What’s Broken With Content Distribution (And How It Might Get Fixed) With Jonathan Gandolf From The Juice [AMP 227]
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Why are marketers good at content production, but not so great at content distribution? They are judged based on how much work they get done, rather than the actual results that they produce. Also, content promotion with traditional channels is harder to do.
Today’s guest is Jonathan Gandolf from The Juice. He talks about a better way for content marketers to produce and distribute value. Curation is actually more powerful than creation.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- The Juice: A startup that aspires to be the Spotify of B2B content
- Beta Program: Marketers distribute curated content and consumers discover it
- Content Distribution: Same channels, same audience equals diminishing returns
- Keyword Salad: Who are we creating content for? Algorithms or humans?
- Talk to Consumers: Understand why quality content is not producing returns
- The Right Content: Prospects want solutions to problems, not more content
- B2B Buyer’s Journey: Map out funnel and map content to it
- Down the Drain: 59% content isn’t read, 23% budget applied to content creation
- Forms: Don’t expect good things from content consumers with such deliverables
- Safe Space: Create platform to be anonymous, no contact, or generate leads
- Marketers: Slow down and curate content for consumers at right time and place
Ben: Hey, Jonathan. How is it going this afternoon?
Jonathan: It’s going well. Thanks for hosting us today. Excited for the conversation.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. Before we get too far along, would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience? Explain what you do over at The Juice.
Jonathan: The Juice is actually a pre-product, pre-launch company. Reached out to CoSchedule to see if you guys were interested in our beta program, and just really have a lot of admiration for how CoSchedule thinks about content. We’re trying to partner with content marketers and create a curated content distribution platform for both marketers to distribute content but also content consumers to discover content. I’m excited to share more about that in the conversation today. It’s really applying a very familiar B2C experience to the B2B space.
We’re actually out of the High Alpha venture studio in Indianapolis. It’s part venture capital, part accelerator. We’re backed by the High Alpha model there. We’re moving fast and excited to launch later this Spring.
Ben: Very cool. Great stuff. Content distribution, what’s broken with it right now? What problem or problems—because it’s a laundry list of things—are out there in that space that compelled you to start up a company to go fix some of those things?
Jonathan: Are you okay with a 90-minute podcast? How much time do we have to go in-depth on the problems here?
Ben: Literally, I’ve got two hours for our listeners’ sake.
Jonathan: Let’s do it. I might take that much time.
Ben: Maybe give me the elevator pitch that talks about content distribution these days.
Jonathan: It’s an experience I felt throughout my entire career. We’ve gotten really good at creating content, but we have not gotten near as good at distributing that content. What ends up happening is we create really compelling content, but then we end up going to the same channels and the same audience over and over again until we hit this law of diminishing returns. You’re getting fewer returns out of that same audience, so then the only way to get more returns is to create more content. You just end up on this hamster wheel of content creation because that’s all you know to do to hit your goals.
What we want to do is help provide a broader audience and some curation in modern technology to help open up that content distribution journey, but it’s really that same channel, same audience over and over again that so many marketers are trying to figure out how to fight against.
Ben: For sure. There are so many platform problems with that right now I feel like too. SEO just gets more and more competitive. Social media algorithms get tighter and tighter. It’s not easy in content marketing right now to get your content out there.
With that said, if marketers can’t solve this problem one way or another—you can’t just point fingers at Google, Facebook, or whoever and say it’s their fault you can’t do your job. You have to figure something out. If marketers can’t do it whether through whatever it is within their means to solve for or by finding another product, another platform, or doing what you’ve done and actually starting an entire company, what are the potential negative consequences? What are the ramifications for doing things the way you’ve always done them despite getting diminishing returns?
Jonathan: The content we’re creating continues to get better. The challenge, as you referenced, is who are we creating content for, why are we creating that content? So much of what we are forced to do in our space is create content for algorithms as opposed to humans.
I think that poor experience when you’re writing content for algorithms and you’re getting things that are written—we call them keyword salad where you hit a blog, five reasons why you should do this. It’s like each reason is a different keyword that they’re trying to rank for. There’s not a lot of depth to it and/or I think marketers who have been doing things the same way for the last 10 years—gated content. That’s not a good consumer experience, almost nothing else that we do as consumers. Do we have that experience? Except for in the B2B space. We just haven’t evolved past there.
I’ve talked to marketers along the way and they talked about their conversion rate on their gated content being, we’re trying to get it from 13% to 15%. That’s like, well, what about the 85% that you’re not getting on that page? That’s the larger problem, right?
That’s where we can lean into how we consume other types of content across the internet—whether it’s music, TV, video, et cetera—and think about how those experiences are different than the current B2B content consumption experience.
Ben: Certainly. If a marketer is listening to this episode right now and they feel they’re creating great content or maybe they know they’re creating great content but they’re struggling to generate an audience or they’re struggling to generate results, where would you recommend that they begin diagnosing the source of the problem? Why is that content not producing the expected return if they know that content is of high quality?
Jonathan: That’s a really great question. It’s something I wish I had learned a little bit earlier in my career as well. I’ve had the great opportunity—as we’ve been building this business—to talk to a lot of potential customers just as validating what we’re doing. I feel like such an idiot for not doing that earlier in my career of just listening to prospects and customers, understanding what problems they’re trying to solve, and where they’re going to try to solve those problems.
What I’ve learned is nobody right now is looking for more content, they’re just looking for the right content. No one out there is saying, I wish I had more content on this subject, or I wish I had more content on account-based marketing. They’re saying, I wish I knew how to start an account-based marketing program. I wish I knew how to do this. I wish it was accessible to me on this platform or on this channel.
Something we’ve been rallying around a lot with our team is that curation is actually more powerful than creation. I would guess there are a lot of marketers listening that have really great content as you mentioned, but instead of stopping the creation-side of their content engine, listening to their customer, and understanding where their customers or prospects are going, they just keep creating more content hoping they find them.
I have been so fortunate to learn that as part of this process that I think we have a jumpstart on our own content engine in knowing what content we need to be creating and then where we can share that content to get in front of the right people.
My goal when we started this process was to talk to 100 marketers in 100 days. That’s the time and effort that went into it, but man, that was so valuable. Again, I wish it’s something I would’ve taken more seriously earlier in my career.
Ben: For sure. When you say it out loud, it feels like such an obvious insight. But I feel like as marketers, we’re not necessarily thinking about how much content a given individual is consuming. We really only care about our stuff and whether people are consuming our stuff.
It is such an interesting way to turn that conversation outside a little bit. To be like, nobody has ever done a Google search for anything and felt like, you know what, one million results on this keyword or whatever is just not enough. I need one more. I just need more. […] on this.
Jonathan: Or often, are you even going beyond the first page? You’re opening up six different tabs, then you’re getting into those tabs, and that experience isn’t enjoyable so you’re leaving that. So much of it is out of our control. Creating more isn’t the answer to any of those challenges in our opinion.
Ben: Right. Definitely, it’s a thought-provoking point that feels like it shouldn’t be but it is. That’s really good. Once a marketer feels like they’ve developed some understanding as to where their content distribution problems are stemming from, that could mean a lot of things.
Maybe they realized, at a really basic level, their content isn’t optimized for search. Maybe it’s something as simple as they’re not sharing it on socials as much as they could. They’re not sharing in the right places. They’re not positioning their value the right way. There could be a million things, both small and large, as far as content distribution goes in the broader sense.
For the sake of this question though, they’ve got an understanding of where things are going wrong. Once they’ve identified a problem or a set of problems, how would you recommend they proceed in assessing possible solutions? How would you recommend they look at here are all the different things you could to rectify this problem? How do you start prioritizing those things and actually putting together an actionable framework for tackling your distribution problems?
Jonathan: I saw a really interesting—I think Gartner put it out this past summer. They put together a slide. Any number of people have done it likely, but the B2B buyers journey is just a complete mess. They have it laid out linear, but it branches out and it’s a mess.
Again, it sounds really obvious when you say it out loud, but map out your buyer journey or your funnel, and then map your content to it. You’re going to find all sorts of redundancies, all sorts of misaligned pieces of content that you might be talking about the same thing at different stages in the sales process. That’s something on the curation versus creation.
You likely have the content to guide a buyer through their buying journey no matter where they entered that journey at, but is your content making that journey more complex? Are you just adding noise to it? Are you helping a buyer very tangibly move from one stage to the next?
Once you do that, you’re not going to say, you know what, we need more content. You’re going to say, how do we get the right content at the hands of the right person at the right time? Officially, that’s what we want to help solve as well. That goes to that curation being more powerful than the creation now at this stage.
Ben: Yeah. I think that’s really a good point that so much content is created, and it doesn’t get used because people can’t find it. People can’t find it because no one in the company knows how to get it into the right hands at the right point in the journey. Whether that’s marketers not doing their job at the top of the funnel, not communicating the sales, not communicating with support staff, and all these other things.
It’s a great way to think about it. Starting with the customer journey rather than thinking about more tactical things that marketers are given to think about. It’s like if you’re a hammer, then every problem is a nail.
Jonathan: I saw amazing statistics from SiriusDecisions that said that 59% of B2B content never gets read, paired with 23% of B2B marketing budget gets applied to content creation. I don’t know how many mathematicians you have that listen to the podcast, but if you run those numbers together, we as marketers are pouring almost over a quarter of our budget just to essentially right down the drain to never be seen, read, or used. That is really, really jarring. Again, more content probably isn’t going to solve that problem.
Ben: It’s literally lighting money on fire.
Jonathan: Exactly. It’s crazy. Sorry, you’ve got me on a rant now. I get fired up about this topic.
Ben: No problem. Love it.
Jonathan: The other thing that is just crazy is putting content behind forms. No content consumer has ever come across a form and been relieved. There’s never been a joyous occasion of somebody being like, oh good, a form. Yet, we create this beautiful deliverable, and then we put it behind this terrible consumer experience that we all acknowledge is not great and expect good things to happen. It is absolutely wild to us that marketers are still relying on forms.
We want to wedge ourselves into that experience a little bit. Help connect the person who’s staring at that form, wondering if they should fill it out, leave the page altogether, and put in fake information. The marketer who created that beautiful deliverable has a lot of pride in it. They likely should, but don’t know a better way to deliver that content.
Ben: What Jonathan and his team are working on with The Juice sounds super interesting, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. But if you’re listening right now, you might be wondering what you can do to better distribute your content immediately.
To begin answering that question, I will start by looking at what you’re doing right now and then doing a few things. One, do more of what you see is working and just lean into your strengths. Two, stop doing things that aren’t working or things that you’ve really only been doing because they’re what you’ve always done. Three, research other tactics that you haven’t tried yet and maybe consider giving those ideas a shot.
No need to overthink it. Just start testing different things until you hit on something that works. That’s maybe not the most clear path forward, but it does give you a concrete framework that can maybe start to put yourself on the path to success. Now, back to Jonathan.
There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years in regards to forms because we all use forms. All content marketers put something behind a form. At CoSchedule, we use a lot of forms. In most cases, we will try our best not to create any piece of content where the only way to get value is to opt into the form, but the forms are there. There’s usually something extra that’s behind the form.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is how you can do better from a customer experience or from a user experience perspective without losing the business value of capturing the information that those forms are present to gather for you?
Most people can agree that a form, at best, is a roadblock between you and getting the thing that you want. You understand that there’s a transaction happening when you fill one out. Everybody is aware of how the game is being played, but a counter-argument—it’s not even an argument so much as it’s a point of resistance in my own mind. If we’re going to get away from forms, what do you replace them with?
For a lot of content marketers right now, if they would just get rid of their forms, they would have no means of tracking anything between a user visit, a download, eventually trial signup, demo signup, or some other convergence that indicates that team did something that contributed to profitable action.
I guess this might be a big question, but obviously, I don’t think that you would advocate the people to just get rid of their forms. That’s not a plan. But what does the plan look like? Execution-wise, if we’re going to get rid of the forms, what replaces them? Does anything replace them? Maybe I’m thinking about it the wrong way.
Jonathan: No. You’re absolutely right. It is a really, really big question. So big, we’re building a business around it a little bit here. I can tell you how we’re thinking about it. Think about how you interact with music, TV, movies, news, advertising. You’ve got a profile stored on yourself. If you engage with one of those pieces of content, somebody somewhere is receiving analytics on who is engaging with their content.
There’s some amount of nefariousness to that of like, what are you doing with that data? But in the B2B content space, there isn’t that platform. The first thing we want to do is create a platform where B2B content consumers and B2B content marketers can come together in a safe third-party space that isn’t your own website, it isn’t their inbox. Then, what we’re going to do is we’re going to give the content consumer three layers of identification.
One where they remain completely anonymous and can download your content. You’ll get notified. They’re going to download the content. That gives you some directional input on, all right, this content is successful. It’s resonating with people. People are wanting to download it.
Or they can use their job title, company—no contact information essentially. They can give the marketer a little bit more information about themselves. That’ll be the default. You can know directionally who is reading your content, how many people are reading your content, et cetera.
Or they can raise their hands and say, I’d like to give this business all of my contact information. They likely know a little bit about how the game is played like you said. They’ve done their research and they’re ready to be contacted by that company. That should be a super high-quality lead for the CoSchedule team in this case.
That goes to the platform experience whether you’re on Spotify or Netflix where you just create a profile once, your information is stored, and it knows then what you like so it knows how to present you more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. We want to do the same thing in the content space.
The challenge to that is marketers, so it’s not going to be on my website? It’s not going to be behind my form? Our answer to that is, like I mentioned earlier, maybe a good conversion rate on a gated piece of content. Let’s call it 15%. If somebody on our platform or the downloaded content remains anonymous, that’s somebody who wouldn’t have filled out the form anyway, or at best, they would’ve filled out the form with fake information or information that isn’t valuable to you.
We want to solve for that 85% of people who aren’t filling out the form and provide value back to the marketer in that way. It is a little bit of a disruption. We do expect there will be some marketers who don’t love that, but we think the return on opening up your content to a broader audience and continuing to provide some really rich information to you around your content marketing program will be really valuable.
It’s a little bit of a paradigm shift, but we’re excited to plant this form as the villain. We always say every hero needs a villain. For us, we think it could be that old-school gated mentality and mostly how the market reacts to that.
Ben: No one’s going to be sad if forms disappear.
Jonathan: Exactly. I would like to use that quote in some of our own assets because you are exactly right.
Ben: It’s interesting stuff. I imagine the details around what that looks like in actual practice obviously are being formulated as we speak. It’s an interesting problem and an interesting approach to a solution from the sounds of it. In the more near term and thinking a bit more broadly about this too in a way that’s detached from a specific solution, from a specific product, or anything like that.
Say a marketer is listening to this. Maybe they’re not getting even that 15% conversion rate. Maybe it’s something lower than that on their forms. Maybe the problem is potentially a bigger problem than just a form, just content, or anything like that. Let’s say that they want to get beyond this gating stuff. I feel like that approach works for companies that are established probably better than anyone else at this point.
Maybe it’s different in different B2B sectors, but in ours, if you started a blog five, six, seven years ago like we did, you can succeed as SEO. You can succeed with forms. You can succeed with a lot of things that are much, much more difficult for anybody who’s entering space now because there are 10X the competition now than there were half a decade ago.
Let’s say a listener’s approaching it from that perspective. Maybe they don’t care what the solution is. They just want to know. How do you get attention for your content and demonstrate business value if you’re new, if SEO is not an option for you between now and the next 24 months?
Social is tough. It’s tough for everybody, but I feel like, in B2B, it’s particularly difficult. For someone in that position who’s looking for a solution, what would you recommend they do? How do you start getting eyes on your content when you don’t have a flywheel in place and you don’t have the brand recognition to lean on?
Jonathan: It’s a great question. Three steps and we already talked about a few of these. One, I would sit down with your roster of content. Your list of all the content that you want to actively be promoting. Sit down with your sales process. I would start matching that content to your sales process.
Very quickly, you’re going to learn, all right, we don’t need more content. We probably need some ongoing drumbeat of content but maybe we can slow that down a little bit or address any gaps in this. I think you’ll realize very quickly that you don’t need as much content all the time.
Then I would go talk to customers and prospects and ask what their biggest pain points are. When they answer the question, ask why. When they answer that, ask why again—really understand their pain points, and then ask where they go to solve those.
We’ve got a few marketers on our team. I’ve been shocked at their ability based on all the conversations we’ve had. We’re in a few Slack communities where we are a pre-launch, pre-product, but it feels like we’ve got a lot of influence in some of those communities. We’ve met a lot of really cool brands. We’ve hosted some really cool brands like CoSchedule on our podcast. Again, pre being public as a business and informal-public manner, not just an official public-listing manner.
That’s been really successful for us. We’re able to understand their pain points, create content that answers those pain points, and then go find those people who have those same points in communities. That has been a G-code for us as well as just talking to them about it. I think podcasting is a great idea. You talked to Lindsay from Casted about the content carousel concept. We’ve learned a lot just by having conversations.
That’s what I would say are three steps. Sit down with your content roster, sit down with your sales process, align those two, go find the people, and understand how you can apply your content to those spaces that aren’t relying on somebody coming to your website, but you can actually go to where they’re at.
Again, sounds obvious to say out loud but some of it is just for content marketers to slow down and think really deeply about everything that they’re doing. It takes some courage to do that because the people outside of the content marketing function across the business might not understand beyond the drumbeat of content that you’re doing. It takes some championing of what you’re going to do and maybe some courage to slow down.
Ben: That is such a good point because we at least see it, even if they’re not aware of it, with some of our customers. They are measured based on output. Their perceived value in their organization is tied to how much stuff they do rather than value. I can see the expression on your face. It’s not good.
Jonathan: If you could hear a grimace, that’s what you’d be hearing right now.
Ben: Yeah. It’s a dangerous position to be in because they’ll just do more and more stuff until they’re out of the job.
Jonathan: Right, exactly. Input, output. It’s so transactional. It needs to go beyond that.
Ben: Yeah, because as soon as the C-suite decides that they want to see some actual results, that marketing team isn’t going to understand what they did wrong because they were doing a lot of stuff, and a lot of stuff is good.
It really sounds, at the heart of what you’re saying, that there needs to be a shift from thinking about the output of deliverables to putting your customers’ problems first and meeting those folks where they’re at.
Jonathan: Again, it sounds so obvious, right? But it’s prioritizing the curation over the creation. I know I’ve said that a few times, but it is taking the time to curate the right content for your audience at the right time in the right place.
Ben: Sure. The last question I’ll throw your way. You’ve already touched on this multiple times at this conversation but maybe just as a means of putting a bow on things. Once you are out there and you’ve got a product that people can go find—just maybe something to go look for, what to expect—how specifically does your product aim to help solve these issues? If you have to summarize a lot of the things that you’ve already touched on and break it down into a few bullet points that we can leave our listeners with.
Jonathan: Yeah. I feel like it’s very B2B tech of us to say you’re something for something else. I’ve referenced this a few times on the podcast. We would want to be like Spotify for B2B content. We want to help content consumers easily and efficiently find the best content for them so they can be better at their role, make better decisions, advance their careers.
We want to help content marketers create content for humans as opposed to the gamification of algorithms or hiding content behind gates. We want to shine the spotlight on their content. We want them to get more juice from the squeeze that they are putting into their content by matching it with the right audience.
If we’ve got a very active audience, we know what they’re interested in, we can present their content to an audience that’s interested in content like theirs. The right audience at the right time. Ultimately, we think that can create a much more inspirational experience around content because it’s going to be a much more enjoyable way for content consumers to discover content and a much more efficient way for content marketers to distribute content.
It is the B2C experience that we feel across everything else we do. It’s just applying it to the B2B content space that we think so desperately needs it. It’s a big vision. We’ve certainly ran into a lot of challenges as we’ve been building this out but we’re really, really close now and we’re excited to share it with everybody.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. This is great stuff. Thanks again so much for coming on the show, Jonathan. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk through some of these issues because if this is something that I’ve had questions about, it’s definitely something that our audience has had questions about.
If you’re building an entire company to solve for some of these things, obviously it just got to be something of some significance. It’s super cool to get to talk to you especially at the stage you’re in, kind of in the early goings here. I’ll be really interested to see where you take things and see what comes out of all these things that you’re talking about.
Jonathan: Yeah, Ben. I appreciate you hosting us at the stage placing a bet on us pre-launch. I really appreciate that. We are so interested in the challenges that content marketers are facing. I really appreciate the podcast being actionable and tactical. That’s really admirable. I’m excited to hopefully hear from some content marketers about problems they’re facing, and we’re interested in helping solve those. I just really appreciate the opportunity today.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. Just one last thing. If people listening to the show are looking to find you or your company, where would you recommend they go to check you out?
Jonathan: Yeah, thejuicehq.com is our very temporary website right now. If we’ve got some marketers in web design listening, please don’t judge us based on our temporary website. We are working on our final marketing website, our final visual identity as we speak. But there is enough information where you can learn more and reach out to us on thejuicehq.com.
March 23, 2021