Once every sometimes, I’ll write a post on a content strategy example of a company or site that I all but drool over. (Literally drooling, in the case of the subject matter last time — namely, Buzzfeed’s “Tasty”).
This time, I’m highlighting a blog (company? site?) that I’ve admired from afar for quite some time. Two guys make up the brilliance that is Wait But Why.
I mean, look at this FAQ page, for starters.
And before we go any further, I will humbly assert some of the must-reads from their archives to get a sense of the content I’m about to discuss:
- Why Procrastinators Procrastinate
- Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man (Part 1 of 4)
- The Fermi Paradox
- How to Name a Baby
- Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy
- Bonus: Tim Urban’s (writer, co-creator) TED Talk
Ugh. Even widdling down to just these six was painful. Really, just go read anything of theirs. Prepare to go down a rabbit-hole of content that is always equal parts hilarious and informative.
Wait But How Is This A Content Strategy Example?
And why should content marketers care?
The jury’s out if these guys are doing more than just cranking out content (and talking to Elon Musk/doing TED Talks), but the point is that their content is SO tapped-in to the readership. As a result, they can write super targeted, beautifully long-winded, 100% interesting posts every. single. time.
I mean, did you see the share counts on those posts?!
Content marketers be like:
Not Terribly Strategic Content Strategy (Or Is It?)
What does a content strategy look like for a successful blog like this?
- Not committing to a certain frequency. It’s in their tagline: “New post every sometimes.” And it works for them. Further, they adamantly don’t, and that’s a cornerstone to their branding. Which brings me to…
- Transparency. What they AREN’T has become who they ARE. But the point is, they’re communicative about who they are, what they deliver, and relentlessly self-deprecating to set an expectation for the experience. And this honesty speaks to readers, no matter the industry.
- Highly researched posts. If they’re going to post about it, it’s either going to be a) funny, b) extremely in-depth and informative to a well-read, educated audience, c) a kick-ass cartoon, or some combination. There’s enough variance in what topics they post about to appeal to wider audiences, but primarily these are the categories they stick to.
- They’re not experts. (Don’t claim to be.) The tone of the posts is of that one good friend of yours, probably goofy and definitely super smart, but prone to bouts of procrastination. He spends two hours at 3 am going down a very deep internet rabbit-hole and is suddenly super knowledgeable on a random topic, like everything you don’t know about tipping, or he throws himself into modeling what a quadrillion Sour Patch Kids looks like.
- They know who/what they’re writing for. You can tell from their social media presence, first of all. They clearly realize that if they had to pool it all in one place, Facebook is THE circulator of their content, trailed by Twitter and Instagram. (I found out about them years ago on Facebook.) Their audience is educated, informed, and curious. It’s apparent that Tim Urban, the main writer and co-creator, is writing pieces he would be interested in reading himself.
- Their illustrations are simplistic but awesome. Tim Urban even says his drawings showcase the artistic skill of a 4th grader. Which makes for fun, easily consumed, approachable, and identifiable pieces. (Plus, props to Tim Urban for keeping the design in-house!)
Wait But Will This Content Strategy Example Work For Me?
Granted, there are both benefits and drawbacks to this seemingly lack-thereof content strategy. We at Verblio (formerly BlugMutt) have always touted the benefits of posting business blogs regularly, even though no one might be reading.
So let’s dive in and take a critical look at the frequency piece, the “new post every sometimes.”
Positives Of Posting Sporadically
- No structure. You’re not on the hook to write something every day, or even every week.
- No force-publishes. We can all admit we’ve pushed ‘publish’ on something we’re not 100% proud of, solely because of a deadline.
- Very highly researched content. If no one’s expecting a post at a certain frequency, you can spend days, weeks, heck, even months researching a piece exhaustively.
- A captive audience. Newsletter membership and social media following for these guys has got to be higher than any blog with an established frequency since people literally have to stay in the loop to know if something new goes up. Unless you check the website obsessively. (Though, to be fair, just clicking around the site is enough to keep you entertained for hours.)
…And The Negatives
- A captive, but potentially impatient or judgmental audience. This model does solely rely on the content to stand on its own. If a bunch of time lapses between posts, AND the posts aren’t good and worth the wait, it won’t work.
- A frequency had to be established to deviate from. At one point in time, the creators had to build a base following with some semblance of frequency from which to deviate. If their content wasn’t staying top-of-mind for acquaintances and already loyal subscribers in the early days, they would have fallen off the radar ages ago. So, if you’re looking to coast without posting often, you’ll likely have to put in some elbow grease on the front end to build that interest before it slips into indifference (death of a blog!).
- It will not work for every audience. If you’re a businessperson serving other businesses, you have to keep a rigor in the office everyday. Loads is happening in your industry, and if you’re not up on it and communicating with your prospects/readership with some frequency, you risk looking just plain lazy. (No matter how much of an expert you are!) Even THE thought leadership thought leader Neil Patel posts amazing posts every other day.
Wait But What Are The Takeaways?
At the end of the day, it is important to note that Wait But Why is pretty much solely an entertainment blog. Educational at points, but for entertainment purposes. But honestly, the same exact content strategy applied to a business/agency blog probably wouldn’t have a favorable outcome.
The writer and primary personality behind the operation, Tim Urban, even said in his TED Talk that he would have preferred to not have written his mediocre college senior 90-page thesis in a mere 72 hours, yet he did. His method, like this content strategy example, won’t work for every company, every blog, every concept. (Or else everyone would be doing it!)
What we can take from the Wait But Why guys are their tireless commitment to the quality of content (despite not being experts in the fields or stellar at time management), listening to the reader and intimately understanding their curiosities/interests/personas, and delivering the content via tried-and-true channels for their strategy. Those things, and above all, their transparent, unapologetic brand and tone. It rocks. I still love ’em.
And the stick-figure art, obviously.