The Notes You Don’t Play

2005 called. They want their “internet marketing expert” posts back. The social web as a whole is clearly as susceptible to linkbait as it always was. We know this. But the reason this specific discussion spread so far is simple: there are more people here now who weren’t the first time and have no idea the thread is a repost.

But this post isn’t about so-called experts. I wouldn’t spend more than a paragraph of your time on that discussion. Why am I leading with it then? Interestingly enough a few of you wrote in asking if I had seen the topic. Well, yeah. But I’m not going to cover it. Because readers here are smarter than needing a post about not being taken in by charlatans.

Instead I’ll use it as the impetus to discuss why you should consider staying out of the obvious discussions of your category. Or at the very least take a unique response.

It’s simple and is something I discovered as an editor years ago. It is what you don’t publish that defines your site. I believe in this philosophy as a writer and editor of both words and music.

With my early audio productions I tried to throw as much as I could into the mix. It was only with maturity I realized that the absence of specific notes allowed what you do play to have the highest impact. No clutter standing in the way between your best ideas and the listener.

Similar with writing words. Edit yourself. Ruthlessly. Make your sentences lean and tough and the ideas within them will stick.

And no different with the concepts you choose to use in your editorial calendar. Linkbait as part of your mix is fine. It absolutely makes sense as a certain percentage of posts (as long as you are the leader). But it should still be something that is of clear differentiation from others in your category.

It is the deliberate absence of specific content that lets your brand develop a personality when held against the rest of a category. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be consistent, but you should do so in a way that does not sacrifice having a voice.

Do you have the executive perspective on content?

If you have really embraced the notion that every company is a media company and are interested in developing a trusted and meaningful voice, you need the executive perspective on content. What that means is not running off and publishing everything and anything because you can. It means having a grasp on your narrative and playing within that space. An experienced editor won’t publish to fill the page. They understand a positive signal to noise ratio is far too important to protect.

Readers will return to sites with a reputation

If your site didn’t publish for a day, would people return? If it has the right reputation the answer is yes. This type of reputation is acquired by applying a filter to the infinite spectrum of potential ideas.

If you cover everything, you’ll never be trusted for anything

Think carefully about your favorite, niche sites. Now think about the broader sites in that category. It probably breaks down like this: the popular sites cover the obvious stories. The stories you read the headline, skim through and go to the next thing. It’s not that the content isn’t fine, but in all likelihood you aren’t really so concerned about connecting with the author or carefully analyzing each word. Why would you? That site covers everything and so can’t really be trusted for anything.

Now consider again the must-read sites. They don’t appeal to everyone. But those they do appeal to are really interested. They’ll read the whole story, feed back to the author and want to connect with that community, subscribe and return. And, despite uneven levels of popularity, the ideas from the niche site end up penetrating the category much deeper. They achieve this through focusing only on what matters to their community who has a specific worldview or set of interests. Their content is designed to fit this.

As with anything creative that involves an ongoing narrative, it is the notes you don’t play that matter most.

image credit: ricardomiguel.pt from Shutterstock