#10 - Hearty content

On marketing, fan engagement, storytelling and our attention spans

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For those who don’t recognise the sport above, it is Australian Rules Football. It’s awesome.

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During October, like many sports, the AFL (the national league) has a Trade Period, a 10 day period in which clubs can trade their players.

Side note: Unlike many other sports, players in the AFL are not traded against their will and every team can only spend the same maximum amount of $ on players. I think this is another piece for another day on the weird geo-political contradiction which is the brutal capitalistic European football system versus the surprisingly “socialist” Australian football one.

During the Trade Period, fans are extremely engaged.

One media outlet SEN produces a live radio show called AFL Trade Radio. This show, basically discussions around the implications of each trade, is broadcast live on radio, 12 hours a day, with a rotating group of hosts and experts. Everything is converted into a podcast and sent to fans feeds in almost real-time.

The sheer volume of content produced is just insane. If they want, fans can listen to ~12 hours of audio, every day for 10 days. To think anyone would want to consume even a third of that content daily is pretty mind-blowing.

Snackable vs Hearty Content

Yet fans seemingly cannot get enough of this AFL trade content. This got me thinking about the idea of “hearty” content versus “snackable” content, which has been all the rage in content marketing circles recently.

Snackable content is a key element to your marketing strategy. As attention spans decrease, consuming media in bite-sized pieces becomes more favourable. (“Snackable Content” - The Halo Group)

The basic premise is probably pretty accurate. If attention spans are decreasing and consumers are spending shorter periods scrolling through social media on the train or in queues - it makes sense to deliver content to satisfy that specific need. A 15 second video, a meme, a GIF or a 140 character tweet.

I guess the issue is though that snackable content is low risk, but low reward too. Whilst brands can produce a high volume of snackable content, the engagement rewards are most likely far lower.

“Big content”, Big niches, Big rewards

I’ve been thinking more and more about the idea of “big content”. Providing an immersive experience for fans. Truly going deep into the topics that interest them. Building a following around your content and community.

The beauty of the internet is that it’s opened up huge opportunities for building big content around big communities of fans. It suddenly can be very sustainable to do so.

AFL Trade Radio is a perfect example, but there are of course countless others, for pretty much every niche or hobby out there.

Another of my favourite “big” content platforms —> if you want to listen to two guys just watch James Bond movies and talk over them in real-time for over 3 hours - you can do that. Fans literally listen to two people watch a movie. The podcast has millions of downloads and has a cult following around it.

Perhaps this “snackable” content trend was always overplayed, a small blip on the radar, mostly fuelled by sites like Buzzfeed who skyrocketed to popularity as the Facebook News Feed grew.

Readers are tired of this, and are starting to seek out information that has real value to them. Contrary to mainstream thought that content is shrinking, the tide is actually moving away from 140 characters and ephemeral photos, and toward long-form specialty content. (“The Death of Snackable Content” - Vox)

Perhaps all along we’ve craved hearty, meaningful content that lets us go deep into our interests, discuss with like-minded people and belong to a community.

Of course, both forms of content can co-exist just as we sometimes want to eat junk food. Cute cat GIFs and “3 ways to XXX” articles do serve a purpose, however for brands that want to truly build engagement, I think long-form, “big” content is the way to go.

Big content is a huge investment, but it’s likely worth investing in. The biggest challenge in marketing is standing out and what better way to stand out than going big.