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Content Marketing Tips from Experts at First Round Capital and A16Z (ycombinator.com)
71 points by craigcannon on Oct 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I feel obligated to point out that First Round's content marketing has literally made me hate them.

Their breathless hypey, smarmy tone yet content-free nature of their posts makes them come off as profoundly silly and unserious. They sound like something a Silcon Valley HBO writers room would reject as too cliched.

Given that they often make the front page of HN perhaps my opinion is an outlier, granted.

I am not familiar with their work, but I am having trouble getting though this piece, in part because it is long, and in part because it seems pretty fluffy to me.

I am a content producer. I am both a blogger and someone who gets paid to produce content. So, I was hoping for something meaty to enhance my work.

I have read most of the way through this and, so far, the only solid tips are things I already know: Use bullet points, subheaders, etc to make written content more scannable, accessible and digestible.

They talk a lot about personal process. I am usually very interested in things like that, but I don't think that fits the title of the piece and I am finding it surprisingly yawn worthy and irrelevant. I was looking for actionable advice on content marketing and I don't feel I am seeing much of that.

They also talk a lot about how hit or miss their work feels to them, how challenging it is to measure its effectiveness and that they don't really know how to do that for sure, etc. The impression that gives me personally is that they don't really know what they are doing.

Which seems like it can't be right because they have had prestigious positions etc. But, I look for meaningful metrics and they talk a lot about going with their gut or just having a sense of something. Your job is communicating information and this artsy, fartsy hand wavy gut intuition is the best thing you can say?

Okay, great. So you are telling me you are some great artist with amazing good taste. This in no way whatsoever tells me how to develop the same skill.

So, color me unimpressed.

> I was looking for actionable advice on content marketing and I don't feel I am seeing much of that.

As a professional in the field, do you happen to have any recommendations on sources that do have actionable advice? It's an area I love to learn more about but haven't done enough work in it to suss out the good sources from the fluff pieces.


Most of it is specific to their platform. It is intended for their clients and their writers. But I work for them and I learn a lot from working for them and I have viewed a number of their videos at various times.

That is all that readily comes to mind that I can easily direct you to. I hash a lot of stuff out related to blog development with my sons. But that isn't some readily curated set of info. We share links via email and we talk about things, some of it from personal observation, some of it from research we know about.

So, for example, I like reading articles about Jeph Jacques, the highest grossing web comic artist on the planet (or was at one time) and, at one time, I read through all the footnotes on his main comic Questionable Content. People buy merchandise because of stuff in his comics.

Thanks! As much as I can market just about anything, I’ve never been good at making things to market. Appreciate the insight!

I also did a TLDR of the podcast and posted it to HN:



I've been working on some stuff so can share links here later! There's actually a dearth of good stuff out there. Most of the strategy calls with founders are custom too based on what they're trying to accomplish.

No, you're not an outlier. I want to know more about content marketing but that was next level smarmy.

I think we all want more women in tech but Jesus, their arrogance is cringe worthy.

I think our consistent results speak for themselves, hence the confidence (never want to be arrogant! that's a bummer) but it's true, it was a friendly wide-ranging conversation among insiders. [Another reason editing is good -- most podcasts ARE this way in original!]

But it's really too bad you are commenting on the women in tech thing as if that's the point, or that it's a favor to us (when we earned our jobs through expertise and competence and results).

I worry that too often startups and developers write off content marketing as "more 500 word fluff blog posts".

As devs we have a tremendous advantage in that we can build tools as a form of "content engineering" that easily have 10 to a 100x the impact of just writing articles.

An article that gives advice and a tool that actually helps you put that advice into practice while seemingly related - in terms of execution are in wildly different categories in people's heads.

I'm deep in the mix of this right now and the one tool we have on our site [1] has about double the traffic of our dozen (well written, authoritative, 1500+ word) blog posts combined [2].

I always hear from other developers that they aren't good at marketing. I'm telling you - this is like a freaking marketing superpower.

1 - https://sendcheckit.com/subject-line-analyzer?ref=hn

2 - https://sendcheckit.com/blog?ref=hn

Personally, I think developers are the best writers/ content marketers -- when I was at WIRED, I regularly mined forums and community groups to spot talent. For one thing, a lot of developers are natural advocates for a point of view, and for building community, and starting/hosting conversations, and content marketing is a natural extension of that.

While I do think sharing specific "advice into practice" is super valuable and something developers can uniquely do, I strongly believe a lot more developers could and should write more about the bigger/broader trends connected to what they're doing, seeing, etc.: unique vantage point, early too.

[For example, in this case I asked and edited Mikeal Rogers (who was involved with Node then) to speak more broadly about a broader shift in identity for developers and open source (i.e., the bigger trends): https://www.wired.com/2013/03/github/]

You hit the nail on the head. At ClearVoice we are building a content marketing platform and marketplace. We've mostly been focusing on non-technical content, but I am keenly interested in producing high quality articles with well thought out technical solutions. Not all companies have engineering talent that are also interested in writing, so something like ClearVoice could be used to have 3rd party technical writers provide the content around each company's tools.

Start with being nakedly honest about what your strategic or business goal is in investing in content creation. If it's just growing inbound volume, and there is nothing wrong with that, use attention arbitrage. Find out where your tribe is hanging out. And join the conversation. In an authentic, genuine way.

But if you have a larger mission. More than growth. Priming humans for a multi-planetary future for example. Then you need to think deeply about design and innovation. Not just for the messaging, but also the channel you will be delivering upon.

It's like the difference between a marketer who reads an article in Wired and thinks "we need to get our brand on VR". Then they assign a budget, hire an agency to make some thing fast and drop it. Adding another bit of litter to the already noisy and crowded airwaves.

Versus some thing like LEGO or IKEA's experiences that allow you to virtually place new products in your living room and purchase on the spot. Serving as an incremental move to a place where consumers can customize designs and even 3D print products.

Two feedback points for the a16z podcast which I listen to regularly and think has some amazing in-depth content from a broad variety of topics:

- a lot of episodes have too many people. It makes it really difficult (for me) to follow the discussion while constantly trying to distinguish different voices from one another.

- a lot of episodes seem „jump cutted“. Question - answer - question - answer. There really is no conversation coming up (which make Podcasts attractive) and I immediately press next.

- a lot of episodes have too many people.

100% agreed, its tough to follow who is saying what, and especially difficult to get what each part of differing views is really saying.

Def worth highlighting who is speaking as we go through more too!

Hi - thanks for the feedback! We agree and are trying to limit number of guests (when we can - sometimes it's hard to cover a topic well), as well as better label voices as we go through as moderators. For edits, we try not to do jump cuts. You'd be surprised at how many people think a cut is a cut when it's the way it was... but then not catch the actual cut which was a blatant cut;)

and thank you too for the compliment re: "amazing in-depth content" ... there are often quite a few people involved behind the scenes, in addition to our great guests and experts (including many of our own folks internally)! Huge credit to them too. We do also edit to focus and remove sidebars, and increase info density. Not going to pretend we don't edit -- and I'd argue it's important! Recently, I was listening to an audio book and I had to skip the first two chapters which would have been fine in written form only, but in listening mode I just have less patience. Unless it's a "cult of personality" type show, where you are following because you're into a particular person. But we're more focused on our collective voices, including from network, so I def don't want it to be a cult of personality...

Definitely agreed. Especially when it comes to the editing, it makes the podcast hard to follow when there isn't a natural flow to the conversations.

I watched this video and liked it. It seems like people on this thread are looking for tips and tricks but they are talking more about the long game, which I like.

And it's ironic that they mentioned the toxic culture of HN and there are some pretty negative comments here.

Though I would like to know if there are any free tools that let you know the point in the page where someone dropped off, or if those are all premium products.

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