This photo, known as The Pillars of Creation, was made by the Hubble Telescope in 1995 and shows “elephant trunks” of interstellar gas and dust in the Eagle Nebula, approximately 7,000 light years from Earth. Mesmerizing, isn’t it?
Fox news and National Geographic have launched a 13-part series called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. TV networks are going big, and with good reason. In an FT.com interview, Fox One President Jean Rossi said “It is about big event TV.”
Why go big? The FT article said it’s due to commercial skipping and media proliferation. Marketers want to integrate themselves more into all aspects of a big release, including the social media that accompanies it.
The first airing of the series drew 8.5M viewers across 10 networks. With that kind of following, you can bet there will be more such shows from Fox, a network not known for such high-minded programming.
But is big content right for your company?
The answer is yes, for all the same reasons. If your website is posting content that’s important, far reaching, and mesmerizing, then it will draw a wider audience and lead to social sharing.
Here again, we can learn from the FT article. They compared expected viewership of the new Cosmos series to viewership of the Oscars earlier this month. 40M vs. 43M. Those are compelling numbers. One is an on-going big content event, the other is a one-hit wonder. My prediction is that the cumulative social sharing will greatly out score that of the Oscars.
Big content marketing bucks the trend
Most of the clients we speak with prefer very short blog posts. Google prefers just the opposite. QuickSprout.com posted very revealing statistics that indicate long-form blog posts make Google much more happy, and remember, Google stands between you and your prospective customers.
And, most importantly, leads from those visits converted 7.6% better.
The website TVTropes.org defines some basic guidelines for The Epic trope as a longer-than-average story that is:
- Wide in scope (not just one battle or skirmish, but a country-wide/planet-wide/galaxy-wide war or catastrophe)
- Follows one hero, group of heroes or bloodline, who…
- …Strive to achieve a particular goal or complete a quest, in the course of which they…
- … Commit extraordinary deeds and…
- … Have multiple (three or more) separate adventures in the course of their quest or journey.
The Cosmos is by no means the first epic undertaking on television. PBS’s sweeping series The Civil War by Ken Burns fits much of the criteria above. On their website, PBS described the moment Burns decided to do this gigantic series. Inspired by Michael Shaara’s book The Killer Angels, Burns told his father, “Now I know the subject for my next documentary. It’s going to be the Civil War.”
His father asked, “What part of the Civil War?”
“All of it.”
Find a topic that big in your business category, one that will provide real value for your prospects, peers, and friends – then you’ll have your hands on a big content idea worthy of a lot of work. The Civil War took Burns 6 years to complete, longer than it took America to fight the war.
Burns took on a huge story, but that alone was no guarantee of success. He did so in a style that had not been explored before – The careful use of archival photographs, live modern cinematography, music, narration, and a chorus of first-person voices gave the series a very different storytelling texture. The series was mesmerizing to watch. View the video below from 1:30 onwards for a minute or so. The combination of the song, Ashokan Farewell, plus the incredible voice talent of David McCullough and languid footage of still images feels like hearing a story told by someone living during that era.
If you Google the phrase “Content marketing style” you won’t find any guidance. Instead, I suggest looking to television epics to guide you:
- News analysis
- Pure entertainment
- Reality show
If you want to get deep into the above options, I suggest TVtropes.org’s main tropes index. Here are a few that might be applicable for big content on your website:
Characters as Device – turn your staff into the subject of your content. We do this on our Facebook site.
Dialogue – Capture important conversations between experts
Human Interest – Cover the trials and victories of your target audience.
Voice of the Resistance – Is your category hyper competitive? Do you have a unique way to stand out against the hordes? Tell your ongoing stories of resistance.
Take a lesson from Ken Burns: mix your media. We’ve written in other parts of our website about the importance of using all social media from an SEO perspective. It’s also a great way to add texture to your big content push. The “style” with which you mix music and videos, photos and illustrations, charts and graphs into your big content deployments will make them that much more readable.
TV networks create original content. Do you?
Many companies look within to write the content of their blogs. We suggest looking much wider. Recently, we had a client whose thought leaders simply stopped writing. So we set up phone interviews via Blog Talk Radio. Then they decided they couldn’t spare even 20 minutes for an interview. So we went outside their company and began interviewing thought leaders in the industry. This led to two results:
- We got better content.
- It shamed the internal thought leaders into getting more engaged.
Create content that is bigger than your company. Think bigger than your target prospects. Think about how your company and your industry fit into the wider world.
Surround your subject
At ion Leap, we recommend exploring a subject with multiple blog posts, with videos, online radio, rich visual ideas on Facebook and Pinterest, and lots of video on YouTube and Vimeo. In so doing, you’re letting Google know that your content is a rich experience. If other agree and share it, then you’ll find yourself intersecting with more prospects via Google searches.
Pick topics that are big enough that you simply can’t report on them with just one long blog post. For instance, we’re reporting on the Real State of Content Marketing in 2014 using every media available. You can follow the series here.
Examples of Big Content Marketing
This page from CNN shows a great way to manage big content. It’s the tragic story of the missing Malaysian flight. The page has a feature story that’s just breaking (as of my blog update 3/12/14 at 5:26 pm EST) regarding a Chinese satellite image that apparently shows wreckage. Look down the right and left-hand side of the page – over 25 different pieces of content to read, most with videos to view. This becomes a “hub page” from which you can follow the entire story.
National Geographic’s website is a great example of making the most of a vast amount of loosely related content. If you look across the website’s top navigation and click “Adventure,” you’ll be taken into something akin to a micro site all about adventure. At the top, a rotating feature with great photography and titles like “Extreme Photo of the Week;” an article on dog sled expeditions, as well as 42 postage stamp size areas to click and explore. See below. This is a great example of a hub page.