Interesting or Useful? Aim for Both

Many years ago when I started this blog, I focused a lot on email newsletters. I used to say that a newsletter must be interesting or useful… and both are what you’re aiming for. I was saying that before ‘content’ became a thing but, of course, this holds true for all of the marketing content we create – newsletters, blogging, social media, video, audio.

Let’s break that down some more.

Interesting Content

This kind of content gets you thinking or laughing or curious or nostalgic or hopeful. It inspires feelings. It’s crafted with care, written convincingly or recorded with forethought. It’s often centred on a story so it requires some interpretation on our part to make it “our own”. That interpretation process is what ties us to the content; it resonates. Here’s an example of an interesting newsletter: from Nova Scotia Webcams.

Useful Content

This content solves a problem. It might be a recognized problem (“I need to figure out xyz.”) or it might be an unforeseen problem (“Whoa, I didn’t know about xyz.”). This is the kind of content you search for on Google. An example is this post which currently ranks at the top of page 1 when searching “newsletter audit”. If you look, you’ll see it’s far from interesting but very useful. Here are some ideas for useful content you can create.

Aim for Both

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you’ve probably figured out that I do ‘useful’ much better than I do ‘interesting’. I’ve joked that I’m a good example of blogging success even though I can’t write. Well, of course, I can write but my background was corporate report-writing, which was useful but very uninteresting. Still, I aspire to be a more interesting writer and sometimes I’ve accomplished that.

Where does your marketing content fit on the scale of interesting to useful? Can you make it more of both?

The first step in any improvement initiative is awareness.

I use “interesting or useful” as a mantra… and as a ruler to gauge the value of my content for my readers. Before I publish anything, I think:

  1. Is it interesting? Here I often give myself half a checkmark, sometimes none, rarely a full one.
  2. Is it useful? Here I most often get a full checkmark but not always.

Frequently this mental check will result in editing to improve the quality, to make it more interesting or useful… or both.

People will subscribe to both types of content.

I read lots of books that have no use but are interesting. I read lots of how-to’s that are useful but boring. Do what works best for you, what works for your style. Recognize and exploit your strengths and work to improve weaker skills.