7 Lessons from the Priceonomics Content Marketing Conference

By Brazos Elkins, Jr. Copywriter

It’s October 29th and I find myself walking into unfamiliar territory: the Priceonomics Content Marketing Conference, held in the conference room of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. By 9am, I’ve already eaten sourdough bread, walked up steep sidewalks, taken an Uber, dodged a trolley, and ogled a bridge. So, I’m done being a tourist. It’s time to go to work.

The day’s agenda is a 6-hour series of bigshot speakers from tech-company marketing departments, economists, content creators, entrepreneurs, creative directors, and one journalist, all speaking on the nebulous topic of “Content Marketing.” Given that variety of job titles, it’s no surprise that there isn’t a single repeated point all day. The event proves to be more than an intro digital marketing course. It’s not even a “How to Do Content Marketing” course. It’s a peek into the ecosystem that funds the modern internet—the attention merchants behind every click, scroll, and pageview.


Walking back to my hotel 8 hours later, head reeling from information overload, something gradually becomes clear to me: content marketing is not something new under the sun. It merges the fundamental principles of advertising (the purchase funnel) and journalism (the inverted pyramid) that advertisers and journalists have always followed. These big ideas are now becoming a single, more comprehensive big idea: if you want attention, you have to know what your audience wants and—speak their language.

Each speaker had their own perspective on content marketing, and their advice wasn’t for any single job role—client, creative, or otherwise—so think of it as a holistic marketing lesson. I’ve collected the day’s most prescient, memorable commands and principles below.


Focus on sharingGilad Lotan, VP of Data Science at Buzzfeed

Your core KPI for any piece of content should be shares. Content does a “job” for people, and if they share it, that means it did its job effectively. The trick is to identify what job each piece of content does. One way to do this is to analyze your audience’s reactions and comments—this will give you an idea of how it makes them feel and what it does for them. Create with a content job in mind, like “surprisingly easy recipes” or “recipes for parties” rather than a type of content, like “recipe videos”, if you want your audience to share.


Make little things goodSam Parr, Editor/Founder of The Hustle

Every interaction with your audience tells them something about your brand, including the little things. Since little things are easier to create, test, and improve, it’s worth it to make them really good. They make an impression. Think of the Google Doodle which changes every day. It is small and unrelated to the actual reason you use Google, but it is immensely valuable as part of Google’s brand.


Keywords measure demandShafqat Islam, CEO of Newscred

Search data should inform your content—it’s literally what your audience wants or needs. Before you turn up your nose at using keywords and SEO liberally in your writing, don’t think of it as a series of words you’re being forced to use. Search data is a way to understand audience intent and demand—isn’t that exactly what you want to know about your audience? Use keyword research to target and speak your audience’s language.


The Four Requirements to Go Viral – Grant Marek, Editorial Director of Chubbies Shorts

There is a share/view magic number for creating a viral video: 1% of people who view your video have to share it for it to go viral. Knowing this, Chubbies test their videos by opening them up to a smaller, non-core audience first to gauge their shareability. If they get shared somewhere near 1% of the time, they know it will go viral when given to their core audience.


So what are the Four Requirements?

-Enough understanding of your audience to know what they will and will not relate to. For example, Chubbies’ audience is young and will not care about references to anything before 1997.

-Something unexpected. It’s really that simple, but just really hard to pull off. People share things that the internet hasn’t seen before.

-A sense of timing. Whatever your content is, there is an appropriate season when people are most primed to relate to it. Evergreen content is doomed to irrelevance.

-KPIs for everything you want to see succeed. Shares, especially the golden ratio of 1:100, are the most important.


Live in the commentsMichael Stipe, CEO of Y Combinator

Targeting an audience with any kind of ad or content has two components: identifying the right audience and crafting the right message. If you want to get better at both, live in the comments. Wherever your audience is online, read what they’re saying. Remember that your audience is reading these comments too. In some cases, the comments might be the most compelling thing on the page, influencing readers more than the content itself.


Use your voice Lisa Sugar, Founder of POPSUGAR

Everything you create should come out of a unified brand voice. When Lisa started POPSUGAR, nothing she read online felt like it was tailored to her. She began writing a blog using an authentic voice that spoke to her: a girlfriend giving educational but respectful advice. Today, her entire website and media empire is built on that voice. Working backwards from that voice, she was able to identify an audience of 20-something “bright-siders” who responded best to it. Today, she only creates content for this highly-engaged audience.


Content is not a mediumCourtland Allen, founder of the Indie Hackers blog

Content can look like anything. There are literally no rules for what it should look like, as long as it’s something that can be shared. Depending on your audience, it might be best to make a spreadsheet, podcast, interactive site, meme, website, wiki, listicle, fan page, video series…the list goes on. There is no rule that your content should be articles of a certain length posted to your blog with a certain frequency. But there is a guideline to aspire to: Whatever you make, make it good enough to be its own company. Typically, the only way you’re going to be able to do this is by solving a real problem or being tremendously entertaining.


Dieste, Inc. (www.dieste.com) is a Dallas- and New York-based company with a mission to pioneer the future of how brands and cultures connect. Through our partnerships and the deployment of proprietary consumer data, algorithms and human cultural intel, combined with insightful creativity, we are able to sync brands with consumer subcultures and create successful outcomes for our clients. Dieste has won multiple Cannes Lions for their work and has been named Ad Age’s “A-list,” “Agency to Watch” and “Multicultural Agency of the Year” numerous times.  Dieste is part of Omnicom’s (NYSE: OMC) DAS Global network.

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