching this to people because the 300-500 word SEO or fake drama blog post has become a plague on the Internet, and it needs to die.

    Like

  38. Hey Tim.

    Adore your stuff, feel like a fanatic half the time.

    whats more important in the process; Designing content that is perfect for the medium (i.e making blog posts concise, spending time editing to suit youtube, whatever your distribution medium, polishing to fit that) or Going out and spreading the word about your content.

    I’m just about to graduate from uni and all my work has been looking at the rules of the medium, so my philosophy was to design your content with the distribution in mind. But i met Jeremey waite last weekend and he was saying the most important aspect is spreading your work around and building the trail back to your site.

    Any thoughts?

    Like

  39. Hey Tim!

    First, and foremost: love your blog and your work! I’m almost “Tim-dicted, so I tried / try as many things you suggest as I can… (Currently I’m on SCD, next week Occam for muscle gain, also I try to work on my muse project and create a venture, aaaand trying to learn how to learn via your 4hc book… Ok I AM addicted to your advice ;-) )

    now, I have two main questions about content, especially as craft / way to connect with people…
    a) I toyatally agree with the importance of “evergreen content”, it’s the same with the “value” of people’s opinions / statements etc: the more noise you produce, the less other will listen to you.
    So: how can you determine, if what you have or want to say is really useful for others? I often think “why would anyone want to read what I have experienxend or what my advice would be”…

    b) as a real “beginner” in the online content / startup / community based venture business, I have the problem how to reach some basic audience. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” – so why writing blog posts, content etc. if there is nobody out there to
    read it? and just SEO and back links on sub-forums don’t give you credibility, nor do you get a hearing…
    I would love to share my experience and help people by summarizing what I have learned, but how can I connect to a key audience in the first step?

    Thank you in advance and thank you for your posts and videos and all the other useful resources you shared so far.

    Regards, Chris

    Like

  40. You mentioned Amazon Reviews of books as a good source for questions people have, which you can then answer, knowing it’s something people actually need. Or you can ask directly if you have enough followers on social media.

    Then of course there are search engine recommendations (what people actually search for).

    Can you recommend any other sources for topics/questions people might want you to write about? Thanks!

    Like

  41. Ironically, I’m reading this, doing my monthly numbers. So what kind of key performance indicators and/or metrics do you use to monitor your business, Tim, if any? How do you challenge yourself to grow as an entrepreneur and keep building on what you’ve done? Or do you just not worry about that?

    Like

  42. Tim, one of the qualities that makes your content so compelling and enjoyable to me is that you share a lot of your personal life – unavoidable and necessary, I think, to have a successful following.

    How do you decide where the line is in terms of what you share and what you omit with your personal life: relationships, affiliations, finances, wins, failures, stories, etc.

    What do you consider “private and unsuitable for public distribution”?

    Thanks!

    Phil

    Like

  43. How do you determine what you’ll distribute for free and what will be monetized? Is it just a matter of your size/amount of interest in the subject (e.g., body/health transformation vs speed reading)? Delivery format?

    Thanks!

    Like

  44. Tim, any tips on how to balance a high standard for quality with the risk of failing to launch at all? Along the lines of the Voltaire’s point, ‘perfect is the enemy of good.’

    Like

  45. I have tons of ideas and things to blog about, but they are so disparate and varied, I don’t know what to focus on first. I know I could try out a lot of different things and see what gains traction, but without going deep and narrow into a topic, I don’t know how I will gain enough attention from people to get any sort of measurable feedback or data. I am not opposed to working for free or working hard to create quality content, but I don’t want to do a bunch of stuff that no one will ever see. How can I get a feedback loop started?

    Like

  46. Just headed back home and good thing to read before thinking of topic for the night to write. Amazing answer with tip top wording from Tim, and the guys has sexually compose his words to get Tim to reply to him and probably become friends with by now :)

    Loved reading it and Thanks for sharing Tim.

    Like

  47. Tim,

    It may be very difficult to write on a certain subject that wasnt written or debated over and over again. I, having started a blog on personal development, am not very sure on how to structure or to create my content…

    Do you think it would be best to take a subject that has already been discussed and try to add some personal notes or opinions to it, or would it be best to grasp something on my own?

    Also, I see that you are creating your articles from a subjective point of view…I dont know why but I considered this approach as not being very legit and reliable for a long period of time…However, you do add many clear facts and researches to your articles and posts which gives them reliability and confidence.

    I am trying to see the approaches of other big names and blogs in writing their content, but my second question would be:

    Do you think that an objective perspective (like the one mass-media should have) is a bad or less successful approach compared to a subjective perspective (written very well, like yours).

    Thanks man

    Like

  48. Spot on.

    My takeaways:

    The right way ask a question to a high profile person and also how to craft a great question. It was to the point, specific and current.

    “Furthermore, it’s much more interesting to me to sell something like a small-scale, $10,000-per-seat seminar every 2-3 years, instead of obsessing over monthly, weekly, or even daily Amazon commissions, for instance.”

    Solid advice. The internet keeps getting more and more consolidated into big media outlets and like you said you can’t out Fox News Fox News.

    Like

  49. tim
    ive read an article that says not to use whey protein as it spikes insulin levels…is this true ..i rely on whey alot to supplement my protein needs
    many thanks phil

    Like

  50. Hi Tim,

    Love this concept — “People want to follow humans, not trademarks.”

    Do you have any thoughts on how much you need to create/develop this kind of persona, versus just being whatever you are? I feel to build a business based on “you” rather than a brand, you need to make sure you are presenting yourself in at least a somewhat integrated way, maybe even simpler that the complex person you might actually be (for example, you are the lifestyle design guy, Steve Jobs is the design genius who wears black turtlenecks, etc* )

    Did you find the need to sort of simplify/develop/focus your public persona, or do you just throw it all out there and watch how the market responds?

    *Writing this part of the comment made me realize distinct clothing can also be an element. You had your Vibrams, Seth Godin has his glasses, Steve Job turtlenecks, etc.

    Thanks as always for your awesome content

    Like

  51. Thanks for sharing those emails Tim! You could have easily not shared them and no one would ever know (isn’t that what integrity is?).

    I definitely like your philosophy of producing quality content that lasts rather than masses of throw away content. I’ve tried the mass content strategy before. It was low quality and guess what? No one actually bothered reading it. If they did they certainly didn’t become raving fans.

    My best results have always come from writing about something that inflames me, good or bad. With so many people searching on Google, there’s always going to be someone that have the same interests and share similar points of view. It’s also more fun writing about stuff you find interesting.

    Like

  52. This is such a timely post for me as I examine my content and traffic! Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s easy to become discouraged when you don’t quickly see the response you’re looking for. I needed to be reminded that things will move slow when you’re “building a snowball the size of continents”. Great post!

    Like

  53. I think great content is definitely about the effort you put in. You can’t expect to generate fantastic content, or fantastic work with minimal effort. Sure the 80/20 principal might work for some things, but it’s that extra 20% that really makes the difference and certain things stand out when it comes to written content (IMHO).

    Like

  54. Like you, I try to write about what I like… it keeps it genuine and I’ve found there’s folks out there like me who dig the same things! Since I’m writing about custom cars, to distinguish my articles, I try to explain what it is about the car/truck that defines their personality… that’s “My Ride is Me”. Working so far!

    Loved the post, I shared, “I’m building a snowball the size of continents. The catch: it sometimes moves at a glacial pace. Big things take time, but that’s OK almost nothing can stop a glacier from moving once it reaches critical mass.” with a guy I call my “Business Dad” Thanks!!

    Like

  55. Hi Tim,

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the recent guidance. I really appreciate it and I’ve found it very helpful. I also tried to register for your quarterly package, but my card was not accepted. I will try again. Looking forward to more….

    Best,
    Matt

    Like

  56. Sigh.

    This article, as with many others you’ve written, proves to be very topically insightful in relation to my current situation. However, in this case, I can’t easily say it’s enjoyable insight: I have just come to the realization that I am, in-fact, on a chronically leaking boat and my colleagues and I have spent far too much of our energy patching the leaks.

    What’s more, though we do nothing related to content creation/marketing, there are other relevant insights here for us to understand. For example, we failed to understand the concept that, if we “get 100 die-hard fans” from each piece of work we produce, we can build a business which will grow and even flourish as each piece of work compounds upon the last. Instead of our product standing on it’s own two feet, I’d say that we may have in fact cut its feet off altogether – courtesy of our misguided focus on speed over quality (we were never that fast anyway!).

    What’s truly sad is that I already knew this on some level but have been more than happy to hold onto blind optimism when I should have long ago changed my strategy. So, thanks for setting me straight! While I hate to admit it, it’s time to leave this leaky boat and board a new ride. May I use what I have learnt here as well as elsewhere to avoid sinking in the future!

    As always, I look forward to your next words of wisdom.

    Like

  57. Great Post as always Tim. I love the Buffet quote as it is extremely relevant to my current business situation. Most of my current time is being spent putting out fires and patching up expenses here and there, and at the end of the day no time to focus on building any kind of snowball. It really made me think about the opportunity cost of staying vs selling and making a small loss, however bigger gain in the near future.

    Like

  58. I started taking the internet marketing world seriously back when the 4hww book came out. Buzzwords like content marketing wasn’t like it is today. I really appreciate you taking time to answer those questions and sharing it to the community. Thanks Tim!

    Like

  59. How often do you write?
    How do you think of content topics?
    Do you pick a topic you want to learn more about and then hack it and were about it?
    How could an author without your fame get started creating a unique audience?

    Like

  60. Thanks Tim,

    Great Response to a pair of Great Questions. Brief Direct questions get answered by busy people. Rambling questions do not.
    Rick

    Like

  61. Hey Tim–I really dig the power of your glacial pace strategy. I call it “taking the long view of things,” and it absolutely works despite conventional business wisdom which these days is typically so shortsighted it’s absurd.
    As to the benefits of building slowly and intentionally, please allow me to illustrate how my own experience with your work would definitely qualify me as among your diehard 10,000–or whatever the number.

    At 53, married with grown children, I’m acutely aware that I don’t fit the profile of your market’s readership nucleus. But five years ago, 4HWW turned my life inside out in remarkable ways–and I am still buying copies for friends and telling others about you. Even as late as three weeks ago while I was enjoying a cigar in a Phoenix lounge while nearing the end of something like my eighth mini-retirement since 2008, a new acquaintance ordered a copy of 4HWW after I gushed about the dividends your writing has produced for me (monetary and otherwise).

    Not only will I continue to buy every book you write, I have also acquired or purchased other products because you mentioned them. For example, I use the Lift app and I’ve lost close to 100 pounds using my Nike Fuel Band, a product you mentioned almost in passing in a post or interview (I forget where). I bought one, have hit my goal 178 straight days since and even gotten other friends to buy one. I’ve also started doing some reading on the concept of the quantified self, a term I had not heard until you talked about it.

    Point being in all this, I think it pays to calibrate one’s strategy for success to a long game. Yes, 4HWW was an “overnight” sensation (after it was rejected by 26 publishers). But by engineering two subsequent runaway bestsellers, you’ve proven that the glacial pace strategy is far more powerful than chasing quick returns. By the way, I don’t think you’re living in the 14th minute of your 15 minutes of success as you quipped in the Hulu day-in-the-life vid. As you noted above, once a glacier reaches critical mass, it’s unstoppable. I think you will be as enduring as Drucker.

    Brian

    PS. Doing something fun with you in person someday is on my bucket list. I’m working my own glacial pace strategy to make the happen.

    Like

    • Dear Brian,

      Thank you so much for this wonderful and kind comment. It made my night… and congratulations on all the transformations!

      I hope to meet you as well someday to say that in person :)

      Have a wonderful weekend,

      Tim

      Like

  62. I don’t think something is worth doing unless it is actually providing value to another person or group of people. It builds integrity when you genuinely have something you are passionate about writing about and educating people on rather than just trying to push a product on them.

    Like

  63. Tim,
    Great thought about just writing about what interests you at this point in time. I also really liked the comment about Farming teh internet with information. Keep planting and nourishing it and it will grow.

    Rick

    Like

  64. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for sharing your insights here; I agree with you about keeping content ‘evergreen’. It is important to give your readers something they can really use and to build up that trust and relationship with them. We always encourage clients to post content in a ratio that ‘gives’ more over posts that aim to sell products or services.
    Do you have any thoughts on what an optimal ratio would be? Particularly for those starting out?
    Regards,
    Andrew

    Like

  65. Hi Tim,
    first of all I really appreciate the content you create on your blog and in your books – great work! I like the idea of “evergreen” entries that have their value throughout a long period of time. That applies in the same way to your books. I read all of them, and once in a while I reread them again. Always a pleasure and always helpful!

    Secondly I find it pretty amazing that although the approach of “evergreen” entries applies to most of the content but that for example the last three of your entries answered three of my current question directly in their order (examples of successful online businesses, getting loved ones to change their behavior and creating content) – might be accidental but it’s pretty cool ;-)!

    And last but not least I consider myself to the die-hard fans you mentioned. Meanwhile there’s a number of people in my work surrounding and office that that buy and read your books because of my recommendation. A colleague of mine recently lost 20 pounds in 5 weeks by following my advise that I have from the 4HB. I also recommend you and your work to friends and on my German blog, which is my try and contribution to get the glacier moving in Germany and get people in lifestyle design where it is not so common yet (any advice or tips?) Greame mentioned that he trusts your opinion and reccomendations and has never gone wrong – I can only support that! Vibram five fingers, GoLite, Aeropress, lots of books and much more- love it!

    Please keep on writing, it always makes my day!

    Sascha

    Like

  66. Tim – interesting that you have 90% content pre-planned and only 10% spontaneous. I try to plan but often my best stuff is actually spontaneous. then again, I have lots of planned stuff that backs that up.

    Like

  67. Hi Tim,

    I have read 2 of your books and they are great inspiration for me!

    If you produce content for your blog, how you spread the word out to social media and other sites? Are you using tools like Hootsuite or something else?

    Thanks for answering,
    Kristjan

    Like

  68. While I’m a bottom-line kind of guy and “quantifying the profitability” of every piece of content was something I use to focus heavily on, I’ve come to realize that focusing on this was backwards. Yes, the bottom-line is important, but what’s the point if your creating content for others and not for yourself. I believe that once you create content for yourself, content that excites you and motivates you to keep writing/producing, you will find that there are plenty of others (10,000+) who feel the same way, building the proverbial army you talk about over time (if written/produced well, of course). It will be an army that is more loyal and passionate than the few you might get from your mass-produced, generic, bottom-line focused content. Steve Jobs once said, “People with passion change the world”, not people who create the most content. Focusing on the profitability of each piece of content removes the passion for me, which in turn actually decreases future profitability. Great post as it was reassurance that my change in mindset is accurate. Cheers to that!

    Like

  69. It’s interesting to see that people think that sheer volume of content is what makes you successful in terms of content marketing.

    A single blog post that adds real value and remains as evergreen as possible (as you so rightly said) is going to be far more valuable than 5,000 pages of keyword stuffed dross.

    Anyways amazing post as usual Tim – nothing new there :-)

    Like

  70. Great content! Your content provide a good insight for the best takeaway for the business from the idea behind sharing the email an your responses. I would love to see more articles and content based on reply to readers or friends in this manner. Looking forward to this!

    Like

  71. Tim, I find your philosophies and antidotes inspiring and most times comforting. I am not an expert in business or marketing. I’m a homicide detective, and although I believe in the importance of what I do, I often feel trapped when finding creative ideas and putting same into action. I admire you and other people who have posted their successes on your site. You have a courage that I envy. I get so close to breaking free and taking that leap of faith only to find myself hitting that invisible wall I call fear. I want more for my family. I want more time to spend with them. I spend too much time away from them and what I see at work robs my thoughts when I am physically with them. But it’s what I know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and creations the way you do. I will continue to eagerly follow what you and others have to say about their courageous steps to success in their lives knowing that one day it will get my courage up enough to take that leap.

    Like

  72. i have always been interested in running my own business which i have done previously with varying degrees of success. Tim, you continue to inspire me with your books and this blog. Content creation is very important to todays businesses and the ways its power can be harnessed for promotion and building your business and your brand. Thanks for your continued inspiration.

    Like

  73. Hi Tim,

    I absolutely love your blog and approach and can relate to the questions asked in the email. I have a few quick questions myself:

    1) Your interests are, in a sense, quite broad – fitness, writing, travel, learning, etc… but somehow you manage to cut a clear picture of what your blog is about. In previous posts you’ve mentioned how you shut down your original blog and focused on a few core themes (and came up with the term: “Lifestyle Design”. Like most of your readers I have similar interests but have a difficult time conveying the overall approach of the blog in the same way you do. Is it a matter of taking those interests as verticals and applying your own mindset to them (quantified living, focus on being effective, dismissing conventional wisdom, etc) or is it something else? Any advice in this department?

    2) Do you deliberately not blog about certain topics that interest you because they may conflict with your theme or not be very useful to readers, for example, angel investing, etc.?

    Thanks!

    Like

  74. Excellent topic. Often people are chasing the money, where if they chased their passion, the money would be chasing after them.
    I am finding this to be true as a marketer.

    I began with starting up a business trying to monetize it immediately, but then switched gear offering value to small businesses or those who want to and have found much more creativity and freedom when I am not tied down to any monetary goals or expectations.

    Like

  75. $10k per seminar every 2-3 years? How many attendees do you usually get at each one of these events? It definitely seems like a very steep price, but I guess if you’re making 5, 6, 7, or more figures a month then it’s chump change! lol. Unfortunately I’m not there yet, but working towards it! Great post!

    Like

    • $10k per seminar is quite steep but I think it’s not about the amount… If you choose to pay that much to get to the next level than it is all about the commitment!

      Volume is not that important in my opinion. A good piece, even an individual post can achieve much bigger effect than a hundred written pages. Just think about viral posts… it’s not how many, it’s how many times it gets shared ;)

      Like

  76. Thanks for the great advices, I can’t do anything but agree. We need timeless content, one that will be good even 6 months from now.
    Unless you have couple of millions I guess there is no way anyone can compete with something like XY News Corp. Its just a totally different game. And thank you for confirming that for me.

    Like

  77. This is great Tim. Would love to see more posts on content creation..
    Really enjoy your blog and learn something new from you each week.. Keep up the great work you’re doing…

    Like

  78. I have no idea how old this post is, however…as you’ve stated…it is timeless content and was worth the 7 minutes or so it took me to read. By the way, I am always battling the urge to find quick, short term profit versus my understanding of evergreen long term growth via slowly, methodically building out content that will be “good stuff” years from now. I’m grateful you share what you share and hope to some day get an audience with you, as well. Thanks for everything, Tim.

    Like

  79. Hi Tim,

    Figured it was worth a shot, to see if I could get an answer. Few questions….

    I have read all 3 of your books in the last 3 months, as my best friend feels I have a similar personality….

    1) – I have severe nut allergies, and I am allergic to eggs as well. Any good substitution for these (i.e. the almond butter and the raw nuts)? I have been eating morning star breakfast sausage for my 30 in 30, but I afraid it may not be allowed as it is soy based (but nearly every nutritional info is more favorable than regular sausage).

    2) Is it possible to exceed the boundaries of cheat day? Here was my first and I think I may have! (My second was just as bad, but did not keep a record) – https://www.evernote.com/shard/s235/sh/2d9608cc-909a-4077-b567-60f103ee2dc4/e0074b84cf4aba339168ea45e9375540

    3) What recumbent bike do you have and/or recommend? I bought one a couple years (not even having read your book) just so I could be productive during my bad video game habit. The resistance is no longer enough for me, and I am considering a new one.

    Like

  80. “…but I’m building a snowball the size of continents. The catch: it sometimes moves at a glacial pace. Big things take time, but that’s OK — almost nothing can stop a glacier from moving once it reaches critical mass”

    This is amazing. I have written it on a big piece of paper and attached to my mirror! Thanks

    Like

  81. Hi Tim,

    You are probably at the age in which you know people who have married, then divorced. Some of those are going through ugly battles and others are finding out that the justice system isn’t exactly what it is cracked up to be… things like judges conversing and e-mailing with Ex’s before the case ends up in the judges court… or other scenarios where a judge calls a petitioner names in open court. If you were to launch a campaign to grab the attention of media and more, what would your 4 hour work week look like ? And what is your 4 hour guide to getting rid of your ex… because no matter how pretty she is, someone is sick of her B.S.

    Like

  82. I have been reading the 4HWW for the second time and I see no other way of contacting you. Anyways,

    Writing have been a passion for a while now and I am finding your blog and books extremely valuable.

    I recently saw a video on YouTube where you talk about Desmopressin and I have been using DDAVP all my life ( im only 31 now ) because of Hypopituitarism caused by the removal of a brain tumor. Your attitude and looking at life is adding a lot of value to my life. So when i saw your challenge with the students in your book ( 4HWW ) i decided to somehow contact you to see if any communication with you is possible.

    Thank you once again.

    Like

  83. I am not very experienced in this field. What I do now is try to write a piece from a reader’s perspective. Whether it is readable and communicative enough for the reader to understand. I hope I am doing fine!

    Like

  84. I love the idea of creating evergreen content that is good for a few years rather news which is only as good as how fast you can publish it. Really hit home with my own efforts. Thanks for putting it into perspective. Bless!

    Like