{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Content Formats and Reducing Friction

{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Content Formats and Reducing Friction

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris tackle the disconnect between what marketers think is hot versus what customers actually want. Do people really want more time on their screens? Do people need more meetings on their calendars? Watch or listen to find out the results of a survey and how content strategy for 2021 might change.


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: Content Formats and Reducing Friction

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:02

This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.

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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, it is a brand new year it is 2021 is an arbitrary date on the calendar.

But one of the things that happened over the holiday break, I ran a poll to my newsletter folks, asking them what content would you like more of and in what format? And the format question was an interesting one, the five choices were email, video, audio, text, blog posts, and live streams.

And what came up was very interesting email was the winner.

By about 30% of respondents followed by text blog posts, then video, then audio at the bottom with only 12% was live streams.

And well, the folks who replied back to the episode of the issue the newsletters, like everyone in marketing is saying live stream live stream live stream.

And all these markers are talking about and evangelizing it.

Why did it come in last for your newsletter survey? And I said, Well, there’s a bunch of reasons I can think of but Katie, what’s your perspective on the thing that everybody’s talking about? As the next marketing trend? Like for example, there’s a new app clubhouse, which is essentially talk radio, live talk radio, is the thing and was talking about? And then there’s the reality of what customers want when we survey them? Why is there such a disconnect?

Katie Robbert 2:52

It sounds like there’s a couple of things going on.

I think there’s the you know, what we as marketers think our customers want.

And then there’s what they’re saying like, No, I don’t have the energy.

So when you look at an email newsletter, versus a blog post, for example, they could essentially be the same kind of thing.

They’re both just written word, but what is being delivered to you and one, you have to go seek out.

So the email newsletter is being delivered to you were so like, at my convenience, I can read it, it’s waiting there, someone has handed it to me all nice and packaged up versus the blog post that I have to actively remember that I have to go find and read.

So that’s one difference.

The next is, you know, with a live stream, or a video or an audio, you know, you are somewhat beholden, you know, you can speed it up a little bit, but you’re somewhat beholden to the speed in which the content creator gets to the point.

And so with, you know, a blog post or a newsletter, you can try to skim and get to the point faster.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a new year without my dog barking through a podcast.

So here we are.

The point being is that when I think about that, I would have also said either a newsletter or a blog post, because something that I can take my time and read at my leisure versus waiting for someone to talk at me and get to the point.

I would much prefer something delivered to me that I can read in my own time.

Christopher Penn 4:28

Yeah, that was what I was thinking of in terms of, you know, the why people answered the way they did.

And for those who are watching the video version of this, just got the poll results on the screen.

The other thing that struck me in particular with live streaming is that it’s it’s what we call appointment media, where you have to be at a certain time at a certain place to consume the content.

And honestly, you know, it’s the beginning of 2021 we’ve we’ve had this pandemic now for over a year we’ve been in, you know, in the various states of Russia.

For 10 months now, a live stream is nothing more than another zoom call at this point, not sure that anybody wants more of those, particularly since it’s at a certain date in a certain time.

It’s another meeting, I raise your hand, if you would like another meeting on your calendar, I don’t see any hands up right now.

And so unless the content is so spectacular or so entertaining, I don’t know that, that people are willing to make the time for it, as opposed to at least you know, when you record a live stream, the video is available later on.

Some of my favorite bands on YouTube have, you know, live streams of acoustic shows and stuff live.

And these are bands that have 234 10 million followers on YouTube.

And when you go in, and you look at the live streams, like 400 people on like, out of your 6 million fans, you can only get 400 of them to show up for a live free show.

What chance do marketers have, you know, with 100 or 1000 followers, we’re getting more than like, what?

Katie Robbert 6:05

Well, it also comes down to you know, Chris, this is something you and I talk a lot about is you know, when you create a tutorial, you record a video, whereas I personally am someone who much prefers to read a set of instructions, I don’t want to watch a video.

And so that’s also sort of a learning preference.

I struggle to follow a video, whereas if you give me step by step instructions written out, I can do that.

And so I feel the same way about, you know, consuming content where I would rather read something where it’s easier for me to literally just, you know, scan my eyeballs back up if I miss something, whereas with a video, I have to stop it, go back, try to re consume it, you know, make sure I’m understanding what the person is saying.

And I don’t have that written thing as a point of reference.

Because they Oh, yes, I understood what they said or no, I misheard what the messaging was.

And so again, that’s just a personal preference for me.

But you’re absolutely right.

It is like one more meeting on your calendar, even if, you know, you’re watching it on demand.

after the fact, there’s still that, you know, sense of fatigue with watching another video, try and consume more information.

And, you know, with a newsletter or a blog post, you can more easily just sort of skim through, pick out the things that you care the most about, and then move on.

Christopher Penn 7:28

I think the two concepts embedded in here are, you know, friction and speed.

Right? When you have a piece of text, I mean, you can read anywhere from 250 to 400 words a minute, right.

And when we speak, when I speak at my fastest I’m speaking at about 180 words a minute, most people speak between 120 150 words a minute.

And so just by having the text in front of you, you can at least double the speed at which audio can be delivered.


You know, I’ve heard friends say, Oh, yeah, let’s get your podcasts by listen to it.

We have 1.5 x speed so I can get to it faster.


I mean so much.

You want to get it over with as quick as you can.

But they’re trying to just get the information out of it.

And to your earlier point about an email just being there, right.

It just it just shows up.

I think the watchwords I feel like the watchwords for our marketing going into the new year are make it faster for people to get the information because there’s still only 24 hours a day.

And remove as much friction from the process as possible, make people do less stuff.

You know, our friend and colleague Mitchell said that last year, when we were recording our client service shows, don’t be another thing on your clients to do list, right? When you have a live stream, you got to remember where it is, you got to remember the app, you got to remember the time you got to show up.

That’s a lot of things as opposed to any newsletter, do nothing, it just shows up.

Katie Robbert 8:55

It’s true.

And you know, you can also sort of, you know, make the comparison to you know, let’s say you’re googling for a recipe, you know, how many times have you gone to be like, oh, okay, this is the recipe I need.

But then you have to scroll through eight pages of how the person got inspired.

In the, you know, mountains of France when they saw a butterfly this one time flying over the crested moon to then you know, land on a blade of grass that then inspired them to make a lasagna.

Tell me tell me what’s in the lasagna.

Just get to the point.

I just want the recipe.

Do I need 10 pounds of noodles or 15 pounds of noodles.

Like it’s that kind of frustration that the second somebody has that experience with your content.

It’s immediately a turn off and they you’ve probably just lost a subscriber or a watcher or you know someone to consume your content, because you have frustrated them today where they can’t get to the point fast enough.

And you know, I’m fascinated by people who listen to podcasts that fast Like 1.5 X or two X, I can’t consume content that fast.

But what it does say, Chris, is that, yeah, we just need to not bury the lede just get to the point and move on

Christopher Penn 10:13

it, it goes back to kind of what we named our live stream and what, so what like, what is the point of this thing.

And I told him, I’m cooking recipes.

I’m like, just tell me what temperature the oven supposed to be.

That’s really all I care about.

I figured out this chemistry behind the grass, but

Katie Robbert 10:31

you don’t want to one time took a walk through the woods and saw our beam of sunlight coming down onto the forest ground.

And it suddenly reminded them of this story that their grandmother one time told them.

Oh, my God, just tell me how many coconuts do I need? Well,

Christopher Penn 10:46

so you know, that raises a really interesting question, because one of the things that’s shown up in like orbit media is content serving and content marketing world and marketing props, and all these different companies, they’ve been talking about the state of content marketing, particularly for b2b is even saying content keeps getting good, high ranking, high performing content keeps getting longer and longer and longer orbit media study last year said that over the last five years, the average length of a piece of content has gone from like 700 words like 3100 words.

And unless it’s like 330 100 words, you know, of pure solid gold.

That’s a lot of you know, my grandmother’s lasagna stuff.

I feel like he’s getting stuck in there.

What I would like to know, and maybe was something we should research for one of our live streams is why is the content getting longer if in fact, it’s getting less valuable? And why is it performing better? Is it just that people are, you know, have the time to just dig into one piece of content and they they plow through the whole thing? Or is it that what you’re doing for the search algorithms, feeding them more and more text, which helps the deep learning models? Isn’t In fact, what people like? But it’s what like machines? Like?

Katie Robbert 12:03

I think it really depends, I think it depends on the purpose of the content.

So some content is purely for, you know, the sharing story aspect of it.

And so here’s my experience, here’s your experience, I relayed the experiences.

Some of it is informational, educational, and some of it is that pure entertainment.

And so I think it really depends on the purpose of the content as well.

Not all content is educational, some of it is experiential, or, you know, entertainment.

And so I think that, you know, when we’re looking at, why is this content performed better, I think we also need to figure out, like, what is the purpose of this content? Who’s consuming it? So I do think you’re onto something where, you know, the machines are ranking it better, but it’s not necessarily what people like.

So I think that there would probably be two studies there.

One, what are the machines ranking? And two, what are people actually responding and engaging with?

Christopher Penn 13:01

Right, because at the end of the day, if somebody doesn’t show up in your inbox saying, I want to do business with you, it’s kind of a moot point.

You know, this is something that we’ve seen a lot of, we had a big campaign, at the end of last year for a client, you know, hundreds of 1000s of dollars in ad spend.

But the focus was on a result, you could take them to the bank, not how many impressions did something get, and I continued to see a lot of folks getting lost on what metrics should matter.

When we come back to this idea of, you know, agility, or speed, I guess, in reducing friction, the less friction that your content has, the faster you get somebody to the thing that matters to your business, right.

So if you if you make it an email newsletter easier for people to click to do business with you, that’s gonna work wonders for your business, even if the machines don’t favorite as much, because one of the other things we have to keep in mind is that all these algorithms, Facebook’s newsfeed, Google’s SEO algorithm things, they don’t operate for your benefit.

They don’t operate for our benefit.

They operate for Google’s benefit and Facebook’s benefit to sell more ads.

And so we have to keep in mind that benchmarking for what machines want is inherently benchmarking for another company’s interests and not ours.

Katie Robbert 14:22

I think that that’s a really good point.

And definitely something that we should explore, you know, with our network this year is, you know, are we doing it for Google, or are we doing it for ourselves? And so this sort of like goes into the whole like, you know, idea behind SEO, why are we ranking so high for SEO, but is it really benefiting us at all? You know, so something that we talk about internally a lot is our own, you know, newsletter, and, you know, it’s something that we want to take a look at, because yes, we have a lot of subscribers and it shows up at the beginning of our classes.

journey, but is it the thing that helps our customers convert? We have to dig a little bit more and do some testing with that.

And so there’s a lot of, you know, work to be done of, you know, is it the right content at the right time to get someone to convert? Or do we just want to use it as something that helps people, you know, get information.

And so there’s purpose of the content, there’s delivery of the content? And then there is, you know, what does the content do for your business?

Christopher Penn 15:27


So as we look at 2021, and all the different ways we can market to people, at least until life starts to resemble, you know, pre pandemic life.

And people can start going out and seeing other people face to face, which will probably be more towards the end of the year, I think we have to keep in mind that people don’t want to spend a whole lot more time in front of screen if they don’t have to.

Or if they do, it has to be really, really good.

Like, if it’s a choice at 7pm, between your live stream and the Mandalorian I got bad news for you, Max percent of the time, you know, the customer is going to be choosing you know, Disney plus over you, because it’s just more entertainment, something to help them feel better.

So, as we look at our plans and strategies for the year, we got to figure out how can we deliver stuff fast? So that’s consumed faster? How can it be made to be, you know, as frictionless as possible? And how can it maybe provide some of those aspects of entertainment? You know, certainly, neither one of us.

Will I can’t speak for you, Katie.

But I will say for myself, I’m not gonna be doing anything that will resemble stand up comedy, or

Katie Robbert 16:45

no, you can rest assured that, you know, my comedy is not for everybody.

So I’m not gonna try to make money off it.

Christopher Penn 16:54


So if we’re not going to be in the entertainment business, and we’re mostly in the education and coaching business, then we’re gonna make our content as as quick as it can be, and as painless as a Caribbean.

Ask your customers, what I would strongly suggest you do is run a poll, a simple poll, in your newsletter, your email communications, asking people, well, what kinds of content? Do you want more of what format Do you want and make it super easy? Again, these are just simple one click polls, nobody has to fill out a form or jump through any crazy hoops and resist.

Resist the temptation to you know, and particularly the sales teams temptation to say like, Oh, no, we need to ask 40 questions on a polling? Oh, make it one click one and done.

And ask people what they want this year.

I think you’ll be surprised that what you hear the marketing gurus talking about, versus what your customers talking about, probably going to be very different things for the year.

any parting words, Katie?

Katie Robbert 17:52

No, I mean, I think that’s it.

Talk to your customers use this time to really just dig in and ask people what they want versus assuming you already know.

Christopher Penn 18:02

Alright, speaking of asking people if you’ve got questions or follow up comments on this, head on over to Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers are free slack group, where you can chat with over 1500 other marketers about analytics and data science and coaching and strategy and just getting help getting help from your community on the things that you are troubling you.

And as always, wherever it is, you’re consuming this if you want to get more regularly go to Trust insights.ai slash ti podcast to subscribe to the show.

Thanks for watching.

We’ll talk to you soon.

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