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Content & Cash: The Economics of Content

Presentation by Melissa Rach at Confab and CS Forum. Dinero. Dosh. Dough. Dollabills. Like it or not, money plays a role in every content strategy project. As content strategists or practitioners, we need to be prepared to answer questions like: - How much does a content strategy “cost”? - Why should I fund this content strategy project? - How do you define the value of content for an organisation or client? - Can you prove ROI for content or content strategy? In this session, we’ll discuss the complicated relationship between content and cash. Then we’ll focus specifically on the conversations you need to have to scope, price, and prove the value of content strategy work. Cha-ching.

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CASH
Content
Photo: © 1984 Betty Weinaug
I am two people.
Johnny is the nice one.
Cash causes all the trouble.
—Johnny Cash
2
Business expectations
To make an investment, organizations expect:
• To know exactly what our product is
• Proof of competency/quality
• Exactly how much it will cost
• Provable value and ROI
Hard numbers. Right now.
3
yikes.
We can do it
• We know content work is valuable
• We know content is a benefit, nay necessity, for
businesses
• And the business world is catching on, too
5
Today
• Selling and scoping
• Estimating value/ROI
• Pricing
6

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Content & Cash: The Economics of Content

  • 2. I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. —Johnny Cash 2
  • 3. Business expectations To make an investment, organizations expect: • To know exactly what our product is • Proof of competency/quality • Exactly how much it will cost • Provable value and ROI Hard numbers. Right now. 3
  • 5. We can do it • We know content work is valuable • We know content is a benefit, nay necessity, for businesses • And the business world is catching on, too 5
  • 6. Today • Selling and scoping • Estimating value/ROI • Pricing 6
  • 8. 1.It’s not (always) about disrespect or even money. Photo: ©2012 John Alderman
  • 9. Economics is making the most out of life. —Gary Becker 9
  • 10. Decision making is scary Investing in content: • Means NOT investing in other things • Might result in loss of: • Money • Time • Other opportunities • Professional reputation • Emotional anguish 10
  • 11. And hard… People: • Are limited by what they know • Latch on to things that are familiar • Take their best guess • Often play it safe • And then immediately start worrying that they’ve made the wrong decision 11
  • 12. 2. Content is a harder decision than most Photo: ©1980 Betty Weinaug
  • 13. Content breaks all the economic rules • Things of value are usually • Exclusive • Transparent • Hard to replicate • Endless supply AND endless demand 13
  • 14. “Content strategy” is a service • “New” industry • Very diverse • No obvious accreditation • Doesn’t fit nicely into a traditional business 14
  • 15. 3.Numbers don’t need to be exact. Photo: ©1980 Betty Weinaug
  • 16. As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. —Albert Einstein 16
  • 17. Measurement is… A set of observations that reduce uncertainty where the results are expressed as a quantity. 17
  • 18. Exacts are impossible Numbers reduce uncertainty: • Approximate values • Shortcuts for the brain • Common vocabulary Think about numbers as a communication tool. 18
  • 19. Selling and scoping (building a relationship) Photo: © 1978 Betty Weinaug
  • 20. 1. Do your homework Get all the information you can, find out: • What is the decision? • What impacts that decision? • What else do you need to know? • What experience do stakeholders have with content? • Is there a budget? 20
  • 21. The goal: Make a confident decision that’s beneficial to everyone. 21
  • 22. 2. Narrow down the need What’s the buyer buying? • Good or service • Service • Strategy • Planning • Designing products or processes • Implementation • Creation 22
  • 23. 3. Make connections 23 Photo: © 1980 Betty Weinaug
  • 24. 4. Understand all benefits and costs 24 Type Benefits Costs Monetary Profit or savings Cost of creation Sensory Get satisfaction/ alleviate pain Endure extra pain or reduce satisfaction Temporal Save time Lose time Opportunity-based Gain advantages Eliminate possibilities Psychological Reduce anxiety Add anxiety Social Increase stature Blamed for problems Convenience-based Makes things easier Makes things more difficult
  • 25. 5. Tell a hopeful story Create a story that highlights key benefits, such as: • We can serve users better • We can be more efficient • We can beat the competitors • We can be more accurate 25
  • 26. Brand it, test it, believe it 26 The Content Efficiency Initiative Better for the front line and the bottom line Buy making our intranet content more accessible, we’ll save hundreds of headaches and hundreds of thousands of dollars….
  • 27. 6. Eliminate fear 27 • Discuss the details • Plug information gaps • Address concerns • Start small or do some proof of concept work • Provide references (services) or samples (goods) • Be patient
  • 28. Estimating value and ROI (the magic formula) Photo: © 1980 Betty Weinaug
  • 30. Value of what? Strategy or Service Content as product Content as influence Efficiency tool 30
  • 31. Strategy or Service Content as product Content as influence Efficiency tool Value of what? 31
  • 32. Content as product What is the content product worth? • Benefit: Profit from the sale of the product • Cost: Cost to create the product 32
  • 33. Photo: © 1980 Betty Weinaug
  • 34. Strategy or Service Content as product Content as influence Efficiency tool Value of what? 34
  • 35. Content as influence What is the piece of content worth? • Benefit: Increased profit as the result of an end- user behavior change • Cost: Cost to create the content 35
  • 36. Estimates, not exacts Figure out what you know; fill in the blanks with assumptions • The average Johnny Cash t-shirt costs $20 • Analytics show that 50 people start the process of purchasing a t-shirt online every day, but only 10 finish the process • User research shows that the instructions on the purchase pages are very confusing • We assume 5-10 people leave the purchasing process because of something unrelated to the site, and 5-10 leave the process when they see the shipping costs • We assume the remaining 20-30 people would complete the purchasing process if the instructions were more helpful • Therefore, the value of the instructional content is likely around $144,000- 216,000 per year ($20 x 20-30 people x 30 days X12) • The cost of fixing the content is approximately $5,000 36
  • 37. Strategy or Service Content as product Content as influence Efficiency tool Value of what? 37
  • 38. Efficiency tool What is the tool worth? • Benefit: Cost savings as the result of employee behavior change (or happiness) • Cost: Cost to create/maintain the tool and train people to use it 38
  • 40. Strategy or Service Content as product Content as influence Efficiency tool Value of what? 40
  • 41. Strategy (or service) What is the strategy worth? • Benefit: Combination of: • Savings/profit from: • Content as product • Content as influence • Tools • Sub-services • Value of non-monetary benefits • Cost: Cost to create/implement the strategy 41
  • 42. Pricing (you’re worth it) Photo: © 1977 Betty Weinaug
  • 43. Everything is worth what the purchaser will pay for it. —Publilius Syrus (1st century BCE) 43
  • 44. Ways to price You can base price on: • Cost • Competition • Demand/value 44
  • 45. There are a lot of good economists, but there is only one Roger Clemens. —Robert Solow (1987 Nobel laureate) 45
  • 46. Estimating probable results Basic project information: • Maximum gain: $216,000 • Maximum loss: $5,000 • Chance for success: 70% Expected opportunity loss: • Risk of approved: $5,000 X 30% = $1,500 • Risk if rejected: $216,000 X 70% = $151,200 46
  • 47. Pricing basics • Give ballpark estimates early • Estimate on time, price on value • Aim for a consumer surplus • Always provide numbers in person 47
  • 48. Price is like setting a screw. A little resistance is a good sign. —Harry Beckwith 48
  • 49. Photo: © 1977 Betty Weinaug
  • 50. Our friend, Johnny… Stats 50+ million albums sold Created: 96 studio albums 63 compilation albums 153 singles Honors 17 Grammy Awards 9 CMA Awards Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Rockabilly Hall of Fame Songwriters Hall of Fame Gospel Music Hall of Fame Country Music Hall of Fame Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Kennedy Center Honors National Medal of Arts Hollywood Walk of Fame 50
  • 51. Photo: ©2012 John Alderman
  • 57. Go prove it. Your work is valuable.
  • 59. Want to know more? Content Strategy for the Web (second edition) Check out chapter 10 By Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach How to Measure Anything by Douglas W. Hubbard Marketing Professional Services by Philip Kotler, Thomas Hayes, Paul N. Bloom Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan 59

Editor's Notes

  1. NameTitleAuthorColumnist
  2. Talking about money is awkward and uncomfortable in most situations It’s even harder when you’re trying to pin dollars to something as amorphous as contentMoney is an important part of any industry—we need to eat
  3. People aren’t asking us for this stuff to be jerkfacesThey’re asking because they think that is the way business is “supposed to be done”
  4. Let’s face it. This stuff was never the content person’s forte. Two things I didn’t think I’d ever use computers and economics. Gross.
  5. Everybody wants to fix this problem, solve this puzzle – we’re all problem solversYou are in just as good of a position as anyone else to do it Most people are economically illiterate -- 7 out 10 execs I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Or quick. It’s not. But content is important. And it’s our jobs to figure out the question.
  6. Cue Johnny picture
  7. But we can learn from Johnny’s attitude He knew he didn’t fit the mold, and he knew he couldn’t play by the rules Yet, he went on to become one of the most successful performers of his generation He did it by being equalparts genuine, wiley, and rebel He figured out how the system worked, and he then he used it to his advantage We can be rebels Getting educated about economics We can rebel against the conventional concepts economicsWe can find work-arounds
  8. People and businesses want to “maximize utility”: Make themselves as well off as possible Maximize pleasure/comfortMinimize risk Trade offs – being a poor grad student so you can have a better life later Doing this talk because content is important Also want to keep my job, sell books, get clients There is short term and long term utility It might feel great to flip off the client, like Johnny Cash, but the long-term utility is not a good trade off
  9. They have to trade off things they already have and like, or things they wished for – when the frig breaks down, your new tv plans are gone…MoneyOther ops: If I spend time on this, what else am I missing? Time: Waste time on this project and could be farther behind Professional rep: You hired these people, you’re responsibleEmotional anguish: Don’t want the whole thing to be painful
  10. People guess based on: Rules of thumb/short cuts ExperienceCommon sense We do this all the time Looking at the sky for the weatherFlying vs. motorcyclesPlay it safe -- McDonalds, late, screaming child in the back
  11. Dorky kid, we musicians were starting to need polish Grew up in the cotton field Mom made his clothes Had an ok voice, but not greatGot a $5 guitar in the army
  12. Perfect storm of economics crappiness
  13. People have no idea what we doHave nothing to compare us to No past experience to draw on
  14. Numbers:Business runs on numbersShortcut for the brain – hot outside vs. it’s 80 degrees All sort of arbitrary 14C/60F It doesn’t need to be exact, in fact, it hardly ever is New Coke Most people prefer new Coke to old Coke5 out of 6 people prefer new Coke to old Coke83.3% of respondents prefer new Coke to old Coke Whoops
  15. It’s not about us against them, as long as procurement isn’t involved It takes: Listening Sharing TimeDon’t start with money. Give a big ballpark range.
  16. Do you need a plumber or a pipe Why do you care? Because they are valued differently Let’s say you have a pipe burst in your house The pipe itself is worth $2The work of the plumber who fixes the leak is worth a lot more even though you can’t quantify piece of mindAnd buyers expect different amounts of information during the serviceGoods are just the price of the manufacturing, and the profit margin Pricing services are hard
  17. I am often ready to spend extra money for convenienceThe value of a content strategy -- depending on the combination of these qualities. You want it fast, alleviate all the pain? Different from a long time line and focusing on one pain point
  18. This is about storytelling
  19. So the real questions are: Value of what? What’s a benefit? What’s a cost? Let’s look at the comparatively easy one
  20. Are you estimating or measuring progress?
  21. ChallengesProjecting the market value of the product (price people willing to pay or do without) Remembering all of the steps in the content creation process
  22. Calculated by hourly rates , percentage of time spent on this task, and time saved during the yearDon’t forget approvers
  23. Price changes depending on the circumstance, not just in content but for everything A personal trainer is worth $100 per hour to Becky, by $40 an hour to Brian If you are walking through a desert and you see a guy selling water for $20 are you getting ripped off? Vending machines that automatically raise prices in hot weather But still, we’ve had prospects get upset because I won’t give them the magic equation. So, here it is – the big reveal of the magic equation for the value of content
  24. Cost – how much does the work cost us to do + profitCompetition—based on competition, higher or lowerDemand– value = benefits-costs
  25. The market is amoralDiamonds are a luxury and they are expensive, water is cheap but is a necessity We know content is good, but price: Isn’t related to it’s social valueIs related to scarcity Don’t make a soap box, make your service or content scarce.
  26. If you give a client a slap and the face and estimate and he complains about the slap, your price is to low If the client asks you why your price is so high, don’t cave – it’s an opportunity to sell yourself20 % resistance is good. 10% will always haggle, 10% will have budgets that you’ve exceededWorld champions in baseball only have to win 57% of games
  27. But we can learn from Johnny’s attitude He knew he didn’t fit the mold, and he knew he couldn’t play by the rules Yet, he went on to become one of the most successful performers of his generation He did it by being equalparts genuine, wiley, and rebel He figured out how the system worked, and he then he used it to his advantage We can be rebels Getting educated about economics We can rebel against the conventional concepts economicsWe can find work-arounds