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Another version of Content & Cash, Melissa Rach's talk on establishing the value of content first delivered in 2012. This version was done for the CIDM Best Practices conference in Washington in Stevenson, Washington.
Talking about money is awkward and uncomfortable in most situations It’s even harder when you’re trying to pin dollars to something as amorphous as content Money is an important part of any industry—we need to eat
People aren’t asking us for this stuff to be jerkfaces They’re asking because they think that is the way business is “supposed to be done”
Let’s face it. This stuff was never the content person’s forte. Two things I didn’t think I’d ever use computers and economics. Gross.
Everybody wants to fix this problem, solve this puzzle – we’re all problem solvers. You are in just as good of a position as anyone else to do it. Most people are economically illiterate-even execs.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Or quick. It’s not.
But content is important. And it’s our jobs to figure out the question.
It’s easy to get angry. We know content is what people come to websites for. It’s what they want out of a brochure. Customers need it to make decisions or perform activities we want them to do. So, why is it hard for people put money towards it? Why is it easier to put money toward design, technology, or anything else!?
We can learn from Johnny’s attitude He knew he didn’t fit the mold, and he knew he couldn’t play by the rules Yet, he went on to become one of the most successful performers of his generation He did it by being equal parts genuine, wiley, and rebel He figured out how the system worked, and he then he used it to his advantage
We can be rebels Getting educated about economics We can rebel against the conventional concepts economics We can find work-arounds
When deciding to spend money on content, decision makers many have to let go things they already have and like, or things they wished for – like when the frig breaks down and your plans for a new tv are gone…
Money Other opportunities: If I spend time on this, what else am I missing? Time: Waste time on this project and could be farther behind Professional rep: You hired these people, you’re responsible Emotional anguish: Don’t want the whole thing to be painful
People guess based on: Rules of thumb/short cuts Experience Common sense We do this all the time Looking at the sky for the weather Flying vs. motorcycles Play it safe -- Where do you go when you’re kid is screaming in the back of the car? McDonalds or that charming-looking café you’ve been meaning to try
Dorky kid, we musicians were starting to need polish Grew up in the cotton field Mom made his clothes Had an ok voice, but not great Got a $5 guitar in the army
Perfect storm of economics crappiness
People have no idea what we do Have nothing to compare us to No past experience to draw on
Numbers: Business runs on numbers Shortcut for the brain – hot outside vs. it’s 80 degrees All sort of arbitrary 14C/60F It doesn’t need to be exact, in fact, it hardly ever is New Coke Most people prefer new Coke to old Coke 5 out of 6 people prefer new Coke to old Coke 83.3% of respondents prefer new Coke to old Coke Whoops
It’s not about us against them, as long as procurement isn’t involved
It takes: Listening Sharing Time
Don’t start with money.
Do you need a plumber or a pipe
Why do you care? Because they are valued differently Let’s say you have a pipe burst in your house The pipe itself is worth $2 The work of the plumber who fixes the leak is worth a lot more even though you can’t quantify piece of mind And buyers expect different amounts of information during the service Goods are just the price of the manufacturing, and the profit margin Pricing services are hard
I am often ready to spend extra money for convenience The value of a content work – depends on the combination of these qualities. You want it fast, alleviate all the pain? That’s different from a long timeline and focusing on one pain point.
This is about storytelling
So the real questions are: Value of what? What’s a benefit? What’s a cost?
Are you estimating or measuring progress?
First, the easiest one.
Challenges Projecting the market value of the product (price people willing to pay or do without) Remembering all of the steps in the content creation process
Calculated by hourly rates , percentage of time spent on this task, and time saved during the year Don’t forget approvers
You can base price on: Cost Competition Demand/value
I am two people.
Johnny is the nice one.
Cash causes all the trouble.
To make an investment, funders expect:
• To know exactly what content will do for the
• Proof of competency/quality
• Exactly how much it will cost
• Provable value and ROI
Hard numbers. Right now.
Economics is making the best
out of life.
Decision making is scary
Investing in content:
• Means NOT investing in other things
• Might result in loss of:
• Other opportunities
• Professional reputation
• Emotional anguish
• Are limited by what they know
• Latch on to things that are familiar
• Choose the safest option
• And then immediately start worrying that they’ve
made the wrong decision
Make a confident decision that’s
beneficial to everyone.
1. Define the need
What is the need? What are you offering?
• New or updated content
• Cleaned up content/fixed mistakes
• More efficient, happier workplace
• Unifying strategy
• Ongoing service
How does this work benefit the business? How do
(will you) you know?
2. Understand the process
Get all the information you can, find out:
• What is the decision?
• What impacts that decision?
• Who impacts the decision?
• What experience do stakeholders have with
• Is there a budget?
4. Understand all benefits
Type Benefits Costs
Monetary Profit or savings Cost of creation
Sensory Get satisfaction/
Endure extra pain or
Temporal Save time Lose time
Opportunity-based Gain advantages Eliminate possibilities
Psychological Reduce anxiety Add anxiety
Social Increase stature Blamed for problems
Convenience-based Makes things easier Makes things more
5. Tell a hopeful story
Create a story that highlights key benefits, such as:
• We can serve users better
• We can be more efficient
• We can beat the competitors
• We can be more accurate
6. Eliminate fear
• Discuss the details
• Answer questions
• Address concerns
• Start small or do some proof of concept work
• Provide references (services) or samples (goods)
• Be patient
Value of what?
Content as influence
What is the piece of content worth?
• Benefit: Increased profit as the result of an end-user
• Cost: Cost to create the content
Estimates, not exacts
Figure out what you know; fill in the blanks with assumptions
• The average Johnny Cash t-shirt costs $20
• Analytics show that 50 people start the process of purchasing a t-shirt online
every day, but only 10 finish the process
• User research shows that the instructions on the purchase pages are very
• We assume 5-10 people leave the purchasing process because of something
unrelated to the site, and 5-10 leave the process when they see the shipping
• We assume the remaining 20-30 people would complete the purchasing
process if the instructions were more helpful
• Therefore, the value of the instructional content is likely around $144,000-
216,000 per year ($20 x 20-30 people x 30 days X12)
• The cost of fixing the content is approximately $5,000
Value of what?
What is the tool worth?
• Benefit: Cost savings as the result of employee
behavior change (or happiness)
• Cost: Cost to create/maintain the tool and train
people to use it
Value of what?
Strategy (or service)
What is the strategy worth?
• Benefit: Combination of:
• Savings/profit from:
• Content as product
• Content as influence
• Value of non-monetary benefits
• Cost: Cost to create/implement the strategy
Our friend, Johnny…
50+ million albums sold
96 studio albums
63 compilation albums
17 Grammy Awards
9 CMA Awards
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
Songwriters Hall of Fame
Gospel Music Hall of Fame
Country Music Hall of Fame
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Kennedy Center Honors
National Medal of Arts
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Variety of measurements
• Qualitative assessments
• User research and usability
• External expert review
• Internal expert review
• Efficiency measurements
Measure often, expect
• Establish a baseline
• Measure consistently over time
• Use different timelines for different types of
88 out of 100
↑ 15% since April
Want to know more?
Content Strategy for the Web (second edition)
Check out chapter 10
By Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
How to Measure Anything
by Douglas W. Hubbard
Marketing Professional Services
by Philip Kotler, Thomas Hayes, Paul N. Bloom
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science
by Charles Wheelan