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September 20, 2012

Spotting Content Ops (or: The Milkman is Dead! Long Live the Milkman!)

September 20, 2012

Everything used to be easy, simple, and sepia-toned back in the “olden days” (as my brother and I referred to anything pre-our-parents’-generation). The milkman left two ice-cold bottles on your stoop; now, you have to stave off a cloud of rush hour exhaust because you forgot you were down to the last drop. The newspaper, tightly-rolled and banded, was tossed to a robe-safe front-door vicinity well before the coffee was ready; now, even a simple TV channel assaults you with multiple screen tickers, live talking heads, and piped-in video-screen interviewees.

I thought the modern age was supposed to make things simpler?

Just because the channels, platforms, and sources have changed, doesn’t mean the process has become any different. When you’re looking for strong content to share with your online audience, instead of wading through dusty, bound volumes of text, you just have to wade through an ever-deepening stream of online sources. At times, it can get overwhelming. That’s why it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve. I took a time-machine back to the past, bribed the mailman, and he tipped his hand toward these:

Google Alerts

Buried deep in Google’s site, at first glance their Alerts seem like a stunted search function. But no! Alerts will do the searching for you, and deliver it to your inbox. Like a tiny, electronic mailman. I have innumerable Alerts set-up, and you can be as specific or broad in your search as you prefer.

  • Starving for content? Receive Alerts once a day.

  • Overwhelmed? Get them once a week.

  • Need only news? Select the news function.

  • Need multi-media? Add in everything else.

  • Want someone else to stay updated? Have it sent to multiple e-mail addresses.

Then, it’s as simple as skimming your message with your coffee, first thing in the morning, just like the broadsheets of the past.

Twitter Lists

Twitter is a gold mine of content opportunities. Unfortunately, you have you weave your way through tunnels of Instagram puppy pictures, lame sponsored posts, and sixteen year olds who communicate in lingo even I don’t understand. Your best bet? Set up some lists! Like a giant Plinko machine, you can filter different users into a bevy of lists. Set one up for each niche you are following, or for different audience groups, specific crowds of people, or brands, industries, or companies. Get an outside app (like Tweetdeck) that allows you to monitor lists simultaneously, and it’s like having a color-coded TV Guide of content opportunities.


My favorite part of Alice in Wonderland? When the Mad Hatter angrily shuts down the use of mustard as a spread. But I’m getting ahead of myself; we only see this scene because Alice has wandered through the multi-tunneled universe entered while following a rabbit into its burrow. In the same way, utilize content that you find and love to find new sources, articles, or related great material.

I’m not encouraging everyone to lose themselves for hours in an alternate universe, but by scanning quickly, and clicking around, great content usually bequeaths other great content. You can often find the producer, writer, blogger, or author on a social network, and check out other pieces they’re reading, sharing, or recommending. Click, scan, evaluate for content quality and share-ability. Just don’t get lost down the rabbit-hole–before you know it, it’s 3 a.m. and you’re knee-deep reading about Riga, Latvia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, wondering aloud, “How did I get here?”

It’s not the journey that matters–as long as you end up with something of value, delivered to your fingertips in an deliciously-cold, glass bottle.

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