CT No.6: Do content marketers buy tech?

Freemium gossip for summer's end

This week has been all hustle and no flow. I keep patching together disparate ideas of work-life and life’s work with no real conclusion. The twin industry behemoth conferences of Content Marketing World and Inbound next week, neither of which I will attend. I’ve never been to Inbound, but Content Marketing World has always been good to me, so I’m a little sad to be missing it.

Since I can’t attend… I’ll just gossip. Here’s a bit of hot goss I’m passing on as a newsletter author who DGAF about publishing rumors received on background:

In conversations with several content software vendors (many of whom I first discovered at CMW), they’ve indicated that they’re not tabling at this year’s show. In past years they’ve had leads but not many purchases, so the ROI of a booth at the country’s largest content marketing conference just isn’t worth it anymore.

These are vendors with some of the most innovative content tech on the market with excellent data, wonderful interfaces and smart salespeople. Their products help content marketers understand their audiences and shine light on content performance in a way that more general marketing technologies and workflow software don’t.

So… why don’t content marketers or, rather, CMW attendees buy? I have a few theories:

  • Content marketers’ focus on churning out articles and maintaining production workflows (more traditional editorial) make it hard to see where new types of tools can help with day-to-day content production. Also, new tools tend to muck things up and slow things down.

  • Content marketers see analytics and performance data as a job for analysts or other marketing leaders.

  • Content marketers don’t like being “sold to” directly and are skeptical of vendors at events like CMW.

  • Content marketers would rather spend their budgets on, well, more content. They want to devote any extra budget to hiring better writers and creators or amazing videos or more media spend to promote their great content.

  • Pure content marketers simply don’t have the power/budget to make software purchasing decisions. When they do, they’re focused solely on production and not entrusted with more in-depth data-driven technologies.

I suspect it’s largely the first and last bullets, with a sprinkle of the rest thrown in. Speculating on gossip: you know you’re into it.

Notion: The new cool kid in class

Speaking of not having the budget/time to look into new tech: Several readers have said they would love to use some of the tools I review, but they don’t have the budget or ability right now. So! Here’s some freemium goodness for you: the hella hyped Notion, with its $800M valuation and shabby chic interface.

Like collaboration app Slack, Notion is out to revolutionize how we work. They’ve even included a story about how their mission fits into the history of technology, which is… honestly a little precious, reductive and Great Man Theory of Silicon Valley for my liking, but I think about technology for a living. And the illos are cute!

At a glance: Notion

Notion is a project management app with note-taking abilities. It combines the drag-and-drop utility of Trello with Evernote’s scratchpad and a healthy dose of every other project management app you’ve ever used. It’s like a pastiche of features, from the Airtable templates to the Slack-like shortcuts. That doesn’t make it bad.

I’ve been using it for two weeks to manage my aforementioned hustle. At first I couldn’t see the difference between Notion and Evernote and was annoyed by the starter templates. I have eight task list apps. Seriously, I don’t have time or inclination to fill a detailed spreadsheet-like reading list or travel itinerary. But then…

I clicked through to the full template list and saw the promise! That content calendar! The roadmap! What a mood board! And a CRM! It’s like a database remixed with a notebook remixed with… well, the internet. It has art. It has craft. People who don’t understand software might not understand why it’s good, but that’s what makes it good.

If you’re in a place to try a new project management or organizational system, I’d recommend spending some time with Notion. It takes time to learn, but the shortcuts are sweet and the connections are deep.

Like a new Kendrick Lamar record, I know Notion is good. Really good. I want to keep spending time with it. And there’s more there with every listen.

I mean, it could be a flash in the pan. Microsoft may pick it up and ruin it. But for the moment Notion is worth a shot.

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