You Have Too Many Content Channels. Let’s Kill Some.

Editor’s Note: This guest post was part of an educational webinar series to help marketers navigate the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon us. The webinar series is now available on demand here.

ESPN, originally started as a sports-only cable television station in 1979, began with a $9,000 investment by Bill and Scott Rasmussen. Almost 40 years later, ESPN is the world’s most valuable sports media brand.

For 13 years, ESPN directed all its attention to just one channel: cable television. Then in the 90s, the company began to rapidly diversify. It launched ESPN radio in 1992, in 1995, and ESPN the Magazine in 1998.

Even after the virus, ESPN has a presence on almost every channel and in every format available on the planet—from Twitter and Snapchat, to podcasts and documentaries. Yet ESPN didn’t diversify until its core platform (cable television) was successful.

The greatest media entities of all time selected one primary channel in which to build their platform:

  • Wall Street Journal—Printed newspaper
  • Time—Printed magazine
  • TED Talks—In-person events
  • Huffington Post—Online magazine format
  • PewDiePie—YouTube Show

Most organizations that run to create and distribute more content try to publish as much as they can, in as many different ways and on as many platforms as possible. This is a failing proposition. Frankly, if you are a historian of media companies, this just doesn’t work.

In today’s climate, we might be tempted to start throwing all kinds of media against the wall, experimenting at will. And who knows, this might actually work…except that history tells us that it won’t.

The “One” Media Strategy

In 2014, while I was researching for my book Content Inc., our team of researchers looked at more than a hundred successful media brands, as well as content marketing examples. To our surprise, nearly every one followed the exact same model.

Each platform creation had four key attributes:

  • One key audience target
  • One mission (the content tilt)
  • (Primarily) One content type (audio, video, textual/image, face-to-face)
  • One platform (blog/website, iTunes, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.)

Even Huffington Post, which sold to AOL (now Verizon) for $315 million dollars, didn’t start with the hundreds of blogs to hundreds of different audiences and four thousand contributors. They started with one blog and one mission.

You may have seen the announcement of Mailchimp Presents. The email marketing company launched a slew of short-form series, films, animations, podcasts, and more all around the same time, targeting entrepreneurs.

I like Mailchimp. I’m a customer. It’s a good, solid company.

But I’m fairly certain that Mailchimp Presents will go up in flames.

mailchimp presents - content channels

Why? To restate, every major media and content brand in existence started by focusing on one platform. It’s simply too difficult when starting out to be great at more than one thing at a time, and yet almost every company launches multiple content efforts at once. They launch a blog, and a podcast, and some research, and a horrible e-newsletter, and some social, and possibly an event. This is a recipe for disaster.

Regardless of how big or small your marketing department is, every organization has finite energy when it comes to content efforts. To increase your odds of success during the recession, which is likely to last a while, you need to shutter much of what you are doing and focus on being truly exceptional at one or two things.

Start Simple

Home Made Simple, one of P&G’s content brands, is amazingly successful today. It includes a blog, a popular e-newsletter, and a TV series, and it evolved into a commercial line of branded products. But 15 years ago, it was just a blog and an e-newsletter. The company focused on doing just those two things extremely well, and that is why it is still around today.

Today, Content Marketing Institute offers over a dozen content products. But in its beginning we focused on an amazing blog and a truly helpful e-newsletter. Once we developed a minimum viable audience, then (and only then) did we launch Chief Content Officer magazine, Content Marketing World, ContentTECH, and all the others.

cmi content channels

My debut novel, The Will to Die, reached Amazon #1 in four different mystery/thriller categories. I believe much of that success happened because I launched the book ONLY in audio form, as a podcast. Once we had traction with the podcast, only then did we release in print and e-book form. Even I was surprised with the success.

All this means is that you need to make a decision as to what your core platform is. It could be:

  • A blog
  • A podcast
  • A webinar/webcast/Zoom series
  • A YouTube channel
  • A Facebook group
  • LinkedIn Publishing
  • A TikTok channel
  • An Instagram channel
  • A Twitch following (if you are in the gaming space especially)

These are just a few to get you thinking. Remember that each one of these should be packaged with an e-newsletter.

Kill off what’s not working and place heavy bets on one winning platform/channel. Remember, you do NOT need a content initiative for every channel you are involved in. And, it won’t work anyway.