Today, I’m going to do something interesting. Perhaps risky. But, I’m going to go there anyway.
I’m going to talk about Glenn Beck, and his news network, TheBlaze. And I want to look at it from the perspective of content marketing strategies.
No, I am NOT going to talk about his politics and that’s because it doesn’t really matter here. In the end, we all have a right to our own opinions and, not only that, we should respect others despite those opinions. The world is made up of all types, and especially in the world of new media, we should all be cognizant of that and respect it.
What I am going to talk about is what he has built – and what we can learn from it. What we can learn from it as bloggers, as content marketers, as membership site owners, and as entrepreneurs.
As a new media content creator, I am impressed at what Glenn Beck has built and the speed in which he did it. Seriously impressed. And there is indeed a lot that can be learned from it.
The Blaze is a news network guided by libertarian/conservative principles. He operates it completely debt free (from my understanding), which has allowed him to not be beholden to any power brokers. And due to the fact that much of the funding comes from the viewers themselves, he’s really only beholden to them. Contrast that to the other networks where they routinely have to spew talking points from their string pullers (and financial backers).
The Blaze also has a huge blog front-end, and it is quite interesting to watch from a content perspective. But, I’ll talk about that in a minute.
Let’s get right to the content marketing strategies I think are most interesting here…
#1 – The Power Of The Membership Site
I’ve talked about membership sites before – and they happen to be my absolute favorite way to build an online business based around your content. From a business perspective, it provides a lot of regularity and predictability to things.
The Blaze is most certainly a fine example of a membership site on steroids.
The Blaze receives a lot of funding from members. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’m betting it is huge. They pay $9.99/month to receive access to their TV programming.
Obviously, being in the media business, the company also generates revenue from advertising on the website as well as the radio program. However, having a direct revenue model through the membership in the TV network gives reliability and security to the business.
Now, this membership site is a big kahuma – probably one of the largest online. Certainly among the fastest growing – ever. And ironically, the whole thing was done in the NEWS niche. A niche which I have many times said is one of the hardest to monetize in that way.
#2 – The Community Is Where Its At
The reason he’s been able to do this is because he has built a true community. A community is a group of people who feel camaraderie with each other over a set of shared values. They are united by a cause – and it is a cause which brings up a lot of emotion.
I bet a pretty substantial portion of the memberships in The Blaze are being paid primarily because of a desire to support the cause, not necessarily because of just the content.
So, the question is… what can YOU do to build a community around what you do online? And what can you do to unite that community around a common cause? Things that go into community building would include:
- Uniting by a common cause, or common enemy
- A feeling of exclusivity, or belonging to something.
- Insider knowledge, or behind the scenes access (i.e. TheBlaze subscribers get behind-the-scenes content from the shows)
It has been said before that all one really needs to be set is 1,000 true fans. If you get 1,000 true fans, you can earn a very nice living from that if you play your cards right and take care of them. Beck obviously has far more than that, but taking some of those community aspects you see there and applying it to your OWN business can potentially lead to cool things.
Community will also help grow your business parabolically.
#3 – You Have To Take A Stand
It is important to take a stand and have your audience know where you come down on things. In essence, you either want people to love you or hate you. The wishy-washy middle isn’t near as important. Those people who hate you will take off (wrong target audience), or they’ll love you (and be a dedicated part of your community).
Glenn Beck clearly takes a stand on the issues of the day, and there’s zero doubt where they stand as a company. Because of that, they make an impact. They attract the kind of people who will click with it, and the result is what you see.
The funny thing is… even the people who hate it end up giving publicity because they’re out there complaining on social media.
In your own content creation, don’t be wishy-washy. Don’t try to act like a reporter and talk about things like some kind of glib academic. Inject opinion. Be firm on where you stand. People respect it… and those who don’t belong somewhere else anyway.
And to be clear, we’re not talking about politics. That happens to be Beck’s niche, but I’m quite sure it isn’t most of ours. But, even here at the Academy, I’m quite clear on what I think. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. And I know from the emails I’ve gotten that my core audience appreciates my plain-spoken style.
#4 – To Do Well On Social, Play On Emotions
One of the reasons I’m even talking about The Blaze right now is because I view them as a new media company. Sure, it was obviously helped by the megaphone of Beck’s radio show, but they started out as a news and opinion blog in 2010 and then later expanded into TV. They didn’t start out as a TV network. So, I view them as a new media company who was able to break down the barrier between new and old media.
But, a good example of their use of new media (outside their blog) is how they use social media. Let’s just take their Facebook page. As of this writing, almost 2.5 million fans on their page.
Like a lot of websites, they share their own links on their page. But, instead of just link dropping, they usually pull out an interesting quote from the piece as the post itself. They usually use a full-width image to get attention. And sometimes they will ask a question to ask the community’s thoughts on the story.
Here’s one screenshot I snapped:
Now, again, this isn’t about the content and I don’t wish to get political here. But, here’s what I see (from a marketing standpoint):
- Full width image. Stands out.
- Description on the post written as a way to stoke the target market.
- Hit an emotion. This is the biggie. When you consider the target market for The Blaze, this post is just emotional red meat. It literally hits every raw emotion they’re feeling… all in one post.
A big part of social media is, well… social. That means people. So, blind link dropping isn’t very social nor will get it much reaction. But, knowing your target audience and how to, well… push their buttons. That works. Clearly.
Not every post they share on FB plays on the same emotions, but they almost always hit at SOME emotion (could be anger, could be tugging at your heart strings). And they often make a point to peak your curiosity to get you to click. That’s smart.
#5 – Headlines. Headlines. Headlines.
You could have an awesome post and still nobody would read it if you had a boring headline. Case in point, look at a site like UpWorthy.com.
UpWorthy essentially does nothing but re-post other people’s videos, packaged behind an extremely clever headline. Those headlines are designed very carefully to hit an emotional chord. Upworthy has perfected the art of viral content, and if you read a little about it, you’ll see they’ve made it scientific. They use a lot of A/B split-testing to determine exactly what the most effective headlines are, then they blast it out on social media and it spreads.
TheBlaze does much the same thing. Now, I have no idea if they split-test anything, but it is clear that the Blaze writers are VERY good at headlines. While TheBlaze has plenty of news stories, they also run a lot of Upworthy-esque videos with clever headlines that have nothing to do with politics.
All this designed to get clicks. If you want to learn what good headlines look like, check them out. They’ve got it mastered.
Good headlines motivate one to take the click. And they do that through emotion, through promise of a pay-off, and through curiosity.
Good headlines take practice, but it really helps to observe some of the most successful new media companies and how they do it.
As an aside, one of my biggest pet peeves with modern online media (and I consider The Blaze to be that) is that they can also be quite irresponsible with headlines. Deliberately stoking the rawest of emotions (usually anger) to get the click and sometimes in a very misleading way.
It is dangerous and bad for society. It causes polarization. And The Blaze is not alone in doing this. They all do it. Unfortunately, this is how media works today.
But, that doesn’t take away from the content marketing lesson to be had about headlines.
#6 – Being on Multiple Platforms
Beck started off (and still is) on the radio. He then went onto TV with his CNN and Fox gigs. When he left Fox, he was told he’d never have a megaphone that big again. The idea of being able to go out and build a news network without going through any of the usual power brokers was basically unheard of.
He did it because he went the way of new media – a subject obviously near and dear to my heart.
TheBlaze empire now covers the radio, TV, the web (via their blog), social media, Youtube, iTunes (via their podcast). You can get their TV content over the Roku. They’ve expanded their network of shows both online, on cable networks and on podcasts.
They’re not just in one place. They make a point to be found on all the major mediums of the day.
While I will be the first to tell you that most of us would be wasting our time trying to be everywhere, I do think it is important to be found on multiple mediums.
So, again, it goes right to the heart of what I’ve said recently about how the traditional blog post isn’t exactly the center of attention anymore. These days, you’ve got to be everywhere to make a real impact.
Content Marketing Strategies We Can All Use
One of my old business acquaintances is Srinivas Rao. I was on his podcast at least a couple of times as a guest when he was doing BlogcastFM. Srini has recently re-branded everything and gone in a new direction with The Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
Srini was a guest on Glenn Beck’s TV program several years back, after a chance crossing of paths where Beck had discovered Srini’s book on Amazon, The Art of Being Unmistakable. In that book, Srini talked about the importance of forging your own path, even when it is the least traveled road. You can watch Srini’s interview on Beck’s show here.
That’s the opportunity we have in new media.
The way I see it, it is the great equalizer. No longer is it required that you go through the gatekeepers to get your message out. This is a big philosophical motivation for why I do what I do – and I happen to believe people are most empowered to do this when they can earn a living at it. Hence, why I’m here.
But, Srini put his message out on the Kindle. It then reached a much larger audience by being picked up by Glenn Beck, also an example of the power of new media (obviously on a larger scale). I think it’s awesome.
And so, sometimes it is good to look at the big guys and see what you can learn from them. Hence, this post.
As I said, I really don’t care whether you agree with Beck politically or not. That isn’t my concern. Irregardless, there’s a lot that can be learned by observation of what they do.
We’d all like to make a ripple in the world. We’d also like to make a living doing it. And in this post, I thought I would make a short case study out of a fairly notable personality who has done just that.