6/260 In praise of demonstration

Show, don't tell

In the past week there have been some amazing things happening, Pixie-side. This time last weekend I was a judge for Adelaide’s NASA Space Apps challenge; during the week our newest Pixie joined us and started getting his hands dirty; and our new project management cycle continues to be an absolute god-send. (You may remember me writing about that here, here, and here.)

This week, I’m going to take the opportunity to write to you about something very different.

Today, two assertions slash predictions

I’m going to go out on a limb today with two assertions. One: That ‘content’ as a topic has hit a turning/saturation point, and that writing about it will give you diminishing returns. Two: That basics from fiction publishing will be the new black.

Content as a topic has hit a turning slash saturation point

The business world has been awash in a frantic desire to create content, for at least the past seven years. If you’re not in the content world, you’re probably still seeing all this as new and amazing. But it isn’t new, and it isn’t amazing.

Sites like Copyblogger have been around since January 2006. Social media isn’t new any more (Facebook: 2004, Twitter: 2008, LinkedIn: 2003). The world of content and content marketing is about to hit its teenaged years, and authenticity is a Big Deal.

To be clear, the authenticity of which I write isn’t your authenticity. I’m doing you a favour and taking that for granted. I’m talking about the authenticity of the platforms. If you didn’t know (as I did) that the claims about video were probably bullshit, you would have been surprised to learn that video isn’t the amazing thing Facebook told you it would be. They said it to boost their own revenue.

Looking at many of the authoritative voices in the content marketing space, they’re blogs like Hubspot and Kapost, Facebook and Buffer: All writing about it so they can (ultimately) sell you on their platforms. You could argue that even the Content Marketing Institute was founded to sell their education programs, even though their mission is just to educate.

And you know what? It’s all converged. Convergence has already happened. It happened before I was discomfited by it; before I was cognizant of the fact that publishing on the topic is a waste of time.

Any single topic that you think you can write about content, content strategy, content marketing, content management, content handling, content advocacy… etc - it’s all been done. Not only that, it’s been done to death.

It’s gotten to the point where content practitioners tweet orgasmically about content basics, when they go to workshops. (Yeah, that’s effectively a subtweet; if you are only just learning that understandability beats your desired writing style, it proves you’re a junior.) They’re wanking off to each other about their own stuff. Kinda like people on acid getting into ecstatic states with other people on acid because they believe they’re seeing and hearing the same thing, and it’s amazing.

It’s not amazing. It’s writing and editing 101. Even taxonomy (as many apply it in the world of Digital) is really just the art of indexing. (If you’ve never studied indexing, it really is an art. Great indexers are as rare as hens’ teeth.)

Phew, rough huh. Content, as a topic, has had its day. And today, I’m calling it.

It’s why the Brutal Pixie blog has fallen into disrepair. It’s why I fell out of love with the Pixie Podcast. There just isn’t any point doing it. In fact, it’s insanity. Publishing anything about content will get you diminishing returns if you continue to put effort into it.

So, I’ve decided that the only way to continue to publish in anything anywhere close to the topic is approach it from a totally different direction. To take a punt and do something that nobody else is doing.

I won’t tell you what that is yet. If you’re a paying subscriber, you’ll get the insider secret, sneek peek before it goes live. ;) Woohoo!

But this brings me to the second point in today’s epic missive.

Show, don’t tell.

This has been a command in all creative writing subjects, workshops, retreats, courses, and programs since as long as I can remember. It’s doubtless been a command for generations; I can only speak personally for the past 35 years.

In fact, I remember doing an exercise on this during a residential retreat with John Marsden when I was 15 years old. I won the prize for it. The challenge was to write the most concise passage you can, that tells the reader three things: New York City, you’re in the future, and there’s a dentist. Not only did I win this challenge by showing a story instead of telling a story, but I beat the famed author’s own record. I think I managed it in 13 words (Marsden’s record was 16). The ladies who owned the bookshop were so proud of me. Haha

I’m throwing this down in front of you for a reason. If you are producing content, my money is on the fact that writing how to articles is done. The time is now for you to walk your talk: To demonstrate what you do.

This means that for my own company, which is a strategic content company, the time has come for us to either piss or get off the pot. Our superpower is creating publications that hit audiences just where they need to, for a particular strategic need or outcome.

Therefore, our challenge is to walk the talk. Sure, The Next Five Years is one of our publications. You might argue that the Pixie Podcast is one - but you’d be wrong. But we need to be serious about production in our own camp.

This weekend I have put pen to paper and started sketching out ideas for the first one. In terms of value and marketability, it has the potential to become multiple objects, not just one. It will require some nice collaborations to really fly, so we’ll see how it comes off.

In terms of what this means for you, it means: Stop writing how-tos and start showing people how you do incredible things in the world. Your message might be contained in a podcast, but it might equally well be put to the world via a tiny conference.

Naturally, like most of my assertions about what’s coming, I’ll be way ahead of the right time (whatever that is). But it’s a risk I’m willing to take. We’ll either sink or swim; if we swim, we’ll get to our destination faster than we think. And if you take my ideas on board, chances are you will break away from the pack and start doing things that your industry hasn’t yet considered. And that, ladies and gents, is where magic happens.