When content becomes math

The math men have staked claim to content.

I used to be a pure content provider once. Now I am a half-baked coder, marketer, amateur data analyst, too. The list of “additional skills” keeps increasing.

It`s not enough to be a creative person anymore (anything that you create is a creative process). You need to peddle your work. After doing that, you then need to know whether you are getting your RoI (for those who still don`t know what the acronym stands for, I suggest go figure before proceeding with the rest of this newsletter).

I have made the transition but I know many are struggling still. Some write in to me, expressing frustration. For them I have only this advice - do it or perish.

The Millennials are “cool with it”, Gen X is learning to cope with it, while the Baby Boomers are too far gone to figure it out.


Creativity does not speak for itself anymore. It needs marketing, math, statistics and analysis for propagation.


The World Wide Web offers a free, easy pipeline to showcase your labor of love in front of the world. But that`s what every genuinely gifted (and fraudulent) creative person, too, is involved with. Which means the creative space you are in is over-crowded, be it writing, painting, photography, short video-films, feature films….

This newsletter itself can serve as an example of the point that I am making here.

It`s no longer enough for me to merely bang out this weekly edition. I cannot afford to relax once I am done.

Here`s what I do “routinely” once I am finished with the writing. I put on my marketer`s cap and tell my story. I announce the new issue from a variety of channels - social media, content forums, email, push notifications; I ping Google and other search engines; I use different words at different times of the day and week to tell the same thing to different sets of people. Except threaten, I cajole, beg, entice them to read it. (Whenever this free edition turns into a “subscription” one, I will have to do even more to make people shell out the fee. Selling, believe me, is indeed the world`s toughest job. )

I monitor the metrics. I use data analytics, my own and that provided by almost every platform out there to understand with whom and why this issue of the newsletter has resonated.

Analytics also tells me the demography of my audience. Am I striking a chord with the teenagers? Or are those between 40-55 years my only readers? Where in the world is the traffic coming from? Why are people in Brazil not really as interested as those in the US?

I need to “figure it out” week after week, month on month, year after year, to “get the true picture of the popularity of my newsletter”. Once the data has “spoken”, I need to take the next step. I need to understand whether I have started reaching my intended target audience or not. If yes, I need to find ways of increasing traffic. If not, I need to “fix the plumbing”.

One more thing. If I plan to generate any revenue out of this exercise by way of advertising or subscription, I need to put square blocks in square holes. I need to show an advertiser the numbers - traffic stats, demography - to prove the influence of the newsletter. That part of content commerce still holds true even today - popularity gets you the bucks, only, the term popularity has undergone a massive re-definition. That is also the reason why 99% of bloggers fail to make a tangible income from their blogs.

There`s another trick to make your content sell even before it is written, painted or photographed. You use predictive analytics to find out the kind of content your audience desires, and then produce it, accordingly. It`s like putting the cart before the horse. Having used it though, I can assure you it works* (*In certain conditions). Like product reviews or content around a popular service, projecting you or your enterprise as an authority.

I am not even getting into areas like content format. Text is no longer popular, long-form content is almost dead, I am told.

The hosting platform of this newsletter has been nudging me to podcast, instead. Elsewhere, surveys show 2-minute videos are turning popular.

People`s attention span is inversely proportionate to their ever-growing lifespan. Even text-based content like this one carries a notification at the start that says, “ 2 min(utes) read”, clearly letting my “traffic” know he/she is about to block 2 whole minutes of their time. It`s like an ominous warning - watch out, you are about to waste your 2 minutes reading. It`s like that familiar asterisk that comes along with services and products these days: terms and conditions apply.

Survey after survey shows that “other skills” are desired of content providers. This one, for example, says data analytics is the number one desired skill for new content team hires.

Here`s the thing. You may be very good as a content provider but that is no longer enough. You need to acquire new skill sets to “prove” you are good. (You can even outsource it to others, but where`s the money, honey?)

The bottom line is - re-engineer or perish.