“Creating content is partly a job, you can’t simply wait for inspiration to hit you. I write about 10,000 words a week and I have to meet that goal. Sometimes I see something that inspires me, but even if that doesn’t happen you still have to write.”
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He’s recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. he is the author of a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle.
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Why did you choose to be a content creator?
I’m a history major with a law degree who grew up around computers. They were in my home, my parents had them as early adopters. I’m a writer by passion. [I do this] because I grew up around computers, and because in the early 1990s it was by far the coolest thing to do.
What’s a common misconception about creating content?
Creating content is partly a job, you can’t just wait for inspiration to hit you. I write about 10,000 words a week and I have to meet that goal. Sometimes I see something that inspires me, but even if that doesn’t happen, you still have to write.
What do you do in in your spare time that contributes to your creativity?
I’m a gamer, so I build terrain for table top games. I paint miniatures. I’m also a cyclist and I occasionally work on bikes.
What’s your advice to content creators who find it hard to publish?
It’s not always sexy, you have to persist. You have to keep writing. You can’t wait to get inspired. There’s lots of little things that you can do to let you focus on the writing. You have to focus on the actual writing. I find that you can’t let the tools get in the way of the process of writing. Content doesn’t scale. The amount of work and practice it takes, it doesn’t really scale, you can just do it faster. Over time I’ve gotten better.
How do you consume content? Which websites do you consume?
I tend to read on my Kindle. I still read some stuff on paper. I use a feed reader, I use Feedkit. Every day I skim through several dozen feeds. I really like AEON, it’s a lot of different types of articles, from “Trust me with your money” to a “Space Station fly thru.” I also enjoy the website A List Apart, I like how they put their stuff together. I read Lifehacker a lot and the MIT technology blog, though I don’t understand much of it. I also visit Harvard Biz Review.
Which social media sites do you publish on most frequently?
For the fashion industry, I like to see clients on Instagram and Facebook. Pinterest has seen a big falloff in activity. I know the word is if you’re millennial brand you have to be on Snapchat, but buying on Snapchat has been very expensive. For Portent we use Twitter a lot, it’s big for us.
Pretty much everyone should be on Facebook, because your audience is. We do a fair amount on LinkedIn, and we encourage our clients to explore that channel. It makes sense for come clients to be on Quora, answering questions on there, and Reddit.
What’s your strategy for presenting content at conferences?
I’m a little bit of a freak. I’m an extreme introvert, a classic definition. I’m far more comfortable speaking on stage than being in the middle of a group. I put an absurd amount of time into preparing my
What are trends in content marketing that you have your eye on as we enter 2017?
Machine learning is getting some blowback. Some people are emphasizing machine learning. I think they’re missing the importance of fundamentals. A lot of companies have forgotten the technical fundamentals of email, search, and analytics. I think we have to pay attention to hyper local and geofencing.
I don’t think the Internet of Things is coming on in marketing, but I try not to predict, because I can be so wrong. I’d suggest that we’ll need to place less reliance on the news cycle because Facebook and Google are going to close that window.
What’s the most important key to creating good content?
A little bit of love. You have to give a crap about what you’re doing. If you’re asking the question “Do I give a crap,” then you probably don’t.
Good content is caring about how people are going to feel when they read it. Are you writing the content to be consumed or are you writing something to fill up space? If you’re writing it to put something good out into the world, then you’re putting love into it.
I’m a practical guy, I get paid to do this, but you have to respect the art. Otherwise you’re creating content like 99 percent of what’s out there.
Producing the good stuff is not about genius, it’s about having a little love for what you’re creating and putting some love into it.
What responsibility do we have as marketers to not add to the noise?
I think about that as a Dad. It’s not just marketing that bears a responsibility in this, it’s media. What bothers me is that there is a real reduction in awareness. We’ve become uneducated consumers of media. We can’t distinguish between news and what people are just flinging out there.
Marketing can be very valuable in connecting people to things that can make their lives better. I can’t tell my clients that this place or that place is a bad space to put marketing. they will just work with someone else. I get that. The news outlets are publishing everywhere because they need to make money. I think the issue is that there are screens in front of us all the time and we can’t survive without them. It’s not just about marketers that need to [think about this issue], its media.
Which writers do you enjoy?
I find Neil Gaiman both amazing and frustrating — he produces great stuff at a volume and rate that puts Stephen King to shame. Ray Bradbury was an amazing writer. [British novelist] Patrick O’Brien is one of my favorites. I’ve read a lot of [David] Ogilvy’s stuff. I loved Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
Describe how you actually create content, what’s your process?
As a CEO who keeps his door open all the time, I can only be so efficient. My company has an office, I get in about 6 or 7 AM. I spend an hour writing or working on something, then I clear my inbox. Then it depends on the project, but I try to work in sprints: work for 45 mins then take a break (maybe check social media or whatever). Two to three times a day I do a deep sweep of my social media feeds. I go to Tweetdeck and answer questions or respond. I’m done with work about 4 or 4:30, then I put in another half hour before i go to bed, usually answering questions on Quora. When I’m in a sprint, I put my headphones on and people know they should [leave me alone and] send me a message on Slack.
My message to someone who wants to be more efficient as a content creator: simplify and come up with a process that works for you.