Up your reading input to improve your content output

Reading more widely helps you create better content, but how do you find the time, and what should you be reading? Valuable Content guest post to help you manage your content input for a more compelling content output.

Bristol is a hub of creative content talent. This guest post is by fellow Bristol content strategist Tim Tucker. Great tips and some very useful tools here for content creators.

Lunchtime reading

Lunchtime reading for Tom of Ablegrad *

Author Stephen King famously said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

This advice, while aimed at novelists, applies equally to digital content creators. We need to practice good ‘input’ as well as ‘output’ in order to create compelling content.

Essential reading tools for digital editors and writers

Reading good content on a regular basis is an essential element of creating your own good content. It keeps you informed and in touch with:

  • Important news, opinion and information in your market sector
  • The key topic areas and talking points that are relevant to you and your audience
  • Ways that other brands and publishers offer effective content
  • Examples of good practice

Managing information input is a major challenge. According to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google, we are now producing the same amount of information in 2 days as we did from the dawn of mankind to the year 2003. Keeping up to date, even on a niche topic, can be massively time-consuming and overwhelming.

Fortunately there are some excellent tools that help you streamline the input process and manage your information more effectively.

Choose your feed reader

The ability to manage a diverse range of information ‘feeds’, from blogs, websites and other sources, is a major boon to writers and creatives. It’s essential that you take time to create an effective ‘content input dashboard’.

There are dozens of effective feed reading tools available. It’s best to limit yourself to using no more than two or three of these, to avoid the dangers of information overload. Ensure that your reader of choice has these features:

  • Capable of defining custom feeds, such as RSS, as well as offering pre-defined content sources
  • Ability to organise feeds into topic areas that are relevant to different aspects of your business
  • Ability to share any piece of content to all your relevant social media networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest
  • Recommendations for other sources of information based on your interests and reading patterns

Up until now Google Reader has been the RSS reader of choice, but sadly Google made the decision to close the service on July 1st 2013, so it’s time to look for alternatives.

Here are the three content input dashboards that I currently use:

  • Feedly. An excellent RSS and feed-reading service that won Lifehacker’s reader vote for the best Google Reader alternative. Feedly works as a plugin for Safari, Chrome and Firefox browsers, and offers companion apps on iOS and Android
  • Flipboard. Billed as a personal magazine, Flipboard is an effective, visually attractive way to keep abreast of all relevant content sources on both Apple and Android mobile devices (note that there’s no desktop option at present)
  • Pulse. Another great reading option that works well across desktop, mobile and tablet devices

Turn reading input into great content output

One of the major ways that we can create value for our audience is by curating useful content from other websites and blogs.

This may seem counterintuitive, as it sends your readers to ‘competing’ sources of information. But by highlighting useful content from a wide range of sources, you open up opportunities for readers and customers to notice you, trust you, follow you and engage with you. It’s another example of the strong link between success and sharing.

With a good content input dashboard you can streamline this process. Use the built-in social media functions to share great features, tips, news and advice that you find from your favourite sources around the web.

This way you’ll turn your daily reading habits into added value for your audience, curating the content that you find useful and bringing it to the attention of others.

If you’ve ever reached the conclusion that you don’t have enough time to do Twitter and other social media channels well, this will help. Using these tools you can combine information foraging with content curation and manage your input and output at the same time.

Also consider using a powerful curation tool like Storify to put together your own stories from other people’s media. Combine blog posts, social media updates, video and other forms of digital media to tell stories in interesting new ways, using other people’s content to build something new. See this post on Marketing Land for more information on useful content curation tools and concepts.

How about you? Which content feeds and curation tools do you use? I’m keen to know if there are any other good tools out there. Do let me know.

About the author

Tim Tucker

Tim Tucker

Tim Tucker is a content strategist, user experience consultant and trainer. He helps organizations, brands and publishers communicate better online.

You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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* Image of Tom Sandford, founder of Ablegrad, taken at Spike Island and posted with his kind permission. Nice jumper!

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2 Comments

  1. Useful information for businesspeople at a loss as to how to engage with their audiences. They’re often so taken up with the provision of their service that they can find themselves adrift from the concerns of their customers. This is great advice for those wanting to remain part of the conversations going on around them.

    Thank you Tim Tucker and Valuable Content.

    Marc

    Reply
  2. Thanks very much Mark. It’s difficult when we’re busy looking down to look up and look out isn’t it. Tim picks out some really useful tools there. I’m just investigating Storify – looks perfect for curating the story of an event we’re running next week. Glad it’s a useful post for you too Mark.

    Reply

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