Heidi Cohen Interviews Joe Pulizzi
New book: Content Inc. – Revised Edition
In the examples in the book, it looks easy when you look back at a business. BUT for most businesses, the challenge is to tell when and what they have to do based on limited information.
Joe: Most businesses go wrong with content in two ways.
- The first is they lack a content tilt, which is an area of little to no competition on the web where they can actually break through all the clutter. It’s your hook. Basically, what makes you different and why should people care.
- Once you find your sweet spot as a content creator (the intersection of your skills/expertise areas and your audience’s desire, then you need to figure out your tilt.
When we launched Content Marketing Institute, our tilt was calling the industry “content marketing”. No one had done that before. Hubspot did it with inbound marketing. So, you could reposition the narrative.
Or, you could focus on a super niche audience. Wally Koval from Accidentally Wes Anderson attracts travelers who love Wes Anderson (how’s that for a niche?).
Or maybe no one in your industry has a podcast, so you could be the first to launch on a platform.I like asking the question, “can I be the leading informational expert in this space?” If the answer is no, you probably aren’t niche enough in topic or audience. — Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
Heidi: On a related note, why did you decide to call your new business endeavor “The Tili” and how does it differ from Content Marketing Institute (CMI)? Also, what are you doing differently from when you started Content Marketing Institute?
Joe: I love CMI. We completely focused on helping enterprise marketers figure out complex content marketing challenges.With The Tilt, we are talking to the individual creator, someone who wants to build a content-first/audience-first business online, with the hope of someday becoming financially sustainable. – Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
As we all know, the creator economy is booming and content creators are everywhere. But most don’t have a business model. That’s what The Tilt is for. We want to turn content creators into content entrepreneurs.
Heidi: I agree with you that content-based businesses need to diversify revenue streams.
In my online marketing course at NYU, I taught that media entities needed to diversify their revenue streams with 3 types. These 3 categories closely align with your 10 revenue streams.
- Subscriptions are payments readers make for access to your content.
- Advertising is paid promotion by third party businesses seeking access to a specific audience or segments of it. It consists of different formats. They include advertisements, sponsorships, branded content created by the media entity, paid placement content created by the advertiser and/or other form of paid distribution like promotional email mailings and/or inserts.
- Other products include a wide range of options. The most common offerings are webinars, conferences, training and/or consulting as well as other options. For example, The New York Times offers its crossword puzzles as a separate subscription and traditional print books. And, The New Yorker sells prints of its cartoons. Also, it licenses the use of its cartoons through The Cartoon Bank.
From your point of view, what are the most under-utilized forms of monetization and why don’t more content marketers use them?
Joe: Honestly, all the different forms of monetization are being used. That’s not the problem.
The issue is that most content creators only focus on one. This could be subscriptions. Or could be product sales or services sales. Or possibly advertising.Long-term success means we need to have diverse revenue streams, just like a stock portfolio. — Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
Long-term success means we need to have diverse revenue streams, just like a stock portfolio. Innovative content entrepreneurs have four, five, even six different revenue streams (just look at Amazon for example).
Most content creators and content marketers don’t focus on diversification because they are:
- Unaware of the business model, and
- Focused on short-term revenue wins.
- 13 Types of Ancillary Revenue (ClickZ)
Heidi: Since building an audience today is much more challenging than it was when you started CMI, what do you suggest that readers do?
Joe: I don’t think it is more challenging. The model is the same, just like when The New York Times started, or Buzzfeed, or Axios.Find a niche audience, serve that audience with indispensable information over time, then drive revenue from that audience. — Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
For those who are having trouble, I would recommend killing some channels and focusing on being great at one or two. Early channel diversification in the model kills so many creators. Being jack of all trades and master of none in content marketing never, ever works.
Heidi: Where do you see new and emerging opportunities to build and grow a content based business?
Joe: Podcasts are still pretty wide open, but if I were starting today I’d focus on an amazing email newsletter. This way I don’t have to rely on a social platform for ultimate success.
I’m most intrigued with Twitch and Discord as channels. If I’m a new content creator, those are the ones I want to figure out.
Heidi: I agree that you should build your business on owned media. So, if a content creator starts on a third party platform, they should get their audience to engage on their owned media as soon as possible.
Further you recommend developing a related audience on one or two other platforms such as social media entities to increase reach and audience to your owned media. This makes sense since a content creator must focus on creating their main offering and participating on other platforms can diminish your attention.
So, do you consider a website or blog and an email newsletter to be one or two platforms? Also, while you stepped away from Content Marketing Institute and marketing in general to write fiction, it’s interesting to note that you started and continue to write your weekly “Random Newsletter” to stay in touch with your community.
When discussing newsletters, it’s important to note that they can serve different purposes:.
- Blogs, like Content Marketing Institute, send readers a notice of new posts to entice them to visit the site to read the article. Notably, Business Grow’s Mark Schafer continues to send the full article in his email alerts.
- By contrast, Ann Handley writes Total Annarchy and you write Joe Pulizzi’s Random Newsletter. Both are dedicated bi-weekly email newsletters with a more personal feel. (Editor’s note: I highly recommend subscribing to both!)
Joe: A website/blog and an email newsletter are two different platforms in my opinion, even though they often work very well together.
I agree that email newsletters have different purposes, but the ones that are growing and taking off are the ones that don’t “force” you to link to content.
Heidi: With the increase in voice assistants and related devices using voice or audio functionality, many creators publish their audio content across a variety of platforms at the same time. In part, this approach is necessary since many devices only read content within their specific ecosystem. Among the major voice and audio platforms are Alexa Skills and Briefings, Google Actions, Bixby Capsules, Spotify and others.
At a minimum, I recommend that voice and audio content creators publish their content on their own site first to ensure that they own it. Also allow listeners to listen to the content there which helps time-on-site. Lastly, provide additional materials on your site to give listeners a reason to visit.
Having been a podcaster for a while with “This Old Marketing Podcast”, what do you think of this approach by voice and audio creators? Please include a link to your podcast!
Joe: I think there is huge potential in audio content in regards to voice assistants, but I’m not sure how a creator can build a platform there (yet). It’s always better to start with an email list and then move to audio, but some people may not be able to do that.I still like a recurring podcast, but it’s challenging to build an audience there if that’s your starter platform. — Joe PulizziClick To Tweet
Here are my two podcasts:
Heidi: While you talk about laser focusing on the number of email addresses as the key indicator of success, what other metrics should entrepreneurs use to build their own Content, Inc. use and why? Also, do you believe in gating content to collect email addresses? If not, how do you recommend collecting email addresses and why?
Joe: Start with one content type (audio/video/textual+image), one platform and consistently deliver over a long period of time. It generally takes 12 months to catch your stride and three years for profitable monetization. Most creators run out of patience before that.
Number one method (if you don’t have a lot of ad dollars) is to create key relationships with influencers.
- Where is your audience hanging out? Well, find those influential sites and help them.
- What do THEY need first? Once you help them, you can get a chance to promote your stuff.
I have no big issue with gated content, but generally subscribers that come in with a gate (say, to get an ebook) are the worst kind of subscribers. That said, I’m giving away the first chapter of my new book to my new subscribers now and that seems to be working well.
Heidi: Do you miss writing mysteries? Or are you still adding pages to your latest work in your “spare” time? For example, Stacy Abrams just published her thriller, While Justice Sleeps. BTW, prior to While Justice Sleeps, Abrams published romances using the pen name, Selena Montgomery.
Joe: Ha…right now I’m focusing all my attention on content entrepreneurs. I’ll save my next mystery book for a few years down the road.
Heidi: BONUS: Is there anything else you’d like to add? At a minimum, please add any links or other places you’d like to connect with people.
Joe: I’d be thrilled if readers supported or contributed to the Orange Effect Foundation. My wife and I started this not-for-profit in 2014 to assist financially-challenged families in obtaining speech therapy or technology equipment for their children.
- Name: Joe Pulizzi
- Company: The Tilt
- Book(s): Content Inc., Epic Content Marketing
- LinkedIn: joepulizzi
- Twitter: @JoePulizzi
Thank you joe!
Get Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide by email:
Want to check it out before you subscribe? Visit the AMG Newsletter Archive.
From leading content entrepreneur,
Joe Pulizzi, and the team at The Tilt.
Get access to everything you need to go from content creator to content entrepreneur.
Work at your own pace, online classes for anyone looking to grow their content business.