Content Inc.

"Content Inc. is an amazing opportunity for any entrepreneur striving to make a difference to the world."

- Content Inc., page 281

Joe Pulizzi provides a refreshingly encouraging model of how anyone can use content marketing strategies to build a loyal audience and gain the best understanding of what products ultimately make the most sense to sell. This is the least risky business launch model, and would not have been possible 25 years ago.

“Before 1990,” Pulizzi explains, “large media companies had the most power because they controlled the information channels … they controlled the audience. Now the power has almost completely shifted to the consumer. Anyone, anywhere, can be a publisher and build an audience.”

The window of opportunity is wide open because of several key developments:

  • Internet and mobile technologies have allowed anyone to publish and receive content.
  • As online publishing becomes mainstream, more content providers are willing and able to create content. People are more open to receiving any content that will help them live better lives, get better jobs or accomplish particular tasks.
  • Social media and Google help in the sharing and searching of useful content.

Content Inc. is a comprehensive, proven model based on Joe Pulizzi’s research.

“In our experience working with hundreds of businesses, and the dozens of interviews associated with this book, we’ve found that there are six distinct steps to the Content Inc. model.” They are:

  1. The Sweet Spot – the intersection of your knowledge or skill area and your passion.
  2. Content Tilt – telling the story from a different point of view.
  3. Building the Base – where the rubber meets the road. Select the platform, work on content creation and repurposing, plan the publishing calendar, organise staff and collaboration partners.
  4. Harvesting the Audience – get found and be connected with an audience to build a subscriber list.
  5. Diversification – expand for growth.
  6. Monetization – revenue models.

Filled with case studies, tools and strategies, Content Inc. provides a blueprint for businesses to follow.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Cast your net far and wide

"The more you can get the people in your audience to engage in your content in different ways, the more likely they will be to buy from you."
- Content Inc., page 212

While focusing on a specific niche, a business can repurpose a piece of useful content in many ways to reach out to a wider audience.

For example, Jay Baer of ‘Convince and Convert’ publishes a three-minute video show called ‘Jay Today’ which is very well received. After each episode, the content is transcribed and edited, and posted to various channels, including YouTube, iTunes, his website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and others.

Repurposing of content requires advanced planning and has the advantages of cutting production time and serving a wider range of audience.

In order to diversify and grow a business, Joe Pulizzi observed that successful Content Inc. entrepreneurs use the ‘three and three model’ as an effective framework.

There are two parts to the model:


  1. A blog
  2. A book
  3. Speaking


  1. Digital
  2. Print
  3. In-Person

Joe Pulizzi walks the talk. He blogs at the Content Marketing Institute website and has written a number of books, including this one. The blog and books positioned him as a thought leader and he was invited to speak at events.

As a business, CMI is active in major digital channels like podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Slideshare. CMI’s print magazine ‘Chief Content Officer (CCO)’ has a readership of 20,000 marketers as of September 2015. The print and blog content are fully integrated and this is critical to the overall strategy. CMI runs several major events like Content Marketing World every year where it can meet its audience in person.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Mining content ideas – 50 questions

"Focusing on pain points just gets you to the front door. To get to the hearts of your customers’ needs, you have to focus on what they want to be and help them get where they really want to go."
- Content Inc., page 68

What is the best way to brainstorm for content ideas? While Google alerts, trends, and keyword suggest tools are all useful for mining topics in demand, Marcus Sheridan of River Pools & Spas found that: “The ultimate content strategy is listening.”

Marcus Sheridan has never actually installed a fibreglass pool, but the majority of the world believes he is the expert.

Marcus listened to customers, to employees, to podcasts, to learn as much as he could. Then he brainstormed for content ideas that his audience wished to know about. Marcus believed there should be at least 50 questions. Answering these questions provided immediate and relevant help to homeowners planning to purchase a pool.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Be Patient

"It takes time to build a loyal audience. It takes time to find the right revenue model for your Content Inc. business."
- Content Inc., page 279

As with all ventures, there are road blocks on the path to success. Joe Pulizzi listed the six principles of good content for anyone planning to embark on the Content Inc. journey:

  • Fill a need
  • Be consistent
  • Be human
  • Have a point of view
  • Avoid ‘sales speak’
  • Be best of breed

Beyond content, there are considerations of appropriate calls to action, distribution channels, teams, processes, and quality control.

What does the journey of successful Content Inc. models look like?

Case study 1: Digital Photography School

Darren Rowse’s initial blog was a camera review site. He found that his readers would visit his site to research a certain camera and then disappear and never come back. Darren felt the dissatisfaction that he was not building a community. He then changed his ‘content tilt’ to one that teaches photography skills to beginners. He stayed with this focus for two years till his audience began to grow into the next level of content. Digital Photography School now has over a million subscribers.

Case Study 2: Content Marketing Institute

In Joe’s own words, “I launched the business in April 2007. It wasn’t until the end of 2010 that I felt we were on to something. The next three years we made the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. Today we have a $10 million business.”


However, being patient does not mean postponing revenue generating opportunities. After all, the bills need to be paid.

CMI generated revenue through the benefactor (exclusive sponsorship) model. Digital Photography School did it through affiliate sales. Other methods include YouTube advertising and consulting.

The Content Inc. model works for both entrepreneurs striving for growth and branding, and for businesses with existing products to set themselves apart from the competition.

It works best when one has a passion for the topic, as it becomes more enjoyable to research and create the content.

You probably have some special knowledge that people would be keen to acquire. What is the special tilt that no one else is addressing which will set you apart?

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Fern Chang

ABOUT Fern Chang

Fern is a Certified Project Manager (PMP) and a Certified Evernote Consultant. After a career in Information Technology with industries including academic institutions, hospitality, psychology counseling and translation services, Fern decided in 2013 to make the switch to the world of a solopreneur...
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