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Is there such a thing as original content?

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Where’s all the original content?

Every day around the world, a total of two million articles are published online. That’s the same number of bubbles fizzing in your average champagne flute.

That’s why sometimes, when you’re reading a blog, it can feel like you’ve read it before. The words may be in a different order, but you know the point it’s making before you even get halfway, and it’s not telling you anything new.

It begs the question: where’s all the original content?

In a sense, there is no original content. Writing is very often about borrowing and building on material and ideas that already exist. But that needn’t mean it lacks quality or creativity. Content done well takes the best of what’s already out there and shapes it into a personalised package for the right people – which is then given to them through the right channel, at the right time.

What a load of Babel

Everything has been done before. No really, everything, including your next marketing campaign, company strategy and meeting agenda, already exists. You just have to find it on the Library of Babel, which contains everything that has been, is being, and will ever be, written by humans.

It’s a virtual library that contains every combination of characters, spaces and full stops on a single page – and therefore all possible text. It’s a vast collection of 104,677 books, each of which is 410 pages long.

In the library that has published everything, there are full pages, books, volumes and rooms containing passages that appear to be gibberish. But who knows, they could hold meaning in a language we don’t speak, or a language that hasn’t yet been created.

Jonathan Basile, the Library's creator, intends it to be “a place for scholars to do research, for artists and writers to seek inspiration, and for anyone with curiosity or a sense of humour to reflect on the weirdness of existence”.

The human touch

Realising that human potential is finite enough to be stored on a website might fill you with fear, wonder or bemusement – so let’s come back in the room, and reflect on what this means for original content – and specifically, your original content.

At Stickyeyes we often remind clients that the internet is a fantastic place to hide (bad) content. Quality content, however, is few and far between – and that’s why brands get results through meaningful investment in content strategies. Engaging, targeted content turns visitors into readers, readers into leads, leads into customers, and ultimately connects brands with their audiences.

So how do you produce content that inspires readers to think, feel and do something? It’s something we talk a lot about in our 90-day plan to transform your content strategy, ensuring that you do something different that no other brand or publisher has done before.

All content, no matter who’s reading it, needs a human touch. An authentic, trusted voice, crafted and honed for a particular audience, to make people listen and keep them engaged – calmly reaching out and taking their hand when everyone else’s arms are flailing wildly for their attention.

This voice isn’t created from scratch – it already exists. We just have to find it by working out who the audience is, where they are and what they want. Do your audiences need inspiration? Do they need reassurance? Do they respond to urgency, or do they need a plain English, jargon-free advice? Finding that most appropriate voice takes you into the very heart of what your brand stands for.

Finding your voice

Michelangelo believed that the figures he sculpted were trapped in stone, and he was freeing them. His blocks of marble were spaces of infinite possibility, containing an infinite number of shapes and sizes, of which only one could materialise. Rather than a process of creation, sculpturing was a process of discovery.

DJ Shadow’s debut album 'Endtroducing' featured original songs made up of samples from various sources, including music genres ranging from hip hop to jazz and heavy metal, plus films and interviews. He drew on his collection of 60,000 records to produce something considered ground-breaking and original – but it was entirely a composite of other people’s work.

It’s not the content itself that has to be original. Lots of brands will be doing exactly what you do, talking about the same things that you talk about, and trying to attract the attention of the same people in the same places.

But just as Michelangelo’s sculpture was already in the stone, and DJ Shadow’s music had already been recorded, it’s the way it’s moulded and crafted to give it a meaning that makes it shine. Get that right, and you’ll transform audiences into advocates, publishers into influencers and problems into solutions.

Your next content strategy is already out there, so what are you waiting for? In my next piece I’ll start to show you how you can go about finding it...

Steve Clarkson is senior writer at Stickyeyes, a digital and content marketing agency.

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