This is part two of our interview with Leslie Bradshaw, President, Chief Operating Officer, and Co-Founder at JESS3. You can read part one here.
Your content is incredibly open – no registration forms, Creative Commons, etc. – what should brands consider when contemplating this issue?
The success of the websites and applications is largely predicated on first having compelling content and mechanics and second on lowering any and all barriers to experience and enjoy said compelling content and mechanics. Friction of any magnitude in the system, such as issues with load time, navigation, layout, or instructions can mean a bounce or uninstall.
If you agree with these two sentences, then you will understand why we don’t put any “gated” restrictions on our content. If people want to get in touch with us, our name is always baked into our content and our website and social channels point to the many ways you can contact us. We are incredibly responsive.
As for creative commons, I recommend that brands talk to their legal departments about using the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License whenever possible. It is the preferred format of Wikipedia / Wikimedia Foundation and something we use when we can. The Internet is all about remixing, so why not embrace it?
Is content king? Was it ever?
Always has been, always will be. I would adjust it slightly by saying that if content is king, then visual content is queen. And we are in Her reign at the present.
What metrics matter most after content is released into the wild?
A popular saying among a few of my social and content strategy friends is “you are what you measure.” With that in mind, whatever monitoring and measurement services you invest in will determine what is the most important to you.
At JESS3, we have a mantra that we want our content to “win the Internet.” By that we mean, we want to create content that brings real and lasting value to online communities. We want the content to respect cultural tropes of the communities to which we release it. We want to make the Internet a more organized and beautiful place by developing whimsical and artisan content that helps make sense of complex data sets and concepts.
How do we know if we’ve succeeded? We monitor what people say – or don’t say – wherever the content is released. Twitter is the most instantaneous gauge, as our view counts on video and presentation players. We also look at what highly respected blogs, industry voices, and awards committees say – or don’t say – about the content we develop. If our content naturally spreads around the Interwebs, with little-to-no help from our PR team, then we know we’ve produced a winner.
What’s the biggest difference between content that succeeds and content that doesn’t?
From my experience in the last six years at JESS3, content that is successful tends to have at least a few – if not all – of the following:
- Valuable to the end user. Educational, even.
- Snackable and optimized for quick, multi-device, multichannel consumption and sharing.
- Integrity in the information. Sources, spelling, grammar, argument all need to be on-point.
- Beauty in the display, possibly even some whimsy if it doesn’t offend the content’s subject matter.
My colleague Becca Colbaugh, our third employee and our VP of Production and Operations, recently put out a great SlideShare presentation called “Visual Storytelling 101” that addresses this topic at length.
Companies are starting to understand the power of data in storytelling. What else makes for a “sticky” story?
Four pieces of advice:
- Make sure that this isn’t a product of tactical enthusiasm and instead a strategic part of a larger campaign or objective. Just because infographics are du jour doesn’t mean that they should be a part of your approach. They can sometimes be confusing and overly complicated for an audience.
- Make sure that you have the stomach, staff, expertise, and budget for data-driven storytelling. It takes a lot of analysis and hypothesis testing before laying it out in a wireframe, all of which comes before even thinking about color design.
- Make sure that if you do in fact want to tell data-driven stories, that you do so across multiple channels and in multiple ways. Infographics are one of many ways to tell a story, but are often thought of as the alpha and omega of information design. Other forms that we’ve found to be successful include: data graphics (a maximum of two to three data points), comic books and zines, motion graphics, and interactive data visualizations.
- If you’d made it past #1, #2, and #3, then make sure you create a data-driven story that hasn’t been told before. Make it definitive. Make it about multiple data sets. The more time it takes you to think about, research, and actualize the concept the better; this means that you are likely in a class of one who has made it this far. Google around and see if your topic has been covered; if it has, what will be your new, fresh angle on it? And when you do finally develop it, reaching out to those blogs and socially engaged folks on Twitter and Facebook who showed interest with the topic in the past is a great launching point to get your content noticed.
Red Bull has a lot of people talking about the prospect of selling content in addition to products. Is this a viable model outside of lifestyle brands?
The model is viable if and only if the content is compelling, well-produced and has an audience that would be willing to pay for it. Although not branded content, alternative content consumption channels like Hulu Plus and HBO GO show that users are in fact willing to pay for good content. So much so, that I’d be willing to pay even more on Hulu Plus to not have any advertising. I also know many non-HBO-subscribing friends who would shell out big bucks for HBO GO.
On the flipside, the failure of the New York Times’ TimesSelect shows that even great content that has a highly engaged audience doesn’t always translate into the ability to monetize.
The operative state here is the audience’s willingness to pay. Not to mention the fact that you, as the brand, have to seriously invest in the right content strategy and execution tools. I’ve visited Red Bull’s recording studio and went to one of their documentary premieres at the Chinese Mann Theater and both were incredibly legit. Those faint of heart, budget, and swagger need not apply.