I peruse a lot of content every day as a reader, curator, and editor. Lately, I’ve noticed that unless it’s my job to edit something, I rarely read to the end.
Marketers and SEO agencies say “create unique content” over and over again, yet few content creators and publishers truly rise to the occasion. After all, there are 7 billion people on this planet using an idea storage unit called the World Wide Web. It’s hard to create something really unique.
So much of the content shared and published by social media and content marketers is just a rehash of what’s already been done. We rarely demand something truly unique, both from ourselves and the people we edit. The people consuming your content have a limited number of minutes between now and their death. You should endeavor to deserve those minutes by creating and publishing something truly unique.
As a Creator
Create a Deeper Exploration of a Topic by Offering Something Other Creators Haven’t
Before Richard Dawkins wrote “The Selfish Gene,” several other scientists had published papers suggesting the gene as the central unit of evolution. Dawkins read the papers and thought to himself, as he told a BBC interviewer, “There’s so much more to add.” If a topic excites you, and you have something new to contribute, follow his example and add something new. For instance:
- Explore a sliver of a topic in depth. Find a small part of a large topic that interests you, and create a deep piece of content on a narrow topic.
- Approach it from a new angle. Develop a new angle on a topic that examines something old in a fresh way.
- Tell it from your perspective. I recently read a blog post by Co-Schedule discussing how they’ve experimented with blogging frequency. Discussing the topic in a first person, step-by-step manner turned an overworked subject into an interesting read.
Offer a Shift in Perspective
My current favorite Twitter account is @manwhohasitall. The character takes the lame advice offered to working moms and imagines what it would sound like if men got similar advice.
It’s a fantastic way to highlight the shallow yet impossible advice offered to career women—and the incredibly low expectations our culture has of men when it comes to partnership at home.
Say It a Whole New Way
- If you repurpose content into different formats, you get a “C.”
- If your repurposing efforts add power to the original idea through the unique qualities of the new format, you get an “B.” BuzzFeed Food videos are one of my favorite examples of this. These aren't recipes repurposed into long segments with a cooking expert or lengthy Pinterest-worthy blog posts; they're fast, no-nonsense videos about creating everyday food for everyday people.
Pull Apart Pizza Bread
Posted by BuzzFeed Food on Monday, October 19, 2015
- You get an “A+” if you push the boundaries of what the format traditionally does. Check out what graphic artist Micael Reynaud is doing with GIFs:
Be the First to Publish Something
Creating content based on thoughts no one has published yet is the Holy Grail approach to uniqueness—and also the toughest. One of my favorite people looking into the future is Rand Fishkin. Check out his slideshow from the last MozCon on the future of SEO:
As an Editor
Google It Before You Publish It
It amazes me how few editors take the time to make sure something hasn’t already been done before slapping it up in the content management system. If it has the same title, the same angle, and the same tired rehashed points as everything else already out there, don’t publish it. Your team can do better.
Demand a Complete Piece of Work
Every piece of content contains unanswered questions. Go through the traditional journalistic question set (who, what, when, where, why, how), and identify unanswered questions in the content. If something leaves out an important area of exploration, send it back to the writer or creative team and tell them you want to know more.
Require Multiple Drafts
As an editor, it’s your job to push creative teams through the generic veil to discover the uniqueness within their ideas. There’s a Michelangelo sculpture hiding in the piece of marble they just gave you. Few first drafts contain that kind of treasure.
Say “No” More Often
Instead of accepting and publishing everything you’re given in the name of keywords, link building, and SEO, start saying “no” to anything that doesn’t meet your publication’s quality standards. A lot of blogs start out as amazing and unique content oases, but they lose their souls—or sell them—for traffic.
Imagine the Future Today
Creating future unique content today puts you in a position to break new ground. Take some time, maybe quarterly or twice a year year, to envision your publication or your industry five years from now. What will it look like? What will people want to know? How will they be consuming content? What formats will interest them?
What strategies do you use to create truly unique content? How have you rescued your publication from mediocrity and rejuvenated your content creation? Tell me about it in the comments.
Featured image: Capture Queen from Flickr Creative Commons