Productising content, and all that JaaS

I wanted to share some of the ways we’re innovating in content at HSG. It’s early days, but we’re excited to be cracking on!

Day to day, we produce a lot of content, from TOFU blogs to building microsites for reports we’ve written and crunched data for.

But we also focus on the future of our market: what can, and should, content and the media industry look like in the twenty-first century?

Journalism-as-a-service

This is a concept HSG is built on. Journalism-as-a-service used to mean newsrooms selling elements of their reporting. The HSG version is stripped back: our freelance journalists work as both writers and thought partners for our clients — a second brain.

For the most forward-thinking of our clients, the reasoning is already making sense. An in-house journalist brings an outside-in perspective — they can tell what’s most important and interesting about your business and tell your story in the most compelling way.

At the very least, you get an expert ghostwriter, moving you beyond souped-up content marketing. Scaled up, you get a dedicated thought and storytelling partner, who makes sure those stories are told with integrity and journalistic rigour, and upon whose own audience you can capitalise. Combining strong storytelling with operational content (i.e. selling yourselves and being helpful) isn’t just a competitive advantage, it’s a necessity.

AI

We’ve been tinkering around with GPT-3 for a while. It’s obvious — from the likes of Copy.ai, and Jasper — that writing headlines and basic copy is eminently doable. What it cannot do (as far as I’ve seen) is actually write a decent article.

We’ve fed it heavily templated content (both ourselves, and using tools on the market), we’ve segmented it, guided it, given it supporting material… everything it writes makes sense, but it’s also nonsense. “Style over substance” isn’t quite right — it’s just pretty formulaic and regurgitative.

We’ve tried looking down the other end of the telescope, asking “what would it be useful for AI to do?” Answers include: summarise longer texts (very well), and make deductions about evidence/data and add those to a piece — two things that’d really speed up our work. But again, things are still a little early.

We will keep chipping away, because when machines can write fantastic long-form content, I want HSG to be at the forefront of that. In the meantime, our offering, with an emphasis on thought leadership and opinion, keeps us in a pretty defensible position.

(If you’re building here, please do get in touch. We’d love to help guinea pig!)

Monetising individual pieces of content

This is still a hypothetical for us, but an important train of thought. Often, individual pieces of content we write have significant results: they’re used to re-email a founder who wouldn’t engage, then they do (“oh, this VC does know about usage-based pricing!”), meetings are held and a term sheet is signed. The content played an important role. We call these instances “a target audience of one”. Is there a way to monetise this?

We already work with success fees and equity, but the idea, in the age of the micropayment, of attaching success or performance fees to individual pieces of content, feels achievable.

Education by default

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the logical evolution of business > media company > education establishment — in the face of an advancing internet. To put this succinctly: businesses have the opportunity to become media companies, building audiences and communities beyond target users. At that point, they’re a step away from overtly educating multiple audiences: I imagine a world where every business can grow its own TAM via its content.

We’ve got some ideas about how we can help our clients achieve this. It’s not top of the list at the moment (though if you’d like to join us, get involved and increase our capabilities, please get in touch!), but we’ll get to it :)

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Harriet Green

Harriet Green

Founder of HSG Advisory, a content consultancy that builds media platforms for the world’s most exciting companies