How to Make Content So Good, It Should Be Illegal | Guest Blog Post by Peter Shankman

I started my career off working in the newsroom at America Online, in the mid-90s. You know what “content” meant back then? It meant stories, lifted from the AP wire, and posted online. If the story was super-important, or if we had extra time, we included a photo from the wire services as well. Yup. Text and a photo. We were living ahead of our time, no doubt.

Why was that the end-all-be-all of civilization back then? Well, several reasons, such as a lack of good compression technology, and the fact that virtually no video content was digitized that early in the game. But the majority of the world lived on 1200 BPS modems. If you were super fancy, you had a 28.8 BPS modem. Remember in Back to the Future where Marty gets asked by his 1955 family if he has a TV, and he says “Of course we do, we have two of them,” to which his grandmother replies,”Oh, he’s just teasing, nobody has two televisions.” Similar here. A 28.8 BPS modem was the stuff of riches, and a 56.6 modem? Forget it — That was the stuff of legend. It didn’t really exist except in our dreams.

Fast forward to the late 90s — I moved into a studio apartment in midtown Manhattan, and was over the moon because not only did I have a whole 300 square feet to myself, (which in NYC, is actually quite a lot,) but I also had — a wired apartment! Yes, my building was a new one, which meant it had a T3 line in the basement, and we had high-speed access! This changed everything — when it worked. Of course, that was occasionally, and the 56.6 BPS modem, (now available to mere paupers,) stayed on the desk as a backup that was used as a primary more often than not.

Welcome to today. 1998 is now 2016, and the concept of “low-speed” connection is a thing of the past, except when you’re in a public airport. Instead, we expect high-speed access 24/7, we expect it everywhere, and we bring content into our world from any device, from anywhere, at any time. Why? Because we can, and it’s what we know.

Where are we going?

So that brings up an interesting question — If, just twenty years ago, we were happy enough to get text, and now we’re all about visual content, then were are we going to go in the next twenty years?

Well, before we get to that answer, let’s understand what that means to us today: If your content is not primarily visual, chances are, your audience is going to gloss over what you’re trying to show them. They’ll simply move somewhere else, and find something more exciting, more visually stimulating to look at. Call it ADHD meets tl:dr — Too long, didn’t read, moved on.

This, of course, is the death knell for you, so let’s discuss how to avoid it.

It’s all about visual

First off, it’s all about visually stimulating content. This could be video. This could be a series of GIFs. This could even be a mixture of the two, with some cool audio clips thrown in. The fact is, if you’re distributing content, and want the world to see it, you simply need to move past the “here’s a press release of what we did,” mentality. That worked twenty years ago, when all we expected was a textual recap. Now? Now it’s about so much more. Audiences want to be there as it happens — They want to be immersed in the experience as it unfolds, or at least, as soon as it’s over. That’s where the concept of creating and distributing visual content comes in. If you can produce exciting, stimulating content that gets the viewer to not only watch, but share, then you really have something.

Let’s face it: We’re in an age where no one believes how great you are any more if you’re the one who has to tell them. But — Giving your audience exciting content — again, visually stimulating content — that they can share, content with which they can impress their friends, well, that changes the game.

So I gave you an example from the 90s. Let me give you one from earlier this week. I’d been suckered into doing the Coney Island Polar Bear Swim for charity. Essentially, a bunch of crazy people run into the Atlantic Ocean on January 1, and swim around while trying not to pass out from hypothermia. This raises money for Camp Sunshine, a great charity that helps tons of kids around the New York area.

So there I am, shivering from the wind and the 30-degree temperatures, ready to run into the water. But, I’m carrying my iPhone in a waterproof case, and wearing a GoPro around my head. All of a sudden, what would have been a simple “So yeah, I did this crazy thing,” story that would have had a shelf-life of eleven seconds, became an immersive, fully engaged storytelling experience, so real, that my audience could shiver along with me as they saw my entire body go from cold, to freezing, to Smurf, in the span of a minute.

Now then — that’s content! 17k views of a few geniuses jumping into ice-cold water. That’s visually stimulating, that’s so much more than words! It brings the audience in, it gets them interested — It gets coverage, it gets people excited, and it gets shared. That’s how content works in 2016. And the best part? It costs next to nothing, about the same as sending out text over the wire, which just twenty years ago, was the pinnacle of technology.

What’s next?

Well, we can’t predict the future — but I guarantee it’ll include full-immersion content. It’ll include video, photos, audio, and text — in real time, beamed right to whatever device we happen to be carrying at the time — Why? Because it’s what we demand, and it’s what people want. In the end, the content that will win is the content that will inspire. Inspiring content will own the message, and write the story. Strive to make your visual content inspire.

About Peter Shankman: The New York Times has called him “a public relations all-star who knows everything about new media and then some,”, while Investor’s Business Daily has labeled him “crazy, but effective.” Peter Shankman is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage.

An author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector, Peter is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about Customer Service, Social Media, PR, marketing and advertising.

About ISEBOX: ISEBOX is the leading multimedia communications cloud platform supporting PR professionals who want to streamline their media relations and video, photo and document management process.

Originally published at on January 14, 2016.

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