Published September 6th 2016

The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing

Which of these sums up your view on content production?

“Content is about quality, not quantity. We should be producing high value, authoritative content regularly, not publishing lots of short posts. Less is more.” 

“Winning in digital media now boils down to a simple equation: figure out a way to produce the most content at as low a cost as possible.” (Digiday 2013)

Do you agree with first statement? Me too, until recently. But now I think we could be wrong.

The Washington Post now publishes around 1,200 posts a day. That is an incredible amount of content. My initial reaction when I read the statistic was ‘surely that is too much, the quality will suffer, why produce so much content?’ The answer seems to be that it works. The Post’s web visitors have grown 28% over the last year and they passed the New York Times for a few months at the end of 2015..

The growth in published content is just one part of the long term strategy that Jeff Bezos has put in place to drive up the Post’s audience. The content strategy appears similar to the approach Bezos adopted at Amazon for long tail audiences. Many other sites and authors are also increasing their volume of published content. Across the web we are seeing significant content growth, the number of Google indexed pages has grown from 1 trillion to 30 trillion in the last 7 years.


This growth in content is likely to accelerate for many reasons including more companies adopting high volume strategies like the Post, growth in automated content, increased volumes of short form content, lots more video content, increased long tail niche content and simply because there will be more internet users with access to easy to use publishing tools. The data suggests the number of new posts and articles published next year may be double that published this year.

In Cleveland this week Content Marketing World will be exploring the future of content. This is my small contribution, a look at why the future is more not less content and what it means for your strategy and operation.

Isn’t content all about quality not quantity?

I know if you are in content marketing, there is a lot of advice about quality over quantity. Provide something of value, research it well, make it helpful. It is a strategy I have followed at BuzzSumo. I spend a lot of time researching posts, as I did with this one, aiming to produce authoritative, long form content that provides insights which, hopefully, are helpful to marketers. This takes time and I produce around one to two posts a month.

I am now thinking I may have got this all wrong.

Haven’t we reached peak content? No, not by a long way

Last week I read a post that argued the future of content marketing is ‘less content’. The author predicts “content teams will be producing far less content” albeit content that is “far more interesting.” I think whilst it is true that content will take a wider range of forms, including interactive content, the future is not less content but the opposite.

My reasoning is based on a number of factors including the effectiveness of the strategy adopted by the Post and others.

Firstly, the growth in content continues unabated. It is not easy to track the number of new articles being published each year but we can use some proxies, for example, the number of content items being indexed by Google and the number of posts published on WordPress.

As we noted above the number of pages Google has indexed over 7 years from 2008 to 2014 has increased from 1 trillion to 30 trillion.

That is an increase of 29 trillion pages in 7 years. The number of net additional pages indexed by Google each year appears to be increasing, it was 3 trillion in 2010, 5 trillion in 2012 and 8 trillion in 2014.

WordPress publish data on the number of posts published by blogs they host, or blogs that use their Jetpack plugin. This is just a single content platform but it is very popular and it gives us an indication about content growth. The figures from December 2006 to July 2016 are as follows:


Again there appears to be a steady growth in the volume of published content. In July 2016 nearly 70m new posts were published on WordPress. Over 2m each day.

It is easy to say most content is poor and can be ignored but quality content is also increasing. In addition to the high volume publishing of news sites such as the Post, in the area of science there are at least 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals publishing over 2.5m new scientific papers each year. The volume of content being published has been growing, with 4-5% more publishing scientists each year, and evidence publication growth is accelerating.

There is also increased automation of content creation as I will outline below, at this week’s Content Marketing World there is a session on ways to make your content more automated.

There is no indication from the data that we have reached peak content, in fact, the trends indicate that the volume of published content is increasing. Levels of internet access across the world are still increasing as are literacy rates, this combined with easier creation tools, would suggest we may have some way to go before we hit peak content.

My view is that we could see a doubling in the number of posts published next year. This is simply taking the current growth in published content and understanding how this growth could be accelerated by factors such as:

  • Higher numbers of internet users and growing literacy
  • Falling costs of content production and distribution
  • Easier content production with simple to use tools, particularly video
  • The success of high volume strategies being adopted by sites such as the Post and others, encouraging more businesses to adopt similar strategies
  • A significant growth in automated, algorithm driven, content creation

Let’s start by looking at the high volume content strategy being adopted by the Post.

What is Bezos doing at the Post?

Jeff Bezos is a smart guy, and since he became the owner at the post, their traffic has grown. In the last year from April 2015 to April 2016 their visitors grew 28% and from October to December 2015 they had higher numbers than the New York Times. 


I wanted to understand how Bezos and the team has achieved their visitor growth. There appear to be a number of factors including:

  • Data – Bezos employed a group of data scientists to analyze the content that gains traction
  • Technology – The Post developed software called Bandito that allows editors to publish articles with up to five different headlines, photos and story treatments, with an algorithm deciding which one readers find the most engaging.
  • Headlines – Using data and technology the Post has developed more viral headlines, which is arguably different from clickbait if there is substance to the content
  • Video – The Post has increased its use of video
  • Content growth – The Post has adopted a content strategy which involves producing a high volume of content aimed at engaging a long tail of niche interests

I will cover this strategy in more detail in a future post, as content marketers can learn a lot from Bezos and the Post. However, what I want to focus on here is their strategy of increasing the volume of content, and more specifically long tail content.

The long tail theory

For those that are not familiar with the long tail theory it was first codified for me by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine. In essence the theory sees a shift away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (very popular products) in certain industries and focuses instead on the huge number of niches that exist (the long tail).

Amazon was a classic long tail company that started to cater for the niche markets. The long tail theory goes something like this.


Popular books such as the New York Times best sellers sit in the red area and most book shops historically had a heavy focus on stocking these popular books as they knew they appealed to a broad majority of their audience. In this traditional hit driven business it has been estimated that 80% of revenues and nearly all profits came from the top selling products.


Whilst everyone recognised the potential of the long tail it was very expensive to produce, store and distribute products to these smaller niche audiences.

With the advent of the internet, Amazon lowered the costs of storing and distributing books and offered books to the long tail audience. Whilst the individual demand for a book in the long tail is much lower than for the best sellers, collectively there is a huge demand from people for niche or specialist books. The revenues from the long tail could actually be much larger than the revenue from popular titles.

Back in 2005 Chris Anderson noted how a new company Netflix, was changing the model and how this company at that time was offering a catalogue of DVDs that was much greater, over 8 times greater than the typical Blockbuster store, and how a significant and growing portion of their revenues was from DVDs not available in stores, the long tail.

As the costs of production, storage and distribution fell, particularly with online and digital products, it became economically attractive to provide products for the long tail niche audience, in fact revenue from the long tail became greater than the hits because the tail was very long indeed. Companies like Amazon and Netflix were arguably some of the first long tail companies.

Why is this relevant to content?

Long tail content

It seems to me Bezos is taking the same long tail approach to content at the Post. Of course we all want the big content article that garners millions of views but traffic for thousands of niche articles can collectively add up to a lot more traffic overall.

By creating over 1,000 pieces of content a day you are more likely to cater for demand in the long tail for specific niche content or simply to produce content that engages a wider audience. The Guardian has taken a similar approach and publishes similar volumes of content to the Post. The Huffington Post was reported back in 2013 to be producing over 1,200 articles a day. Sites such as BuzzFeed have also increased their content production, the Atlantic recently reported the following figures:

April 2012 BuzzFeed published 914 posts and 10 videos

April 2016 BuzzFeed published 6,365 posts and 319 videos

That is a significant growth in content publication. The reason appears to be simply that more content on these sites drives more traffic. This appears to be the case in both B2B and B2C. In 2015 Hubspot looked at the data from their own customers and found that both traffic and leads increased with higher content volumes.


The impact of content volume was greater in B2C but it was also significant in B2B.


Increased traffic and leads does not necessarily mean a good return on investment but the cost of content production is falling and distribution costs are very low, enabling more content to be produced. We are now seeing a high volume approach being taken by many established B2B sites and influencers.

This content growth is not a surprise, Doug Kessler predicted in an exponential content increase in 2013.


How many articles can you write about inbound marketing or related topics? 100? 200? 500? Well, Hubspot published over 4,000 in the last 12 months alone.

Does this long tail approach work in B2B? Let’s take Hubspot’s approach and compare it to say Social Media Examiner. Two of the big sites in the marketing industry.

Social Media Examiner are no slouches when it comes to publishing content, they published over 400 posts in the last year and averaged over 3,900 shares per post, which is incredibly high, even discounting the automated shares by bots.

Hubspot by comparison published over 4,000 posts, ten times as many as Social Media Examiner in the same period. Their posts were shared a lot less on average, almost 600 shares a post.

So who has the better content strategy? My instinct until now has been that you are better off being Social Media Examiner than Hubspot. You can provide higher quality, give more promotion to each post, drive higher average shares and traffic; and you get a much better return on your content investment. However, Hubspot’s articles received 2.8m shares in total compared to the 1.8m shares of posts on Social Media Examiner. That is 1m more shares, over 30% more. We don’t have traffic figures for these sites but I would anticipate Hubspot also received similarly higher levels of traffic.

This high volume strategy has also been adopted by influencers such as Neil Patel. Over 800 articles authored by Neil have been published in the last 12 months. That is a lot of content but his articles have averaged 838 shares per article, more than Hubspot has achieved, and in total Neil’s posts have achieved approximately 700,000 shares. That is almost half the shares achieved by a major site such as Social Media Examiner.


A high volume content approach probably only works if you have built an audience with authoritative, quality content first. However, if you are an established brand should you be looking to adopt the high volume strategies that work for the Post, Hubspot and Neil Patel. My instinct is we will see others adopting similar strategies and increasing, not decreasing, their content output.

My previous reservations have centered on how difficult and costly it is to produce quality content on a regular and consistent basis. But it might be that I have been guilty of old school thinking when it comes to content volume and long tail content.

Using robots to write long tail content

The Post announced this summer that it would use robots to write many of its Olympics stories. These posts would still involve human editing but the algorithm created the initial story. It is easy to be critical of using algorithms to write stories but in this way the Post can use human journalists efficiently and cater for the demand for long tail content by niche audiences. In areas like sports we are primarily talking about robots writing short articles that report the score, who scored, the time of scores, the current league position etc. This data can be easily used by algorithms to write short reports, which may be all someone requires. Journalists can write the more in-depth stories and human stories, and leave the short reports to the robots.

In my view this makes sense. I don’t always need a perspective or in-depth article on movements in the financial markets, on new Google announcements or the latest soccer scores. Content writing algorithms are also getting better by the week. Don’t believe me, go and look at the text written by Narrative Science’s algorithms or at Automated Insights.

At this point in time it might seem far too complex and expensive for sites to create algorithms to create content. However, these costs will fall and algorithms will become commoditised, open sourced and available to everyone. In much the same way as is happening in machine learning. I anticipate there will be significant growth in robot written content, which whilst relatively small, will be a growing proportion of all online content.

The short form content opportunity

My personal approach has been to create well researched, authoritative and long form content. I have felt good about this as the data consistently shows that long form content gets more shares on average. However, statistics can be misleading. When I looked recently at the most shared content published by marketing and IT sites, the data confirmed that on average long form posts achieved more shares. But when I looked in more detail at the 50 most shared posts, 45 of them were short form and under 1,000 words. Thus people are very happy to share short form content and given the pressures on everyone’s time may prefer short form content.


How do we reconcile these two facts, namely that longer form content gets higher average shares but the top most shared content is made up overwhelmingly of short form content? In my view it is because there is simply a lot more, very low quality short form content. Cynically it is easier to produce poor quality short form content than poor quality long form content. This volume of poor quality short form content drags down the average shares for all short form content relative to long form content.

I personally think there is a big opportunity for short form content and I aim to adapt my strategy to focus more on repurposing and republishing short form versions of my research that focus on specific issues. These could be focused around just a single image or chart.

Short form content could also take the form of serialisation. Most of Charles Dickens’s novels started as weekly or monthly instalments. They made the works more accessible and built an audience that eagerly anticipated the next installment through his episodic approach and use of cliff hangers. A serialised set of articles can still become a book or long form content.  Short form content doesn’t necessarily mean a reduction in quality. Particularly if you are serialising your long form piece into short form episodes.

If others think in the same way we may see a significant increase in short form content.

Video and audio content

It has never been easier to produce video content and the effectiveness of video means we are likely to see increased video production. In many ways audio and video content can be produced in less time and more efficiently  than written content, even with transcripts.

What are the implications of content growth?

Just because the world is going to produce a lot more content doesn’t mean you need to start trebling the volume of the content you produce. However, you do need to reflect on your strategy in a world of ever increasing content.

It is easy to decry and criticise higher volumes of content, particularly as we are likely to see a lot more poor quality content or even Crap as Doug Kessler says. However, as Mark Schaefer, who coined the term ‘content shock’ points out, for many consumers more content is a good thing. So if you are passionate about the Men’s Trampoline (yes, it is an Olympic event) there is more likely to be a series of long tail articles keeping you updated. The Washington Post did actually publish an article on the  American who finished 11th in the Men’s Trampoline, a classic long tail post. 


Mark Schaefer points out that in a world of content shock you will get less individual attention for your posts. This is simple math at one level, if content production outstrips growth in social sharing, we will see shares per article decrease on average. However, it does not mean content marketing is not a sustainable strategy. It is ultimately about return on investment. If you can lower content production and distribution costs and engage a small audience which converts you can still achieve a return on your investment. 

What is clear, however, is you can’t just start writing 1,000 articles a day. Google would probably be very unhappy if you did. You need to build some authority and an audience over time. However, there is a question about the point at which you increase the volume of your content and leverage the brand you have built.

Quality will still matter, even in a world of high volume content. It may not need to be long from but it does need to meet a quality threshold. Brands should produce content that is always worth consuming, albeit it might be consumed by smaller niche audiences.

A key challenge will be lowering the cost of producing content. Is it different writers, better research and creation tools, more content curation, guest bloggers, more short form content right through to automation.

Can you use algorithm written content to satisfy particular niches? For example, it would be a simple task for us to create a weekly article on the most shared fashion content or automotive content written by an algorithm. While this might sound like a race to the bottom, there is an argument that quality for these types of articles is not about the prose or insights, but about the content being timely and relevant for the audience. Relevance wins over quality for this form of content and bots will hit their deadline every time.

In a world of high volume content your amplification strategy will be more important. Producing quality content and hoping people will find it will no longer work, if it ever did. Content promotion via your own teams and influencers, via email to your subscribers, via paid ads and via social will be critical.

The impact on us as readers

It seems to me one of the biggest challenges of content growth is for us as readers or consumers of content.  There will be more articles than ever to work through. You will need good filters so you can be aware of key developments and news but not overwhelmed by content. The difficulty as Doug Kessler says is that poor content may increasingly look on the surface like good content, as everyone learns how to write effective headlines.

We will all need to make smarter use of curators, those people that read widely, that keep up-to-date on specific issues and share articles and views with the rest of us. These people may curate on blogs, content hubs or simply share articles via Twitter. No one can read everything, we will need to rely more than ever on others reading and sharing articles. Teams will have to learn how to effectively leverage their members to curate and filter content.

How to filter content – some examples

The following tools and filters are personal to me but I think they provide an indication of what we all need in some form:

Content alerts

There is no way you can read all the posts published today to identify what people are saying about a particular topic or brand. You need to use tools and robots. I use BuzzSumo alerts, for example I have an alert for mentions of BuzzSumo and I get alerted every time we are mentioned in a web article. I also do this for specific topics such as data driven marketing.

Content aggregation and filtering

I like to aggregate all relevant new articles each day into specific briefings that I can skim and decide which articles to explore in more depth. For some briefings I use keywords, for example here is my briefing on Negative Interest Rates. For other briefings I simply pull together content from the experts I respect. Here is my daily briefing from the best entrepreneur, SaaS and StartUp blogs and in this one I have simply added the twitter handles of various SEO gurus to get a daily briefing on what they are sharing.


Team sharing 

On Anders Pink I am in a team with my colleagues and they help me filter by upvoting and commenting on articles. This helps me decide what to read each day. I think leveraging your colleagues in this way is something every team needs to do. It is hard to stay informed in a fast moving world but your colleagues, and your social networks, can help. Your colleagues are likely to have a finely tuned antenna for relevant industry and competitor news.  

Trending content

I use BuzzSumo’s trending dashboard to see what is trending each day i.e. what is resonating in my industry. Trending content does not mean good content, as was exposed by Facebook’s recent algorithm issues, but it is useful to see what content is resonating.

Final thoughts

Yes, the irony is most people will not have read to this point. The data shows that most people only scroll down through 50% of an article and 55% of you not reading will have left within 15 seconds according to Chartbeat.

I should probably have serialised this post and written a number shorter posts on key aspects such as a chart on content growth, a piece on the Post’s content strategy or an article on long tail content. Maybe those shorter pieces would have kept your attention and motivated you to read the next article.


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91 responses to “The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing”

  1. sanjeev says:

    really good information. I will apply it on my upcoming content plans. Thanks

    • DIY ideas says:

      “Content is about quality, not quantity. We should be producing high value, authoritative content regularly, not publishing lots of short posts. Less is more.”

      • The Washington Post now publishes around 1,200 posts a day. That is an incredible amount of content. My initial reaction when I read the statistic was ‘surely that is too much, the quality will suffer, why produce so much content?’ The answer seems to be that it works. The Post’s web visitors have grown 28% over the last year and they passed the New York Times for a few months at the end of 2015..

  2. Arnie McKinnis says:

    As always Steve – every impressive article and great content. I can attest almost all the assumptions you’ve made here – believe they are moving from assumptions to truth. In the past, when I was prolific with creating content, there was an overall increase of activity (although, the key to activity – eyeballs, readers, etc – is know what to do after you get them).

    I have seen multiple “media outlets” double or triple the number of writers – that increases content, and the hope is capturing more eyeballs (even through longtail dynamics). It all works – and if you produce a ton of articles, and only get a few hundred per article, the overall numbers increase. Just simple math.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Arnie, thanks. Yep, not sure I like it but as you say longtail dynamics is leading some sites to publish ever increasing volumes of content.

  3. montemagno says:

    Uhm latest stats say that NYT is leading and W. Post declining after dec. 2015 peak.
    Do you have different data?

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Thanks so much for that. Not sure how I missed the latest numbers. Updating now. The Post’s numbers still up 28% year on year but back behind the NYT. That is the good thing about the web, always someone to keep you honest on the numbers. 🙂

  4. Andrea Funk says:

    I made it to the bottom. A lot to think about. I can see that large companies like the Post publishing a lot of articles along the continuum of the long tail as a great way to reach lots of people in those out lying niches.

    But what about the small niche companies that are deep in the continuum? There is only so much more sub-nichey to write about.

    What about evergreen content? Should this be longer?

    Are people recycling the same topic/articles/blogs over and over just to have “more content”?

    Thanks for the research.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Andrea, thanks for making it 🙂 I think the number of sub-niches is huge and we will see more content produced for these audiences. I suspect some people are recycling rather than upcycling content. I am not sure evergreen content needs to be longer but there is no question evergreen content performs well over the longer term as it can continue to acquire links and even shares.

  5. Cameron Murray says:

    Awesome post (as always) Steve, really (really) great.
    A hugely interesting topic, and one which I’m sure hugely divides opinion…

    One element that I don’t think was mentioned was the effect that a reader’s opinion/perception of the content creator can have in their engagement with a post, both long and short-form content alike.

    I know that, personally, I feel I often have to ‘dedicate’ time to consume long-form content, something that can often seem like an added ‘task’ to your day, hence, it is very much the opinion/relationship built with the content creator that influences my own attention…

    Speaking of which, is highlighted in being part of that ‘positive percentile’ that read the post, and know valuable content when they see it, long or short-form.

    Great stuff, thanks Steve!

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Cameron, thanks. I agree with the importance of a reader’s perception. I think high volume publishing probably only works once you have established some authority and reputation for quality.

      • Cameron Murray says:

        Yeah, totally agree, found it particularly interesting as I, like yourself, was much the believer in quality over quantity… Enjoyed taking a different perspective on it.

        So much so actually, your post resonated onto my snapchat today 🙂

        Cheers Steve

  6. Edwin Korver says:

    Good indepth story that was worth the whole read. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Flori Schaller says:

    Thanks for the insights. The consequence that far more content pieces with a lower share-amount results in a higher summed up amount of share/traffic/revenue… makes total sense after having read your ideas.
    Funniest thing on these insights is, that for several years all the “experts” followed the quality-path because it a) sounds more “professional” and b) because Google told em to do so.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Flori, thanks, I think I am still in the quality camp philosophically but it is hard to argue with the overall numbers. There is still an issue about return on investment but the costs of production continue to fall. I may try a slightly different strategy and see what happens.

  8. Franck says:

    Great article. I have very much enjoyed the read.

    One question: Would shorter content will have the same impact in languages different than english (Google weight in content distribution)? Not so sure

    There is a second trend going on that will deepen the impact of More Content: the localization of english content into other mayor languages.

    Larger B2B companies have already started (Hubspot to name one), but influencers will too. Neil Patel has just started in spanish (or should I say spanish robot translation. The first impression for a spanish reader is not very positive)…Hopefully things will get better. And translating images is a bit more complex than text.

    Thanks for sharing these great insights!

  9. Ross Quintana says:

    Hey Steve solid post. I also have been looking at this and see the patterns showing up. In my opinion I think a balance provides the best results. I don’t think long vs short form is the right question, but what mix and how interconnected is your content in both forms. I also think that the depth of relevance mixed with relationship is part of the longtail secret sauce. I have been forcing myself to produce more content lately so timely article.

  10. Jake Johnson says:

    Thanks for the article, Steve.

    I can see how more content makes sense if you’re looking to drive pageview growth and shares, but I didn’t see (and admit I may have missed) how it ties to the content actually driving bottom-line ROI for an organization.

    One of the reasons I advocate less is more for content is the focus on quality over quantity allows us to create targeted content for each persona at each buying stage around a topic that is in line with our core business offering. In short, we provide immense value while also accelerating our buying cycle.

    That is a very different content mission than the WP, who truly live and die by eyes on the page for ad revenue. Even Hubspot admits that quantity in an of itself isn’t the answer for impacting their bottom line


    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Jake, thanks for question. My instinct has always been with you when it comes to content conversion. Less, higher quality, targeted at a specific audience with good promotion. However, it does seem that higher volume content can work at earlier stages of the funnel. I do think it is different for publishers and say B2B marketers but I was surprised doing the research at how much some B2B people publish.

      • Jake Johnson says:

        Yeah, definitely something to keep an eye on. I’d be very interested in hearing how volume publishing works in terms of lead generation that converts to customer, as well as how those customers stick in terms of retention. It would be interesting to group content (i.e., long vs. short, formats, etc.) types to see what drives conversion best, as well as build in some sort of algorithm that can show relationship between them…almost a muti-attribution model for just your content that then rolls up into a broader attribution model for the org. Thanks again!

  11. Ryan Tracey says:

    Excellent, comprehensive article, Steve.

    In regards to the quality verses quantity aspect I agree with the author of the article you referenced, in that content teams will be producing far less content albeit content that is far more interesting. However, I also agree with you in that the volume of overall content will continue to trend upwards. How can both be right? Simple… over time, more people are doing it.

    From a marketing pov, I appreciate your argument in terms of Social Media Examiner verses Hubspot. I see how the high output strategy works, on the proviso its quality is “good enough”.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Ryan, thanks. I am not sure about teams producing less, as there will be a lot of pressure to do more, though personally I would prefer less and more interesting. Someone just pointed out to me that Automated Insights will create 1,000 stories a month for you from your data for $250. Think we will see a blend of more interesting content within an overall context of higher volumes.

  12. A superb post and a provocative point of view. We certainly on the same page that social sharing is a very key goal and metric but we disagree (I think) on two other points.

    You say content marketing is sustainable if you can maintain quality and produce more content at a lower price. But can every business do that? And if not, then it’s not sustainable for them, right?

    Using Bezos as an example, how many newspapers can keep up with that pace? Or Patel … I don’t know if he personally writes all those articles. But can I keep up with that? Or you? You create super posts. Can you scale that quality at lower cost? No, you can’t. So, it’s not sustainable because if your quality goes down, you might find a way to get more shares, but you are going to lose many of your best readers. The first reader you will lose is me because I don’t WANT to see 1,000 Buzz Sumo posts. So your strategy certainly is not applicable across the board. You have to think about your goals. How many posts do your customers and potential customers want to see? Is your goal to get shares or build an audience? The goals may not be compatible all the time.

    BTW, I post four times a week and even at that rate, the number one “unsubscribe” reason (by far) is “too many updates.” I am not going to start creating 100 posts a week because it will simply piss people off.

    The second point is that the goal of any marketer is to CREATE content shock for you competition. If you find an unsaturated niche, you need to then overwhelm it with content and make it difficult for everybody to compete.

    So on that point you and I agree. But now what about competitors number 2 and 3 who want to come into that content niche? What do they do? Compete head to head? Probably not … because content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for some businesses, including these late entrants.

    So overall I agree with most of what you have here but it does not prove content marketing is a sustainable strategy. Eventually every niche will be filled with content, and when that happens it will be more expensive and difficult to compete. Many people are already seeing this happen.

    Great job with the post. One of the best I’ve seen in months.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Mark, thanks for the feedback. Lots of points to discuss, definitely one for a podcast 🙂

      I think sustainability does depend on your size and objectives. I think I was quite surprised when I started looking at how often people/sites publish and even more surprised that it seemed to be working.

      I do think in the near term future algorithms will write a lot of short data driven posts making it sustainable to produce high volumes of short form content for niche audiences. There are a couple of good examples here on financial and baseball reporting. Forbes earnings reports are already generated automatically. The Associated Press now publish 3,000 financial reports a quarter using AI. Their system takes data from earnings reports and turns these into a post within minutes, so they are first out of the gate eg with a report on Apple record busting earnings.

      Currently these algorithms are expensive and developed by companies such as Automated Insights and Narrative Science, however, there will be free and open source content writing algorithms soon enough. I think there is also something about good short form content which I want to experiment with.

      I think you make a really important point about how you compete with companies that are creating content shock. Hubspot is a good example when it comes to Inbound marketing. You cannot compete head on and hope to build an audience simply through content on inbound marketing. When I set up a previous Elearning company we were new and we couldn’t easily compete on terms like elearning but we could create new terms which we could own, focus on longer tail terms eg compliance elearning and build our audience in a variety of other ways through events, training and social networks. The key to me is building your audience and generating a degree of trust, loyalty etc. Podcasts work really well. But what matters is having your audience and subscriber list, to promote content directly to your audience. How often you promote is another matter as you say, personally I think less is more when it comes to promotion.

      • I agree with you. The strategy I have been advocating is to find those under-served niches and then go in and dominate. But as I read your ideas about automated writing I have this image in my head of those swarming bots in the Matrix movies hunting down open long-tail niches and then overwhelming the little niche with thousands of pieces of content. Of course this will happen. Rather depressing to think about, isn’t it?

        I suppose at the end of the day the only “Neo” hero we have in the content marketing world is either to be the curator or to be the brand trusted above all others. If we can create content that is un-missable, unmistakable, and un-copy-able we might have a chance … but time will tell.

        • Gail Gardner says:

          THIS >> “…swarming bots in the Matrix movies hunting down open long-tail niches and then overwhelming the little niche with thousands of pieces of content. Of course this will happen. Rather depressing to think about, isn’t it?”

          This is the reason that smaller brands and sites like ours should not try to ramp up publishing like mad. We can’t compete with that, but we can do such exceptional research and create amazing content that these mass sites cannot compete with us.

          Besides, they don’t even like to publish the best content. They are more focused on how shiny your bio is than what you can write. Have you noticed they don’t like media in their content much? And insights must agree with whatever we’re all supposed to believe. The real thought leaders will be found in independent sites much more often than in major media.

    • Gail Gardner says:

      I talk to people about quantity vs quality often. If you’re Neil Patel and put your name on content, it will get shared even when it isn’t the quality people expect. That doesn’t mean it is a good idea to dilute the power of your brand by doing that.

      I tell small businesses to keep an eye on their goals rather than listening to what others tell them to do. The reason major sites publish so many posts a day is because it is easier to increase ad revenue that way (with contributors writing for free) than it is to increase quality and promote well. Your customers don’t want to hear from your brand every day, much less many times a day. Once a week is plenty – maybe even once every other week.

      IMHO, maintaining quality and not over-publishing is a better strategy for a site like yours, Mark, than following the path of increased publishing. Just focus on exceptional content and increased promotion of that content through using a lot of eye-catching media and you can get just as much traffic and stay true to your brand.

  13. Joe Henriod says:

    The Final Thoughts made me sad. No one wants to operate in a world where quantity beat quality.

    But it looks like what we want is the only reason there is a debate about what is better. If we are being objection quantity is kicking quality’s ass.

  14. Kris Wijayanto says:

    superb and very provocative points.. still quality and quantity can be done at the same time..

  15. Artur Brugeman says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for raising this nice topic. Anything that contradicts the conventional best practices is worth discussing and helps us move forward.

    My 2 cents:

    1. I’d say that Google index size estimate of 30 trillion documents is at least 100x higher than a real value (and maybe it’s worth to make some corrections). In fact, there is this post by Google that says in 2008 they knew about 1 trillion urls (not indexed – just knew about 1 trillion unique urls) – googleblog.blogspot_com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html There is also worldwidewebsize_com which estimates Google index to be 50 billion documents, and as I run a crawler of comparable size I can say this is much closer to reality. All those trillions of known urls are in fact not worth indexing as 90% of them are auto-generated infinite content on chinese ‘private blog networks’.

    2. My guess is that the major traffic source for long-tail content is Google – I don’t see a way to ‘promote’ 1200 articles daily to make any other source work. Which means that massive long tail strategy must be very heavily based on technical on page SEO: finding and evaluating the long-tail keywords and estimating the content requirements. I guess this is quite different from what is required to build a high quality hit content (at least you don’t need any link building for the long tail).

    3. I don’t see how any amplification strategy might work for long tail. Could you please offer anything that might work for 1200 articles per day?

    I have lots of other points in mind but will try to produce a short-form comment today 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Artur, thanks. I suppose in some ways whether the index is overstated is less important than the trend but good to know more details. The index is certainly large, as there are 176m results in Google for a search such as “how to drive leads”. I suspect Google is a major driver of long tail traffic as you say but wonder what the impact is of niche groups, email sharing and even Facebook sharing as there are now billions of content shares each day. Catch up soon.

      • Artur Brugeman says:

        Hi Steve, search for ‘a’ or ‘the’ gives 25 billion results, which most probably is around the size of English part of the index, with English being ~10% of overall useful content (wikipedia ratio) we get ~300 billion index size. Anyway, true that relative numbers matter more in this article.

        On the impact of sharing, there is this interesting research that estimates that ~60% of tweeted urls are never clicked . Not to make any conclusions, just in case you didn’t see it before.

        • Steve Rayson says:

          Hi Artur, thanks, yep I have seen that data re tweeted urls. To be honest I am surprised the click through rate is that high. I think it will continue to fall simply because of the volume of content and sharing, I saw latest figures saying over 3bn posts and updates are shared on Facebook each day.

  16. I’m out on a limb here but I think demographics come into play in this discussion and have not been covered. I suspect an older demographic (like me and our readers) want less content but more quality whilst a younger demographic wants more content but skims reads most of it. Interested in your thoughts on that.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Jan, thanks. I am not sure. I am older and I do enjoy quality, long form posts. That said, there are times when a short post that keeps me updated or informed about a topic is all I need. The Search Engine Land post on Google stopping showing right hand ads was very short but important, hence it received over 400 referring domain links and 20k plus shares. As always I suspect there is no simple answer.

  17. Wow. As someone who writes a LOT of content for really smart clients, this post was both scary (because of the implication that some businesses may need to hire cheaper writers — and we all know how that goes) and profound ( because as much as I believe in the power of quality long-form content, there’s still something to be said for short attention spans). Thanks for covering this in-depth, Steve!

  18. Chris says:

    Very well-written. Thank you, it was informative as well as engaging.

  19. Donna Luisa Eversley says:

    Thanks for sharing this Arnie… Excellent observations @Steve Rayson. I’m impressed with the possibility of facts only reporting via robots… Fascinating. The human perspective works best for me though with reporting, this I like Neil Patel, John White, Anderson Cooper and others. I like the varied selection of reading information available, but unless it catches me like this article, I prefer a series of short posts. Looking forward to next article.

  20. What an interesting article. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Much food for thought. The challenge is having the systems in place to get all the elements of a short or long blog post done in a reasonable amount of time. Once I finish a blog post, images need to be created, social media posts need to be done. Promotion via LinkedIn, twitter, FB etc. Then consider doing a video on that very topic. All these elements add up and if you are a small business, how do you find the time for all this?

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Ashley, I agree I find longer form posts that have something of value very time consuming. If I was just writing say 5 tips to improve your images that could be quick but when it comes to researching data I find it takes me weeks to research things and sometimes I don’t find anything of interest to even write about. Posts typically take me a week or often longer, as for me the time is in the research. I do think though that I could be better at repurposing content and reusing the research but time is always in short supply.

  21. Amy Blitchok says:

    It is certainly undeniable that content promotion and networking with become increasing important in a high volume content world. Yet, I still can’t help but think that quality will be just as important as ever. As you touched on in the article, website creation programs are more affordable and user friendly than ever before. Practically anyone can start an online business with almost zero overhead cost. This is certainly increased the amount of content, but how much of this content is even being picked up or seen by readers?

  22. This is a great article Steve. Wait…how can we be sure that Steve Rayson isn’t a robot? Bleep Bloop?
    I wish that I had a robot that could write great content for me like Steve Rayson.

  23. Robert Rose says:


    Thanks for such a well thought out and provocative post. Though, as you might expect, I do have a few challenges with the (at least the headline) conclusion.

    So – for the first part – the “Bezos is a smart dude” section – I think you have a “causation/correlation” problem. Let’s just take a quick look at that. There’s no doubt that that WaPO has been doing some interesting things of late, and been turning a big ship around. You correctly note that their traffic is up 28% over the last year. But, you may have wanted to go even further back to when Bezos actually bought the company. As noted here ( from 2013 (when Bezos bought it) it’s actually grown from 20m – so actually a 60% growth rate over the last few years. But, it’s also worth noting that the growth rate has slowed substantially in the last year.

    That’s not the salient point however. It’s that as noted here (, since that growth started – they’ve added 50 full time staff writers (an 8% increase in headcount), invested heavily (as you note) in new technology to bring page speed down, added a slew of Email Newsletters (read subscriber-focused) and (probably most importantly), as noted here (, extended their presence into the WaPO newspaper national network (launching right around your starting line by the way) – giving “10 million subs to local papers “free” access to the WAPO”. Given all these changes, (basically Bezos is in full pedal to the metal growth mode) I think you can’t simply equate more content equals more visitors given these other factors.

    Just consider one factor. That 1,200 articles per day number includes wire-service stories – so assuming that the number hasn’t gone exponentially up (from the two times in 2015 and 2016 it’s been cited) from the addition of headcount – it actually suggests that the number of pieces per journalist has gone DOWN over time – giving them more time to focus on things like good stories, and writing “Buzzfeedly headlines”.

    To your other section that brings in SME, and Hubspot and Neil Patel – I’m not sure I completely follow all those assumptions you’re making on shares – but I would ultimately agree with your conclusion that it is *only once you have an established audience with quality content, that you can start thinking about increasing cadence substantially… * This is certainly our experience at CMI. Remember that SME is basically a fraction of a fraction the size of Hubspot. So, basically, (as long as we’re making assumptions) mine would be that if you were to compare REVENUE per content piece posted – I would hazard a guess that SME WAY outperforms Hubspot.

    This is already too long of a comment (sorry!) – and we’ll be discussing on this coming week’s episode of the PNR podcast… But I think you’re right on the AI and Robot revolution (heck it was one of my predictions this last week). But we’re a long way from content that reports the baseball scores – or the recipe to chicken soup – to one that can provide original thought leadership.

    Again – sorry for the long comment – but when you produce a long, quality piece that generates buzz – you’re likely to get some lengthy (and much more memorable) conversation about it. See what I did there? Isn’t that better than simply publishing for a page view?

    Be well – and keep on doing great things.


    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Robert
      Thanks, I particularly agree on the point about revenue per content piece, this is likely to fall if you start doing higher volume publishing. However, it is really about revenue relative to content costs and AI, short form, some video, guest posts and repurposing can all keep costs relatively low. I would also agree that AI isnt ready, and may never be ready, to write thoughtful opinion pieces but by picking up many short form articles, such as market updates/sports scores, it potentially frees journalists as you say to concentrate on good stories. WaPo may not be the best example, given all the changes there but when I looked at the increasing volumes being published fairly much across the board it has made me rethink whether we should be doing a lot more at the top of the funnel. Look forward to the podcast 🙂

  24. I think the key, going forward with a content strategy like this (which I think is dead on) is also to incorporate key “bedrock” content written by pros which will also engage readers and bring them further down the path towards conversion.

    Would be interesting to see how this increase in traffic correlated to revenue for the WP site. as well. I’m sure it’s up.

  25. Joe Pulizzi says:

    Just letting you know that I read to the bottom 😉 Robert and I will be discussing on This Old Marketing podcast this week.

  26. Kaia Tingley says:

    Great post, and very interesting charts to back up your point.

    I guess the answers to the questions posed by this post all depend on (1) who you are in your space, and (2) what kind of authority and resources you have.

    Thanks for the heads up to Anders Pink however. That looks like an awesome tool!

    On a side note, for those of us who made it to the end of the post, it was kind of funny that you wrote a message to those readers who DIDN’T make it to the end, and likely would have benefitted from the serialized format.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Kaia, yep, maybe I should have put that message up the top 🙂 Look out for the Anders Pink mobile app out shortly which I think will be used far more than the web app, very powerful.

  27. James Hart says:

    A hugely polarising topic – but a really interesting read.

    On the whole I agree that by opening up the funnel as wide as possible at the top, you will have more opportunities to convert further down – the web is a numbers game – I get that.

    The difficulty that the Washington Post and other News outlets (The UK’s Guardian) is profitability. In order to make the Washington post more profitable it needs more reads – hence the Long tail strategy. I have a question over the quality and integrity of a newspaper that once broke the watergate story – and is now churning out stories en masse – but that’s a different conversation.

    For Niel Patel and Kissmetric, yes he writes some stuff but not everything. There was an interesting blog post a few years ago suggesting that they spent about $5,000 a month on producing quality content. They realised that writing in-house was not enough – they needed more and better quality.

    However, both the Post and Kissmetric are in industries where their model is to write stuff for people to read. My feeling is that not all businesses lend themselves to content on this scale. Imagine Apple, Verizon, Exxon Mobile, or intel producing content on this scale, or even a 1/10th of it – my feeling is that it won’t get read – maybe you disagree.

    Remember the Google Authorship programme. This programme had great and lofty intentions – however, we marketers abused it. Thought-Leaders on a variety of different subjects were and are now 10-a-penny.

    It’s also worth remembering that small businesses don’t have £5,000 a month to spend on content alone. A blog post here or a blog post there doesn’t really scratch the surface.

    One final thought – I wonder whether Google might have something to say about Machine written content. Where is the credibility or authoritativeness of a machine written article.

    Thanks again Steve

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi James, thanks. I think you make a good point about marketers abusing platforms. You don’t just see it on Google authorship but many other places eg Twitter. The main Twitter feed can be like a feed of spam links by marketers. I fear marketers once they get to grips with automated content may abuse that as well. It may be that the only way newspapers can do quality journalism is to also produce list posts to drive enough eyeballs for advertisers. Just as an exercise I started pulling list posts from the Guardian, a paper I respect, when I got to over 2,000 list posts just beginning with the number 10 I gave up. If you are interested here they are

  28. Alex Rackovs says:

    Great article. You hit so many nails on its head Steve, thanks so much.

  29. Dave Gladson says:

    I think the next big question, which you hinted at in your final thoughts, is peak content vs peak attention. Quantity vs quality of interaction. Even with 2 billion+ users on the web, there has to be a limit to how many hours per day people are willing to spend consuming content.

  30. Very interesting take on content quantity/quality. I wonder if Neil Patel is still going to push long-form content as a way to get rank and authority.

    The Franchise King®

  31. Alex says:

    It’s called selling out and it’s up to you. Do what makes a buck and contribute to the ever expanding cesspool of cheap, useless garbage in the race to the bottom, or create something of value with your limited time here on Earth. Your call.

  32. I started by reading the final thoughts so it struck me as funny that it said most people wouldn’t read to the bottom when I actually started there… Gave me a chuckle and then I read up.

  33. Kevin Brent Cook says:

    Excellent article, Steve! And just what I needed, as I am like you were believing quality was so much more important than quantity. Thanks for sharing your evolution of thought.

  34. Nada MacKinney says:

    Yup, me too — read to the bottom. I’m very glad I did. While I’m familiar / experienced in content marketing, my focus will be more on CM going forward than before. This article’s thoughtful analysis of more vs. less and all the inherent implications (challenges and opportunities) is timely for me. Thank you!

  35. The Wash Post wants eyeballs. Eyeballs equate to revenue. The Wash Post is an advertising model, among other things. It wants clicks, because…CPMs. Fantastic rationale for Bandito with absolutely zero correlation to the presence or lack of substantive content, let alone a recommendation for more content.

    Tactics (like content marketing) are used in the course of executing strategy, which is designed and undertaken to achieve an objective. “More content” makes sense when it equates to progress towards an objective. I read this entire article, too, and suggest that how one of the largest print / digital publications achieves its objectives in no way equates to a blanket “more content is better” recommendation. This amounts to correlation without causation, skipping the notion of “strategy” altogether.

    IMO, this post peels away a single layer of a very interesting onion, but keep peeling before drawing such finite conclusions. In this regard, perhaps run your experiment by serializing this topic.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Wesley, thanks. I would tend to agree with these thoughts. There is a lot to explore so I see more posts ahead.

  36. Gerardo Morillo says:

    Hi Steve, thank for sharing this wonderful article.
    This certainly will be game changing if it comes out true.
    It means I will need to produce much more content rapidly.
    Unfortunately, this would also mean I would have to learn my content just as quickly!

  37. Jelle Verdoodt says:

    Steve, you kept my attention. Very insightful piece, thank you!

  38. amanda says:

    A very insightful article! My manager passed this along to me for a read. It was interesting to see your thoughts on robots writing articles for us. I’ve talked to writers who fear that their jobs will be taken over by robots, where the main message right now is that they’re not capable to write like humans do…not yet anyway.

    I’d personally like a robot to find and pull relevant data for the articles I write. It would save so much time.

    After reading your post (where the length was definitely justified), I was wondering if you’d be interested in being a special guest on our new podcast.

    In our podcast we interview the modern marketer to uncover how they are building their audience using machine learning technology.

    It would be great to have you on our first podcast, sharing your expertise!

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi Amanda, firstly my apologies for the delay in replying. I don’t know of robots that pull together all relevant data for you but you can use apps like our Anders Pink app to pull together all recent articles on any topic or from any domains on a topic. For example, all recent articles on machine learning trends Happy to take part in a podcast at any time if this still works. Steve

      • amanda says:

        Wow this is such a great app. I’ll definitely be using this to look into topics 🙂
        I am definitely still interested in having you as a special guest. What email address could I reach you at? My email is amandachiu [at] atomicreach [dot] com.
        Looking forward to chatting with you. Amanda

  39. Dinorah says:

    Fantastic analysis. I need to read the whole piece again and take notes and implement them at the same time. Otherwise the knowledge will become dusty in my head. I’m mesmerized by the seriousness and attention you put into this article. I’m also grateful because I learned a lot.
    After reading it, I’m feeling attracted to serialized the content, increase the amount of content I share, and try to keep them short with the same high quality.
    I’m building up my brand and even though it might feel overwhelming at some point it’ll be OK. This trend of sharing more is what I have been noticing lately among more well-established brands.

  40. seofacelift says:

    Content alerts are the only way to stay on top of your niche. Great post.I will look for more from you.

  41. AntonioFreyrePlaceit says:

    Are you sure the increase in traffic is not highly related to election season?

  42. João Romão says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve just written a blog post mentioning/talking about your article. It somewhat contradicts your conclusion while adding some data points to the table (article here:

    My point is that shares are like an iceberg: what you can see is only a small fraction of the total. Using this as a KPI for content is a bit shaky. Facebook even aggregates shares, likes and comments in the same metric. A visitors that reads 3 sentences and likes the post is as important as someone that reads everything, subscribes the newsletter and leaves a comment?

    I also want to point out this: can the Washington Post reduce the cost of producing content the same way Amazon reduced the costs of storing books? I mean, unless they can fully automate content creation and/or grind content producers en masse (like they do with warehouse workers), I can’t see that cost per visit coming down any time soon.

    PS: We’re going to launch a Marketing “Best-of 20162 and we’re going to include your post about B2B Content ( . I’ll let you know when it’s live!

    Take care.

    • Steve Rayson says:

      Hi, thanks. You make some good points on Facebook data as it does aggregate shares, likes and comments into a single interaction figure. That said this can still be a good indicator of engagement eg the post that gets 10,000 interactions relative to a post with 10. But it is not the whole story as you say. The Washington Post and others really are reducing the costs of some content production to less than the costs of storing books but only specific content that can be automated eg market reports, sports reports etc. I think we will see others adopt automated approaches albeit only in particular areas.

    • Gail Gardner says:

      João Romão wrote: “grind content producers en masse (like they do with warehouse workers)”

      That is precisely what major sites are doing. Ask anyone who has ever written for Inquisitr. Almost none stay after the grueling orientation, multiple trainings, and then being told they are expected to write 10 posts a week for $10 each.

      Look at what Huffington Post has done, switching contributors to a nofollow, no-index platform where the only way anyone will see their content is if they either have influence already and know how to get it in front of their existing audience or spend their own money on Facebook or elsewhere to gift HuffPo with traffic.

      HuffPo has no intention of giving them any eyeballs unless they pay up first. I have been told that writers have tested spending as much as $300 per post to drive traffic hoping to rise from obscurity, but they still cannot consistently get it upgraded to visibility indexed status.

      How many can afford to pay for an audience? And if they can, why not send the visitors to your own site instead of someone else’s? There are a lot of experiments going on and it remains to be seen how it all plays out. Corporations always have the advantage and probably always will as the masses (the audiences) are not able to understand how it all works.

  43. Kyle Musser says:

    Great post!

    The idea of “bot created content” is something really is intriguing… do you know of any companies that are working on this technology right now?

    (Besides internal teams for in house content marketing R&D)

    Thanks for sharing!

    – Kyle,

  44. Gail Gardner says:

    There is no one “right” answer about content length or quantity. What I do know is that the way many large sites ramped up the volume of content they could produce was by soliciting contributing authors. Now, many of those sites are actively rejecting content today that they would have published last month. They are also deleting contributors.

    So my impression is that because there aren’t that many really exceptional writers these sites will have to publish less content – at least until they can identify and invite more of the writers they want.

    It is always a balancing act for editors to raise quality while not running off better writers who don’t take well to rejection. Writers tend to know each other and ask whether a site is worth writing for or not. So editors should be aware that if they are too harsh on some writers who aren’t quite good enough for their standards, word will spread and better writers will not submit content to them.

    So while some people may manage to ramp up content, other sites are currently (and just recently) going in the opposite direction.

  45. Brandon The Builder says:

    This is a very insightful piece about the future of content creation on the Internet. I believe that more long-tail content will allow for curation tools to provide more localized content to readers.

  46. Thanks for the useful information. I am applying the same now and its working well. 🙂

  47. Thanks for the wonderful information. I was looking for such type of post only and i got it from you. Thanks 🙂

  48. Raul Tiru says:

    Great post, Steve. It’s will remain difficult to say what works best. Brian Dean has some great results (more than 100.000 monthly visitors) with about 20 articles. At the same time, Seth Godin’s articles are sometimes less than 100 words.

    Looking forward to seeing how this plays out. For me, I also like to write in depth articles. It gives me a sense of really creating something of value.

  49. Erin Cafferty says:

    I dig this article a LOT. What do you use to be alerted when you are mentioned in an article? That would be so helpful for me!

  50. Axel Note Importa says: