Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.
Someone pointed out a bit of a dichotomy in technical communication the other day. It was such an interesting observation that I’ve been thinking about it for a while. The dichotomy is between the power of plain old writing skills and the power of “sexier” specialized skills.
What are the specialties?
Directions for tech comm that Tom Johnson and Alan Porter discuss on their respective blogs is a movement towards videos and screencasting (screencasts category on Tom’s blog) or graphics and illustrating (comics category on Alan’s blog). Mostly the posts talk about how users don’t read the manual (which is apparently okay). Perhaps specialization is a wise direction to take, because it’s a specialty that won’t be taken over by “the crowd” as easily as writing. WordPress.tv, for example, was seeded with 20 professionally-produced how-to videos, and the community can add videos to the site as well. You can mostly detect which were made by professional film-makers, so it would appear they’re employable longer.
Content farms go moo
Since anyone can write, and content farms are impacting the web, filling it to the brim with quickly written, search-engine baited fast-food content, hone more specialized skills in order to thrive in the shifting sands of the web, right? However, content experts like Brian Massey say that all content, no matter the source, is what’s driving the successful websites and web applications today. The written word is still effective with measurable results, and is overwhelmingly more prevalent on the web today, page for page. Mint.com, for example, is a wonderful redistributor and aggregator of banking and investment accounts, a specialized type of content. Mint also creates content, such as the weekly summary newsletter, that encourages you to return to the site. This content is text and numbers, with lovely graphs, but it’s really the numbers that shine.
With both sides pointed out to me now, I’m leaning towards the broader content strategy movement. I will help people get content from any source, even if it’s built by a community or (gasp) ordinary users. But I do see the value in video and especially in non-text-heavy mobile content as we roll into the new year and a new decade.
Here’s my observation. If it’s true that bit.ly, the link shortener that’s popular on social sharing sites, has counted over a billion click-throughs per month, then it’s possible that social sharing will overtake search engine optimized content. As noted in 5 Trends That Will Shape Small Business in 2010, “Social search has the ability to eclipse the value of traditional SEO efforts.” A comment counters with the trend to go from text to video, saying clients should “record, record, and then record some more.”
Let me repeat that. Eventually there could be more people reading and clicking through links on social sites than searching and clicking through links in search results. How will that shift change how you create content, and how will you strategically choose the content that you create?