LavaCon Session: Nick Kellet on Why Short is Good

The Infosnacker’s Guide to the Galaxy Embracing Short Form, Ephemeral and Realtime Content Strategies

LavaCon-SessionSummary-infosnackersPresenter: Nick Kellet, founder of Listly (Twitter: @nickkellet, @listly)

Slides: http://www.slideshare.net/nickkellet/infosnackers-guide-to-the-galaxy-embracing-short-form-ephemeral-realtime-content-lavacon2014?qid=f42438ec-ac48-44d8-a40f-787d3830385c&v=default&b=&from_search=7

The most arresting insight for me in Nick Kellet’s The Infosnacker’s Guide to the Galaxy Embracing Short Form, Ephemeral and Realtime Content Strategies, came on slide 5, which says that search is not a feature, it is a market.

Microsoft and Yahoo, Kellet explained in his LavaCon 2014 session, saw search as a feature. Google saw it as a market. Google won.

If the distinction is not clear, think of it this way. When you think of search as a feature, you first create a bunch of content, then you provide a search to help people use it. Search is a feature of your content set. But Google did not start with content—created, curated, or otherwise. It started with search. It was not a search of one thing, but a search of everything. Just as a market is a place to buy whatever you need, Google search is a place to find whatever you want to know (and, in many cases, to buy as well).

Considering that I based my whole theory of Every Page is Page One on search and the way people look for and consume information today, and especially considering that I regularly tell people that their content is not consumed in the context of their own information set, but in the context of a dynamic semantic cluster of information assembled by search or social curation, you would think that this distinction between search as feature and search as market would have been clear to me. But it wasn’t. It was a revelation.

That, I think, is the best kind of insight that a speaker can give you: not to see something entirely outside your experience, but to make you see the thing that has been in front of your face all along. Search is a market, and the global market for information that it creates is the market in which every content creator now lives and works.

But this was not even the reason I attended Kellet’s session in the first place. I attended it because of the word “infosnacker’s” in the title. I am a big fan of information foraging theory, which explains how the prevalence of search and ease with which we can find useful content on any subject leads to an “information snacking” behavior. Without understanding how much information snacking has become part of how we learn today, it might be hard for technical writers to see the significance of Kellet’s presentation for technical communication.

Kellet’s presentation, after all, is aimed at marketers, particularly at social media marketers. It asks questions like “how many touches does it take to create a loyal customer?” But creating a loyal customer is very much the business technical communication needs to be in. (It was a running theme through the conference that technical communicators have to start thinking of what they do, and justifying their existence, in terms of how they contribute to revenue generation.) And if we are going to do that job effectively in the current information market, we have to pay attention to how readers seek and consume information in that market.

Make no mistake, our content is important in that market. Kellet mapped out two major classes of content marketing: content centric and connection centric. The two go hand in hand to form a complete content strategy. Content centric seeks to solve problems for customers. Connection centric seeks to build relationship with them. But you can’t have one without the other. Brand value lies in the sum of both.

And who is it that creates content that solves problems for customers? We do, of course. But are we creating and delivering that content in the form and in the location that makes it accessible to the modern infosnacking reader? Kellet’s presentation breaks down 42 types of hybrid media that can be used to deliver content to the infosnacking reader. 500 page manual is not one of them.

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Mark Baker

Mark Baker helps organizations improve the impact of their content by focusing their design, writing, and production processes on producing content that matches the way people seek information on the Web today. He is the author of Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web. He blogs at everypageispageone.com. You can reach him through his company, Analecta Communications Inc.

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