How I fixed my marketing content overload with one tool

Let’s face it, there is way too much marketing related content in our lives. And most of it is just mediocre, originating from one or two other articles and written with a single goal of improving SEO. Same titles, same words, same barely changing advice, same (often false) numbers pretending to be stats. My colleague Ryan Abrams gave me a way out of it though. He introduced me to Zest.

Zest’s Chrome extension turns every new browser tab into a stream of high-quality, relevant marketing content. There is no need to search anything or even navigate to a particular site or community. It is directly integrated into my workflow.

And the best part about Zest is that all the pieces are hand-picked by humans.

I once submitted two blog posts to Zest and both of them were rejected. Along with the rejection, I got a personal note from one of Zest’s founders, Yam Regev:

“They are both great reads but unfortunately, they are not in-depth enough for our users. Hence, I won’t be able to publish them on Zest :( The second one is also way too branded to be published on Zest.
Hope that you’ll understand and take it easy. Please suggest another article and I promise to review it.”

It wasn’t that I loved the note itself, but I could tell that this was not a standard automated email. The very fact that someone bothered to manually review my submission and send a personal note seemed so crazy to me that I started to pay greater attention to the content published on Zest.

I am now officially hooked. Somehow it always keeps its promise for me — no fluff, just useful in-depth articles that I can truly act upon.

My screen with Zest

Once I found out that there were other Zest users at our company, I decided to talk to them about their experience. I also spoke with Yam to get a better idea of how exactly Zest works and how it is changing the way we consume professional marketing content.

Carefully tagged and organized

There are two things I noticed happening to Zest users. On one hand, there are those who in a way are irritated by it. Some people say: “Every time I open a new tab, I already have a reason for it and it’s not reading more content”.

But then there are others who also open a new tab with a reason, but this reason is to find some professional advice via Zest.

“I have to know everything that is going on in the marketing tech industry. So I read TechCrunch, Business Insider, ReadWriteWeb, and I also have Google alerts set up for some keywords. Yet, I just found out about a new acquisition in our domain through Zest,” says Danny Hen, Camilyo’s AVP of sales. “So I guess there is less need for me to check all those resources now, as on top of the well curated content they have very good search, tags and filtering and I’m noticing that the default suggested content is becoming more and more relevant over time.”

“I prefer to read articles through Zest. With such a high volume of marketing content being produced, the majority of it tends to be low quality and — let’s face it — even skimming through it is just a waste of time,” says Ryan Abrams, Camilyo’s Digital Marketing Director, who also happened to be one of Zest’s earliest users. “Zest articles are reviewed manually and this method ensures that content on Zest is of actual value and. They also use tags really well, so that I can easily find the most relevant, high quality content on a specific topic.”

“I do quite a lot of industry reading and with Zest, I noticed that I started to read more and the reading became more targeted.” says Inbal Latner, Camilyo’s Director of Product. “I found several tags I personally care about and I stick to them. Before Zest I was picking articles through newsletters, Twitter and LinkedIn, now I go there less. That means I’m less distracted with irrelevant stuff. Another good thing is that I discovered many new niche content sources that are less known but are extremely useful.”

Hand-picked

“We are not curating content, we are letting the users do that. Our Tribe (Active Users) is suggesting content that they think is Zest-worthy,” explains Yam Regev, Zest’s co-founder and CMO. “Then, a group of Chiefs (super-users) is reviewing these entries, making sure each one of them is a valuable piece of content. Each approved article is then reviewed by a Chief Moderator (me, in this case) in order to double-check the content and decide when (and if) it should be published”.

Camilyo’s designer (and another Zest fan) Sivan Kotek illustrated the entire process:

Zest recipe: Active Users suggest content that they think is Zest-worthy, a group of Super-Users reviews these entries, a Chief Moderator double-checks the content and decides when it should be published. Drawing by Sivan Kotek

Using this method honed so much by Wikipedia and Waze, Zest is trying to grow this new generation of what it calls “prosumers” (consumers who produce their own content) and is looking into launching its first iOS mobile app during the summer of 2017.

“We feel that there is no difference between launching a product or publishing a blog post. Brands should treat their content very seriously so that they don’t waste our precious time. It’s a game of quality and this is the time to put an end to all the fluff” — Yam Regev

What happens when the content is right

“Because the articles are so good [on Zest], it also helps me with professional ideas. Recently there was an interesting piece on email marketing, so I immediately thought of a feature that we can build into our email marketing platform,” continues Inbal Latner. “Or, I was thinking what to write about for our very own blog and ran into this article, which helped me formulate the topics.”

Interestingly enough, while initially meant for marketers Zest turned out to be a tool for audiences who are not necessarily directly involved in marketing.

Zest readers demographics, July 2017

“I think Zest will be valuable to many of our customers,” adds Danny Hen. “Our own platform focuses on marketing and online success and our customers are big marketing service providers. Zest’s curated professional content can really help them get ideas, tips, and inspiration on how they can further leverage their investment in Camilyo.”

For me, personally - besides fixing my content overload - Zest just solved a problem of what to share on our social media. Before, I had to go through a large number of newsletters or browse through the blogs and media, now I just open this one tab and dig into Zest. And because of my personal history of rejection I know I can rely on them in terms of the quality. It reminds me of the time when I worked in the press and every single article would go through at least 5–7 people before seeing the light. It is so rarely happening with the content produced now by marketers that I’m happy Zest operates in this old-school manual manner.

Our team, zesting

Content is junk (mainly)

Yam Regev has been working in marketing for more than a decade. He knows that doctrines are changing on a weekly basis. As a marketer, he had to always keep his finger on the marketing pulse. Now, as Zest’s Chief Moderator, he helps others do it.

Zest was born in the beginning of 2017 out of a simple observation: most of the professional content is junk. “Manipulated content, clickbaits, fluffy articles, information overload, multiple data resources,” lists Yam. “Taboola and OutBrain are failing to recommend high-value content for professionals” — all of that made the founders think that there was a real opportunity in solving this pain.

Zest team zesting (GIF by Zest)

At the time of writing this, there were 18,000 articles published on Zest. “It means that it might be the most advanced and probably the best fountain of all marketing knowledge on Earth,” says Yam.

It also means that these 18,000 pieces went through a professional human filter. According to Regev 0.5–1.5% of the total submissions gets approved.

“We [marketers] tried too hard to dominate search engine result pages, convert readers to users and use bait-and-switch techniques. Now it’s time for all of us to unite and fix it.” — Yam Regev

Today, Zest’s marketing community is spread all over the world with the largest readership being 25–44 year-old Americans.

Zest readers demographics, July 2017

The business model behind Zest is very simple. Selected brands suggest their content and then it goes through the regular moderation process. Once (and if) approved, it is published on Zest with a special ribbon that identifies it as boosted content. This content is getting extra exposure throughout the week. By the end of the week, it is no longer being boosted. Regev believes that this way, everyone wins and Zest is not hurting its own values and principles nor the experience of its users. Currently they have five tier-one marketing brands as advertisers.

Zest is expanding quickly. They are experiencing an 84% growth in WAUs (Weekly Active Users)/MoM (month over month) with 2 million pageviews and around 100K outbound clicks a month. Yam Regev and his team are planning to launch the service in two other professional verticals at the beginning of 2018. And that is where using marketers as early adopters should really pay off.

The same people who now “prosume” marketing content will be submitting content for the industries their companies operate at.