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Building your Content Stream

By Jon Morgan If I was a really good musician, my focus might be on practicing a half dozen songs until Im really good at them, and then give performance around the area. Maybe if I was really talented as a musician, I could write a few songs of my own and play one or two of them, just to see how my audience reacts. If the songs work, I could release them on iTunes as singles, or maybe put together an album. Okay, so none of this is really news. Most people listen to music on their MP3 players or the radio, and everybody knows at least how iTunes works, even if they are not a regular user. The one thing that is news, and that I want to share with you, the reader, is that music isnt the only type of content that can be sold at the song, playlist, and album level.

Collections of Songs
So, just to reiterate a little bit, when we purchase songs we can buy them one at a time (a single), in albums, or as a part of a playlist that another fan has created and shared over the Internet (or via iTunes). In the music world, a song can also be purchased as a part of a compilation, Best Of CD, or a movie soundtrack if it happened to be used in a movie. The bottom line for songs is that they are ubiquitous.

Containers and Sand

There is another way we can look at the ways that we group together songs. Albums and playlists are all just containers for music. They help us store or organize the music in a way that makes sense to us. So, heres a question for you: Have you ever gone to your shelf of CDs, opened up the case for a CD you wanted to listen to only to find that the CD was missing? Did you just shrug your shoulders and spend a few minutes reading the liner notes instead? Im willing to bet that you didnt.

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The thing about containers for content is that the containers really are not whats important, its the content. An album isnt any good without the CD, for example. Think of the different things in life that arent any fun at all when they are empty. Pools, for example, absolutely need to have water put into them before they are usable. Or, how much fun could a child have with a sandbox thats empty?

Separating the Content from the Container

Okay, so it's pretty easy to see how important sand is to a sandbox, but sometimes I think that people have a hard time looking past the containers we build for different types of content. Once they have a magazine in their hands, for example, they only see it as a magazine. This is ironic because the Internet has forced publishers to release their articles separately via magazine websites and social media. We click a link which takes us directly to an article, read it, and then browse the publication or close out. People are geared for reading articles piecemeal, but publishers are still trying to deliver their content in containers. The first thing I realized a year ago was that I needed to see the content as separate from its container. Once you commit to seeing things this way, it becomes as simple as separating the sand from the sandbox: ones plastic, and the other is....well, sand.

Identify your distribution network

So, as you begin to view content by itself, your first step will be to identify the networks where you will want to distribute it. This could easily include Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc., but its also important to include other types of content vehicles like eBooks, blogs, and printed hard copies. If you play your cards right, you will be able to hit every format.

Dont Wait for Readers to come to you

When you make your list, it might be tempting to drop some services or networks off your list. For example, you might see Facebook and Google+ listed together and think, If people are already on Facebook, I dont need to post on Google+. Dont think that. You want to hit readers using as many channels as possible. After youve tried for a little bit you can pull back on the networks where youve gotten the least amount of responses. But, as you are coming out of the gate you want to hit as broadly as possible.

Start with your Container

The next thing that I tried to figure out was a destination for all of my content. It was nice that I could post it everywhere and get likes, comments, etc., but at the end of the day it felt more like

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I was shouting into the wind than really accomplishing much. And, what about everybody else who dont follow me, or arent even on Facebook? This is why I focussed on setting up a place where all of my content will go once its done being shared on social media. While crowdsourcing is common on the Internet, it was hard at first for me to wrap my mind around this idea because Ive always thought that my job was done the moment a piece of content went live. Its important to think of content as having several life cycles. When its life on the web is over, it begins anew inside an ezine or book. I started a container for a family newsletter I call The Morgazine at Even before I have content assembled, I launched a new issue of The Morgazine. This might seem a little backwards, but I think it really is a reflection of how fast content changes on the Internet. My plan is that this issue of the Morgazine will be a work in progress throughout the month of May. As I think of things to write, Ill write them and post them in this site. At the end of May, Ill compile all of the articles together and publish either a magazine or an ebook. Instead of publishing my content inside the Google Site for the Morgazine, Im actually writing it with Google Docs, and then inserting the docs into separate pages. When you view an article inside the Morgazine, you are actually viewing a Google Doc that has been embedded. Not only does this make it easier to update the document, but it allows me to share it separately via different channels., for example, makes it very easy to import Google documents and convert them into HTML5 publications. Google docs themselves can also be downloaded in different file formats. Im also experimenting with importing the Google Docs into Currents for distribution via their mobile app.

Represent your content

Back when I began working with Google Sites to store my content, I struggled with the idea of relating a single document with other resources, such as a photo album or video. Google sites just couldnt handle it. Thats when Trello entered the picture. I think its been a year since I first began using Trello off and on for managing projects, but recently I began to realize that it could help me socialize my content on the content level.

About Trello
Trello is a free, web-based tool which was released by Fog Creek, the company which brought us Fogbugz. With Trello you can basically set up several columns, referred to as lists, where you add and move around cards representing parts of a project or maybe ideas during a brainstorming session. Actions completed within Trello are tracked on an activity feed, plus you have a lot of granular control over your boards privacy (members only, company only, or

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public). You can also grab a short URL which allows you to easily share a card from the board with a friend or audience.

Implementing a Board for Content

So, when I began to post titles of articles on a board in Trello, it all started to click together. I finally had a way to socialize my content on the single article level. If you want to see the board for The Morgazine, just go here: Each time you start a new piece of content, add a corresponding cad to the board which shares the contents title. For example, the card for this article would be labeled, Building your Content Stream. You click on the card to add additional information. Later on when I start to share this article on different channels, Ill go back to the board and add a note to the articles card. I can also enter a summary for the cards description, and upload images if I wanted to. Ive also made sure that the entire board is viewable by the public, so when I share the cards short URL anybody who clicks on the address will be able to view the activity for the article. This is helpful to a reader who might prefer to read an article as a blog post instead of in a Google Doc, or maybe they want to page through a photo album which was referenced. In terms of hitting readers where they live, a card on Trello can also reference all of the different social networks where the article has been linked. So, someone who is on Facebook can go directly to my profile or a fan page where the article has been posted (probably as a link) and respond with a comment. Or, if there is already a comment thread started they can join in. The problem I was always trying to solve was the fragmentation I was seeing whenever I distributed content over the Internet. The solution is to maintain an activity log where your audience can visit when they need background information about an article. And, Trello allows me to provide that.

Flipping around Flipboard

One of the most amazing apps Ive ever seen was Flipboard. With just a few minutes of setting it up with my Facebook account and a few RSS feeds, Flipboard was able to deliver fresh content to me literaly at the touch of a button. For a while, I hardly needed to visit any other site because everything I wanted to read was showing up in Flipboard. If you think about it, the power of Flipboard is that it is really good at compiling and presenting content from the Internet. Because its an aggregator, you are using the app to browse to publishers sites so that you can read entire articles. Flipboard is an important clue to how content works on the web because it literally is just a really good way of collecting and containing the information that people want. But, when you break it

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down its content structure really is: Article headline, First paragraph of an article, and link to full article. It is basically a portal to several different content providers on the Internet. This is important to understand because the next element in my content stream is very portallike. I always ran into problems when I posted links to articles on networks like Facebook, because they never did the content justice. Either they would pull the first couple of lines and a photograph, or just the text, or just the link, and visitor to my page would sometimes only read what was displayed inside my wall instead of following the links to the full article. So, the Morgazine has a supporting site which acts as a portal for the content Im storing in Google Docs. If you go to, you will see a page Ive started which lists the headline of an article, a photo, and a summary for the article. After you read the summary, you click a link which takes you to the Google Sites website where I am displaying the full article. This is similar to the way that readers browse content inside Flipboard. When I write articles, I am getting in the habit of writing the text for the posts ahead of time so that Im ready when I need to reference an article on the Weebly site. Once its entered in with a photo, I can then post a link on Facebook or Google+. The reader goes from my profile to Weebly and then to the Google Site.

Using your Channels

This is where you begin to make use of the channels that are available to you. Post the link to the Weebly blurbs on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Ive started a fan page for The Morgazine where I will be posting the links. An alternative which Ive tried is to post links to the Trello card on at least Twitter. This would offer users a lot of different ways to view your content, but the downside is that Trello might be confusing to some people.

In Summary
The bottom line is that the methods Ive described make it very easy to distribute your content. Im hoping that distribution will be so easy that I will be able to put the effort thats needed for content creation. So, after reading this I hope that you will be able to see content differently. Start by ignoring any and all containers, then brainstorm on ways in which you can get your content out to a broader audience. Trust me, your readers are ready for it. Before you begin broadcasting your content, think about how it should evolve. Could your blog posts be collected in an ebook, for example? Build up that container, then work backwards until your content will have a clear path all of the way to the end.

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Social Media Post
The first thing I realized a year ago was that I needed to see the content as separate from its container. Once you commit to seeing things this way, it becomes as simple as separating the sand from the sandbox: ones plastic, and the other is....well, sand.

Activity Feed URL

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Index Collections of Songs Containers and Sand Separating the Content from the Container Identify your distribution network Dont Wait for Readers to come to you Start with your Container Represent your content About Trello Implementing a Board for Content Flipping around Flipboard Using your Channels In Summary Social Media Post Activity Feed URL