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Ardath Thanks for the post. There is indeed a lot of rehashed stuff on the internet, much of it masquerading as thought leadership. We're generally reluctant to point it up lest we look self-serving (since we are in the business of producing quality content). So I'm always grateful when someone else comments on it. One place I'd diverge slightly from your opinion is on interesting articles versus thought leadership. We know from our work with senior execs over many years that unless articles say something new, prescribe solutions etc. they do not get read. I observe that many marketers have lower standards, and some of them will read "11 ways to take advantage of the cloud..." even if it's been said 100 times before. But B2B buyers don't; they don't have the time or patience. Therefore, I'd suggest that there is no such thing as an interesting article (to a B2B buyer) unless it carries most or all of the hallmarks of thought leadership as you lay them out above. (Notwithstanding that there is a place for other content, such as objective product information). But an interesting article is only interesting if it meets your criteria. Otherwise it's recycling.
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This has gone on for several decades in management consulting firms, arguably starting with McKinsey Quarterly in 1964. It's variously called thought leadership, reputation building etc. Different firms use different approaches, but many have editorial teams of former journalists. Booz has a team of 9 and Tom Stewart and Art Kleiner - former journalists - explain their approach here: Info Tech companies started doing it in the 90s, and it is spreading to other sectors, though slowly; I talked yesterday with a design firm which has just hired a journalist for this purpose. If I were to generalize, I'd say that PR-led approaches though are dreadful. There are several sites of informational content put up by companies' ad agencies - I don't think I want to name them for fear of upsetting people - but they are dire; slick and vacuous. So you certainly need good writers. But even that is not always enough. If a firm doesn't have a lot of useful content already (the design firm does), a journalist can't invent it. Then you need to do research too.
Toggle Commented Jul 16, 2010 on Brand Journalism at Web Ink Now
Final thoughts?? I think not. His blog is back up churning out 2 posts a day starting a week ago. And you don't have to look far to see that he is doing the same old, same old. Seven Qualities of a Good Leader (last post) also here: (Who'd be silly enough to steal from a law firm, eh?) Essential Steps to Effective Negotiation also here: and so on. Clearly he is a pathological kleptomaniac. I came to this blog because there is another blogger driving me nuts by stealing other people's stuff, including mine, and she is getting a lot of tweets and traffic. She has ignored my request to take down our stuff and continues to rip off other people's. Apparently she isn't the only one. But she works for a sizable company and I am hesitant to get into a public spat. She is also at least a bit clever - she moves the words around so that not one sentence is exactly the same - but it's still plagiarized. These people are parasites. Is it time to contact tumblr again? Tim
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David; agree with everything you say about white papers. EBooks have been a refreshing improvement (I've published one too.) As prime advocate, you have had a lot to do with making them popular. However, I think there is even more potential now in building a point of view in html, on a website, and then let people pass around the link. Then can you take advantage of video clips, reader comments, interactive graphics and so on, that can better bring it to life and involve people in an ongoing conversation. You can even then evolve the point of view as you go - you can't edit the eBook once it's gone, but you can keep on editing a website as much as you like. These aren't mutually exclusive, and there will be a place for eBooks for a long time (hopefully they will displace white papers altogether). But I do wonder if they reflect our natural instinct, from the days of print, to want to own the physical object, albeit a pdf. I don't see my kids put anything much on a hard drive - almost everything (except music for the time being) is in the cloud; they just go there when then they need it.(I might be ahead of them in that respect since I use Pandora more than iTunes these days.) Finally, love the graphic. Sometimes home-made beats stock.
Ida Great post. Not sure if this is due to ignorance on the part of journalists, or simply that raising a scare out of new technology makes a good story. If you can make it look as though it will be responsible for something scary, people seem only too happy to read, absorb, and then tell/email/tweet/IM all their friends about it. There's been lots of attendant suspicion around the development of the TV, telephone, cellphone and so on before this. I'd suggest it's not even much different than the scaremongering that attended the emergence of rock and roll as a force of evil that would seduce and corrupt our youth. I'm sure we've all forgotten that now (if we were even around at the time), but some of the wilder rantings of politicians and others are lovingly preserved at the R&R Museum in Cleveland.
David Great, we agree. And HBR probably does too since they have ungated material. You may be right that they gate too much, but that discussion, about how much is the right amount, could occupy many more hours of debate (though it might get us an answer people could use). Anyhow, if this conversation did one thing for me, it was clarify the difference between what you should gate (the stuff you sell) and what you shouldn't (the stuff you intend to give away). I think I have another exception, but I'll leave it for another time! Tim
David That's neither my point nor my logic. You gate (and charge for) your core content, books and speaking engagements--it's presumably how you survive and prosper. HBR gates their core content--their articles--for the same reason. You give away samples in blog posts, free chapters etc. So do they, here: I can't see any fundamental difference between what they do and what you (or we) do. Perhaps I sowed confusion by saying they have earned the right to gate their online content. They have; their core content, not the samples intended to reach potential customers. Tim
David; I think HBR is an exception, because selling content is their business. They don't sell speaking engagements or consulting off the back of their reputation, they sell content which they have gone to great trouble and expense to make sure is world class. (We write for them - whatever you might think of their content, they have higher editorial standards than any other business publication.) Put another way, I think they are in the same category as JKRowling--if she gave away her content she'd still be writing in that coffee shop... But whatever the case, I don't think it detracts from the main point, that for most of us, if we want the world to know how good we are, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to sample our wares. Tim (now I'm off to find out why I appear as Tdparker - it's my name, just not a very personable version of it...)
GREAT post and discussion. I came here looking for data--I know that David has floated some rough numbers in the past. Delighted to see some data emerging, that BTW, support our point of view that you should forget the gate unless you are e.g. Harvard business Review, and can afford to set terms for access--including charge for it. Thanks especially to John Mancini for his data, Vince for a great paper, Kenny for his discussion forum and David for keeping the issue in the limelight. Over the past few months, several of our outbound links to material we have written for clients have broken because the papers have been moved behind gates. I will go back to those clients with renewed confidence and tell them they are making a mistake. One anecdote I can contribute; an article on our website got 500 page views yesterday because a global consulting firm put a link to it on their intranet (on a typical day it would get around 20). If there were a gate on the material, I can't imagine they would have bothered to link to it (and subject their consultants to a load of hassle to reach it), and if they had, a minority of these famously-pressured and secretive strategy consultants wouldn't have taken the time to negotiate the barriers anyway. (I wasn't running a control of course; I'll just posit that it's inconceivable.) I’m sold.
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