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Content-driven everything is pretty much the marketing mantra. More than that, it's the rationale for anything we do online (depending on how we define content), and it's a pretty banal observation.

If something isn't content-driven, then what is it? Fluff-driven? Waste-of-time-driven? Tricky-dicky-driven? I'd go as far as to say 'content-driven online marketing' is some sort of mega-tautology.

Good content is obviously defined by your audience, and if you don't deliver it, regardless of the traffic/links you garner, you are at worst distracting from what it is you actually do, most probably diluting it, and at best momentarily forgetting your niche. Nowhere is this more obvious than for the online publisher.

Some blogs in the online marketing space have received criticism for posting articles around the weekend's tragic events that fall, the critics say, outside said publishers' remit.

The example I'm thinking of is Mashable's coverage of Amy Winehouse's death. Should a good editor have prevented publication of this news on a site covering digital culture, social media and technology?

Well, yes - not because the coverage is in any way morally wrong, but simply because it is incongruous in the context of their audience, and what it is they do, and therefore does not represent good content.

For the record, I think it's hard for the mere presence of a post to be amoral per se; the content can certainly be dubious, or even amoral, irrespective of audience - The Huffington Post certainly corners 'dubious' with this article detailing what small businesses can learn from Winehouse's death.

There are three important points here, demonstrated by the articles in question.

The first is the need for a strong editorial vision, which translates to consistency in content strategy across any organisation. Having a lapse of concentration in editorial is not the end of the world - you'll only serve up irrelevance, which (even taking into account page views) isn't going to help the bottom line.

The second, more specific point is that whether you’re an online publisher or any organisation using content in your marketing efforts, resisting the 'headline grabbing stories' (however you define them) might be difficult, but is necessary if it avoids a disjunct between what you promise, and what you actually serve up. Common sense, and for good reason.

The third point, which is really the point I’ve been waffling towards, is that the old adage of ‘know your audience’ is more relevant than ever online, as the internet continues to sprawl.

Greater competition for your browser demands a clearer reason-for-being from every website, and every itty bitty piece of content. Of course, your audience might be channel-specific, but that’s for another post.

Ben Davis

Published 28 July, 2011 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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