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May 16, 2013


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Jay Baer

Great post. I like to explain it this way. The attention half-life of content is infinite. The attention half-life of advertising is minimal. Content pays an ongoing information annuity that other forms of marketing simply do not.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Jay - I like the idea of an annuity. Thanks for jumping in. Another way to look at it is own vs rent.

Joseph Ratliff

Personally, my blog, social media accounts, and various pieces of content that someone could download have more than leveraged the time I've put into developing them.

I'm not great at SEO either.

But, as an example, I view my Twitter account as an asset in and of itself... not one I own (because Twitter owns it), but one I "rent" with the time I make available for it. I post content on Twitter, someone finds it (short "blog" posts), and visits my website as a result.

Once they visit my website, there are a percentage that contact me, follow me on Twitter, or in rare cases... inquire about a potential project.

Notice I haven't YET focused on money in this exchange, because I know I have something much more valuable, their attention... and here is where this particular "asset" pays off (Twitter in combination with my blog etc...)...

When I'm available to work on a project, I simply use Twitter, say I'm available, and get inquiries... then pick from those inquiries. And, Twitter is only one example of content that accomplishes this for me.

I also use Google + in a similar fashion.

I use my blog, where my blog posts, which are MY assets, have been found on Twitter, Google +, or simply found online... and the above happens again.

BUT... this goes MUCH farther than that...

Through this whole process, and THIS is where I think companies miss the boat BIG time, besides attention, I also have something you can't "track" or "profit from"... relationships with people.

People like you David.

Now, with you, it's not a project based relationship of course, although there may be a time when you refer someone who might be in need of a marketing copywriter to me in the future... but ours is a relationship where when I send an email you read it.

I value that. I have your attention. :) We have a relationship.

But aside from that, I have valuable relationships with other folks for other reasons, I can book a room in certain hotels for instance, FREE, because of relationships I have developed. I can better learn my business from free books from authors, I can form partnerships with people at will etc...

And those you can track, but I just chalk it up as "worth the effort in building my content assets."

Great conversation starter David. :)

Oh yeah, and this, this comment... that is content too ;) (I know you know that, but personally I've forgotten all the content trails I've left online over the years, LOL)

John McTigue

I like to think of content as dividends. You keep investing high quality content, and you reap many dividends down the road as your blogs and other assets get shared and syndicated. This drives many types of dividends including traffic and leads, brand awareness and thought leadership.

frank belzer

another great post and I have seen the same impact with my blog articles and CTA's. Over time they gain more momentum. This is where so many companies lose focus. Inbound isn't a short term strategy it really is the high road.

Mark Gibson

Hi David,

Great insight as we have come to expect from you. I have downloaded most of your free ebooks over the past 5 years and found them to be extremely valuable and helped me to "get" the new rules of marketing and PR, gobbledegook, viral marketing etc.

I agree that well written insightful blog posts are creating a legacy that will continue to create value long after they were written....which is why its worth investing the 4-5 hours it takes to write a good one.

I haven't quite gotten to giving away my downloads without a signup yet, but I'm ready to give it a try and see what happens.

David Meerman Scott

Joseph - thanks for jumping in on the perspective of using content to actually make sales. I did not go that far in my original post. Of course you are also correct about the relationships part. You and I would never have met (virtually) without content.

John - Dividends are another good way of thinking about content assets!

Frank - "Inbound isn't a short term strategy..." Indeed!

Mark - The signup form thing is just a difference in strategy. There is no hard and fast right answer. For me, making things totally free has been a good strategy.



Great piece thank you for sharing. It's a shame that marketers seem to pigeon-hole all of the activities that build a brand and like you mentioned, assign investments as costs without accounting for the long-term value.

Bryan Shaw

I agree 100%. This has just been shared on Chatter at work.

All too often we don't have the money for XYZ. Meeting the quarter's numbers and reducing OPEX are very shortsighted when we can be creating continious value.

For example, I'll never use HubSpot at my current company. But since HubSpot's content is #1 in my eyes, I find myself constantly promoting them at work and in social media. While I'm not changing my Marketing Automation tool, I'm someone who provides value to them. It's a pretty big deal that great assets can do this to non-customers.

Jon DiPietro

I just attended a conference a couple of weeks ago and saw a fantastic business presentation and one of the topics was J-curves. I think it's a powerful model for selling this concept you're describing because it's exactly the sort of jargon executives are already using in other business contexts. If you can speak their language, you have a better chance of persuading them. J-curves are used to describe any strategic decision to spend money today for a benefit tomorrow.

They fall into three phases; investment, catch-up and blue sky. The numbers you cited from Volpe mean that they are well into the blue sky phase of perpetual return on investment. As you point out, there is no such phase when it comes to expenses - only investments.

Full article here:

David Meerman Scott

Thanks Ryan.

Bryan - Thanks for sharing on Chatter.

Jon - Thanks for this. I will check it out.


Intuitively, we all have known this for some time. But you have articulated the truth so clearly, backed by real world stats and research. I applaud you and will use this article in future presentations, of course citing you.

I believe that there is another crucial factor in this dilemma. This is not an idle statement, but an observation borne from individually pitching marketing services to over 500 business owners in the last 8 years.

Most business people, when educated formally, have done so from an accounting frame of reference, not from a marketing perspective. In other words, there are columns for expenses, income, assets, etc. So most business people pigeon hole their marketing as an "expense". This is an old-school tie mentality that has been inculcated into their minds from the musty, unrealistic world of Academia.

Add to that factor, that most business people do not have the time or access to competent training in marketing, which only exacerbates the ever deadly accountant inspired "expense" mentality.

Cutting expenses, means start with your marketing budget first to most SMB owners. Marketing is always the first head on the chopping block when money is tight, in the fatuous idea that they are "reducing expenses" and will save the company by marketing less.

Dave Young

As the owner of a company that helps busy people crank out content, I wish I had written this post. It's fantastic. I also like the term "sharecropper" when it comes to putting your content exclusively on social media properties that you don't own.

The exciting thing to me is that one of our first customers, who had not been writing at all for several years, has created more than 80,000 words in the past 16 months and is looking at repurposing much of it as e-books that will help veterans find jobs. You are absolutely correct in describing content as an ASSET.

David Meerman Scott

Edwin - Thank you for this. Building on your thoughts which I totally agree with, I think the vast majority of people who have an MBA degree have difficulty with the concepts as I have outlined them. I base this on personal experience. While I certainly recognize their are many exceptions, I have noticed, as you have, that the spreadsheet mentality taught in MBA school muddies up the idea of inbound marketing assets. I've discussed this before at my speeches and in this blog, but it always fires up passion in those who have MBA degrees so I don't say it so much anymore. But since you brought it up, I can riff a little.

Dave -- Wow, I love "sharecropper"! Nice term. You should expand on what I wrote here on your blog. If you do, please send me the link.

John Beckley

In our flickr stats we can see yesterday how many views our photos are getting that were published years ago. I agree investing in valuable content offers the best return in the long run.

Ian Brodie

I think it's worth saying that if all you get from your Adwords expense is the resulting clicks then you're doing it wrong ;) Any half decent Adwords strategy will be aiming to engage with the visitor, get them to sign up for something, but something etc. Then they're going to have ongoing value over and above that original visit as they return.

Part of the underlying problem, I think, is that many businesses struggle to put a proper value on website visitors (or social media followers or email subscribers).

So they may get the concept of viewing content creation as building an asset - but if they don't know how to value that asset then they'll still struggle to make the investment.

Avinash Kaushik (of course) has some good thoughts on how to value web visitors here http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/web-analytics-tips-identify-website-goal-values/ and other places. To do it properly you need to put some work into your website and your analytics.


Julian Summerhayes


It would be nice to think that we have reached a tipping point with content but, alas, I don't think the pendulum has swung very far in investing in content beyond stuffing a website with blandness. As a former lawyer, I used words as a sword and sometimes a shield, but I don't think I was ever asked to write marketing-led content that others (my clients) would read, let alone share. It was all about filling space, or, in some cases, pandering to an ego that wanted to appear the most knowing in a particular area. You would think we are past the point of no return with brochure-ware but it is still alive and kicking, and will be so for many years to come unless those in charge wake up and realise that content, allied with passionate, committed people, is one of the great differentiators for any business. I now work with businesses trying to get them to cross the digital threshold (mainly in the professional services space), and there is an obsession with mastery of the social media tools which they hope will enable them to unlock a vast pool of work. I do my best to reinforce the need to focus on remarkable, noteworthy - dare I say WOW content - but when there is a disconnect with those who have their heads down and don't have the passion for the market or sometimes the work, it is hard to get them to come up with ideas that might light a spark with their clients.

Your recent post on brand journalism was a great place I think for businesses to start; but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think few businesses see the potential of thinking outside the box and hiring a journalist, writer or even a visual artist.

And don't get me started on blogs. Not only do so few people know about them but even with the overwhelming evidence of their marketing/business development efficacy, most people will simply default to doing the work (the technician's mind-set) and will never find the time to write.

If all this sounds rather depressing, I'm sorry but I still think we are a long way from a world where companies start acting like media companies who see the tremendous, amazing opportunity to grow a community, engage with them and, over time, perhaps sell more of their products or services!

Best wishes

PS. Hopefully one day we will get to meet in the UK.


Very interesting interpretation of how to monitise lifetime value of content, like it a lot. On the general point of investing in content, I like to use the phrase "it's a gift that keeps on giving" :)

David Meerman Scott

John - Yes, Flikr is another place to look for an asset you have built.

Ian - You're right, of course. The best AdWords programs are quite a lot more valuable than the expense for the click alone. Thanks for the link to Avinash's ideas. I'll check that out now.

Julian - No plans on the UK this year, but you never know! Here is my calendar http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/events-calendar/ I actually am seeing some progress. I've been talking about content since 2004. In 2005 I published the first book on content marketing called "Cashing in with Content". It's dated now, but let me tell you -- the progress we've made between 2005 and 2013 is remarkable. Yes, we have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction.

Mick - Yes on gifts! That's something Seth Godin says a too.

Andrew Boer

Great post. I would argue AdWords Value equivalency isn't the right metric because that is generally a link to demand-based landing page, from someone doing a search. We deal with this issue all the time, and the equivalency we tend to use is not Google but Outbrain, which is a link to a content page in a specific vertical.
We don't just use this hypothetically for ROI purposes. We enlist freelance journalists with audiences to create content for our clients and give them incentives to drive an audience organically. So how much should we pay them to drive their audience to branded content? Well, if we promoted the same content on Outbrain, it might cost $.10-$.15 a click, which represents a visitor who is interested in the content. Whereas if we promoted it on Google, it might be $.50-$1.00, which represents a visitor who is actively searching for a solution and likely wants to buy.
Same logic applies to evaluating the expense of content. If you are measuring the value/ROI of your organic visitors, content based links are a much better proxy than demand based links.
(Hope this makes sense).

Matt Lambert

I like the way this conversation is going. Valuing content as an asset, absolutely.

But it seems to me that the thing that stops many from investing in content is how you put a value on it, before it is created.

It's only valuable if it turns out to be valuable - that's a tricky proposition.

David Meerman Scott

Andrew -- Wow. I never thought of that metric. Many thanks for taking the time to share it with us. It is interesting to hear you are not only figuring out ROI but also how to compensate people.

MAtt -- Absolutely. You've summed things up nicely - what's the potential value?

Jessica Paul

Building of marketing assets is beneficial for the online marketers. Most of the people consider this as an additional expense, but most of the experts related to Web Marketing Blog have said that this is the wrong perception, as inbound assets can give many benefits to SEO experts.

Gerald LRT

David, this is a great post and encouraged me to investment in a new site to educate men on LT.


Fiona On The GO

I almost feel embarrassed to write after such learned and wonderful posts. Your initial post was very inspiring David so I continued to read the comments. I feel like a Luddite!!

I have just started my blog 3 days ago and am trying to learn about this space. Reading this post and the following comments made me laugh out loud - some of the vocabulary...... demand-based landing page, sharecropper, J Curves..... I have such a long way to go - I feel I am flat lining at the moment!! But I'm aiming for Jon's "Blue Sky" - I hope I just don't get too close to the sun and my wax melts - or crash into the waves (as Seth would say)!!

But I found your post inspiring - this gives me a direction to my blue sky. That starting a blog IS worthwhile.

Dare I say it.... I was one of those academic style accountants. That's what we were taught and "made" to do in our jobs. That's what compliance accounting taught us to do and I believed this was the only way to account - and that's what our clients expected and paid for. To change and understand what you are pointing out David means us little Chartered Accountants getting out of our learned comfort zone. No one likes change.... and accountants are no exactly known for their risk taking and flamboyance!!

Then I studied Project Management and saw prospective accounting. Fortunately at the same time I was reading Robert Kiyosaki which reinforced "the other side"!! So I started to think of the patterns of business numbers in a different way - looking forward ALWAYS instead of backwards - looking at what you can create, building on what you have created - always following your passions ( fortunately there will always be the academic accountants who will do your financials and tax return - phew!!).

I left accounting to get closer to environmental issues. On this new path I discover CSR accounting which I love and am encouraged to see that it is becoming more accepted - mainly because the big companies can see that it actually saves them money - one day it will be because their hearts are in the right places. I discovered "Balanced Score Cards". At that time I was more interested in the environmental aspects of CSR (with a slight interest in patents and a company's business tacit knowledge - internet social networking was not on my radar then). Reading your post here David I truly see just how money valuable building inbound marketing assets (to use your term- another new one for me!! Thanks!) and social relationships (as Joseph pointed out) can be and how one day, this too, along with the microbiology and carbon content of your soil, will be on your balance sheet.

I feel a little daunted atm as I am in Kindy in this new space. I can't even get my photo the right way up on my Gravatar (new word) in my blog (http://fionaonthego.wordpress.com)!! I know I should be doing/reading/writing/photoing 3,000 things but am so new to this space I feel I don't know where to start - but reading this post I KNOW i MUST start. I must start fertilising my blog as well as my permaculture patch and my business intentions.

Thanks for being inspiring David. Sometimes in the bush (Australia) virtual mentors like you and Seth are critical as the birds and the worms and the chooks just don't seem to be interested in internet relationships - they kinda like "being fed" relationships!!

I hope one day my photo is the right way up and I look as poised and together as you do David in your photo above!! Not dishevelled sitting on top of a ute filled with a perfect poo mix I'm shovelling, watching another magnificent sunset - up-side-down!!

Muchas gracias!!

David Meerman Scott

Fiona, Every single one of us had to start somewhere. I recall my first several blog posts well. I was nervous about doing things "right" and worried every time before I pushed the button to make the post go live.

Don't worry about what the experts say and doing think you have to do everything. You don't.

Just let your passions flow. Find your voice. You'll do great.

Dave Young

David, I wanted to circle back around and properly attribute the "sharecropper" term to Brian Clark at Copyblogger.

I didn't expand much on your post, but I did quote it.

David Meerman Scott

Thank you Dave - that sounds like something Brian would say!


Hi David, I really enjoyed your post and also John McTigue's notion of 'dividends'.

The more we can invest in content, the pay it pays off. The Marketing & PR (Web) Strategy Planning Template that we collaborated on back in 2010, is still generating over 100 leads per month for Bluewire.

And our most recent IP release is the Inbound Marketing Flight Plan which is a step-by-step guide to building an in-house inbound marketing function. Imagine having an organisation where everyone 'is in marketing' because your entire team is producing great content and sharing it through their collective networks.

Normally our one page A3 inbound marketing flight plan sits behind a form:

But in keeping with David's preference for sharing content with no rego required, here it is:

Thank you,

Hung Huu Hoang

My first time reading your blog and I already feel like I should subscribe to your blog.

About content generation, yes, I absolutely agree that it works in theory. For immediate effects, I'm not so sure.

Like this post (http://blog.leerit.com/4-chan-duong-hoc-gioi-tieng-anh/) which got over 500 FB shares didn't quite convert that much to the main page's visit (http://leerit.com). But certainly it did bring about the attention and possibly, future SEO benefits.

Thanks Scott for a nice post and a great reminder.

David Meerman Scott

Adam - thanks for sharing your Inbound Marketing Flight Plan.


i'm reading great tips here. i'm loving this

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