How to survive 2017 with your blog: a conversation with Luca Conti
Maria Silvia Sanna
Rapid changes are transforming the online media industry, demanding new evolutions to editorial teams, bloggers and content writers.
Last November, the Oxford English Dictionary chose post-truth as Word of the Year 2016, an adjective that can be used to denote those “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. On the other hand, Ev Williams, Medium’s Founder and CEO, was forced to fire one-third of his company’s employees a few weeks ago. Williams stated that Medium is still looking for a model that fits the aim of promoting quality content (and make money out of it).
Meanwhile, more challenges are becoming tangible for web content writers: according to Google today voice search covers 20% of mobile queries, new potential threats to the open web such as Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are raising questions and doubts, and new web search algorithms that resemble more and more our natural language are desperately scanning sites for high-quality content. In this scenario, many questions come out, and could be summed up with: what’s the future of blogs? How should they evolve in a transforming and challenging web?
We had the chance to discuss these themes with Luca Conti: a well-known Italian blogger, web marketing consultant, author of many books, and professor at Milano-Bicocca. We met him last December at the WordPress Meetup in Rome and, back then, in his talk Luca presented us his clear vision of the future of the Web.
S. As you said many times, content marketers should strive to answer the questions that are relevant to users. Nowadays, figuring out the question seems even more important than the answer itself, doesn’t it?
L. Predicting users’ question helps to better promote a valuable answer. Choosing the right words and working with web analytics tools to spot all the hidden needs are starting points of the process of content-crafting, truly relevant to readers. When an answer meets a real need, then the goal is fulfilled.
S. We dwell in the fluid context of post-truth, where facts appear less important to public opinion than emotions and personal beliefs. What would you suggest to those who want to start a blog in 2017?
L. Engage your readers, speak both to their emotional mind and to the rational one. Empathy and sense of humor always help when trying to walk in your reader’s shoes. Choosing the right words in the right way, also definitely helps. It may seem easy, but it’s not easy at all. The first gap to fill is learning specific skills and applying them in your writing. When you have filled that gap, your new writing and understanding of the topic will grow your readership in a context where attention is scarce.
S. According to your experience, is there a way to create an economic value through a blog?
L. I keep on firmly believing that a blog is capable of contributing to create value: never underestimate the social side of the web, especially Facebook, because that’s where people spend more and more time (maybe too much, in my opinion). In this scenario, wisely keeping a blog means weighing the contribution it can offer, in a mix of different content formats. The specific value of a blog can be derived from the opportunity of owning an online identity under one’s complete control. Of course you can get thousands of easy clicks on Facebook, but relying on social web only, means investing a lot in advertising and becoming a “digital sharecropper” working for a more powerful absentee landlord. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe just nostalgic, but I know one thing for sure. I don’t like it.
S. More than once, you wrote that you consider blogs as hubs of good content marketing strategies. Do you think that blogs will still be relevant in the years to come, when referred to the context of an evolving social web?
L. There are powers, such as Blockchain, whose aim is to avoid that the web will converge into too few hands. This challenge is apparently much like tilting at windmills when we consider the power that Facebook has today, but only time can tell. Not everyone happy being confined into a Facebook page, and this is the reason why I think bloggers still have more aces in their sleeves.
S. In your recent article, you wrote that semantic web is preparing itself to start a revolution in the world of content. How do you figure out this revolution will look like?
L. Digital assistants are the weapon that can contribute into the breaking Facebook’s monopoly. In this field, Facebook is just a follower and the game is pretty hard. Google Home and Amazon Echo are moving their first steps into American houses and, once integrated into a family context, they will change forever the way we keep ourselves informed. Semantic web is the chance blogs were waiting in order to make a great comeback straight into the heart of a new context of free and open information, thanks to standards such as Schema.org. The best is yet to come.
S. You’ve started to use WordLift on your blog: what are your first impressions as a seasoned blogger?
L. It’s a very useful product. Maybe it needs some refinements before it becomes a tool used by the masses, but it has all the potential to contribute to the structured content revolution in blogging and more.
Talking with Luca is always inspiring, and you can get even more inspiration from his books: check out his Content Marketing guide, written with Cristiano Carriero and published by Hoepli.