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When it comes to the fundamental trend patterns within the media industry, nothing defines it more than intent and moments. I have talked about this many times in the past, but in this article, we are going to focus on just one specific aspect of that: High-intent micro-moments ...or as we might call it, high-value snackable content.
This is an area of publishing where very little is getting done, partly because everyone is distracted by the low-intent snackable content and partly because it's really hard to get right. But at the same time, it's a form of publishing that has a tremendous amount of potential, because it's exactly what people are screaming for.
So, let's dive into the wonderful world of high-value snackable content.
Before we start, let me just remind you about what these moments are and how different they are from each other.
If we look at how people behave online, we can basically define it using this graph:
On one axis, we have low-intent versus high-intent, and on the other axis we have micro-moments versus macro-moments.
These four elements define pretty much everything in publishing. They are not the only elements, of course, but they are the most important ones. For instance, as soon as you start talking about paid-for content, you realize that the more you gravitate your editorial focus towards high-intent macro-moments, the easier it is to get people to pay.
Obviously, other factors play into this as well. For instance, the relevancy and the need for the content you are making is vital too. And, outside the publishing world, we also have the very important factor of desirability. For instance, people's willingness to pay for something they truly desire can outrank the moment or the intent, or contribute to it.
In the publishing world, however, desirability is rarely an element that we can tie into. So for us, the type of moment is far more important.
What's important here is to understand that the low-intent micro-moment is the default state of people's mind. When people are just having a break, when they are just browsing around, or when they just randomly come across a link someone shared with them ... all of that is a low-intent micro-moments.
This also means that in order to get people to have any other type of moment, you need to convince them to do that. You need to get them to make a decision to see something because they want to, or need to ... or something.
This impacts what we can do in a number of very important ways.
It impacts scale. It's easy to scale up a low-intent micro-moment, but it's incredibly hard to scale up a macro-moment. It's not that you can't do it, but it requires a lot of work, a serious amount of money, and a lot of time.
Compare a funny picture of a cat and the TV show Games of Thrones.
The cat photo is very effective at driving quick low-intent traffic and sharing, and you can scale that up very quickly (as seen by many media sites) with their low-intent articles. Games of Thrones, however, is a macro-moment. So you can't make that work without putting in some serious effort, time and money.
But as you can see, once you do this, both moments work but for very different reasons, and with very different monetization potentials.
The fascinating thing about these forms of media is that you cannot switch them around. A TV show like the Games of Thrones would never work as a micro-moment, because it needs the value and the momentum from a macro-moment to make economic sense.
At the same time, the cat photo doesn't work as a macro-moment either, because by itself it drives almost no value (revenue). You need a million cat photos (and even more views) to even get close to the revenue Games of Thrones makes.
So what we have here are two completely different forms of media, that requires completely different ways of thinking, a different approach to resources, time, investments, marketing plans, momentum, channels, devices, and platforms. And it's the same with the other type of moments as well.
The low-intent micro-moment is what we see on the social channels.
The low-intent macro-moment, however, is when people still haven't made any specific decisions about what they want to do, but they are planning to spend a long time doing it. The most common form of this is when people get home from work and just plump down on their couch to watch some Netflix.
They haven't really decided what it is that they want to watch, they are not really making any decisions. They are just binging on whatever looks interesting at that moment, and they continue to do that for a couple of hours that evening.
We see the same effect with many YouTube channels. When, for instance, the highly popular Sidemen are playing a game of Rocket League, you don't watch this because you are truly interested in it. You watch it because you are tired after a long day and just want to spend some time relaxing.
This is a low-intent macro-moment. And it's almost entirely defined by entertainment-focused content. Reality TV shows fall into this category as well, so does many forms of gaming, especially the whole market for mobile gaming.
Podcasts also exists in this space. Listen to an episode of the excellent Hello Internet. It's actually quite interesting to listen to, but the format is just two popular guys talking about random things. It's a macro-moment, because it takes you an hour, but it's also low-intent.
The high-intent macro-moment, however, is when we are really talking about generating value. A high-intent moment is when people have made a choice to do something.
Games of Thrones, for instance, is one of the few TV shows that is in this space. Unlike most other TV shows where people merely watch it because it happens to be on Netflix, Games of Thrones is something that people will dedicate time to watch. They might even prepare for it by making some popcorn.
But, Games of Thrones isn't really the most interesting example of this, because it's far more relevant to look at the business to business space. When we hear about publishers doing events, those are high-intent macro-moments. They are moments that people choose to go to, they dedicate a lot of time for it, they invest money in buying the tickets, and because of this, they have seriously high expectations about what they are going to get out of it.
And think about the difference in expectations. If you are a publisher and you create an event, it's not good enough to just have some random speakers talk about things you could have learned by reading a blog post.
The event has to be about something else. It has to give people something that they could only get in a high-intent macro-moment. For instance, it might be in the form of high-value and high-use workshops, where you have condensed a lot of really good learning.
So, we have these three different types of moments:
All of these are familiar to us. But what about the fourth type of moment. What about the high-intent micro-moment?
A high-intent micro-moment is a very strange concept. It's a type of moment where people have a very specific need and high expectations of what we want to get out of it, but at the same time, it's also a type of moment that people don't want to dedicate any time for.
How strange is that?
Mind you, we have a lot of these moments. One simple example is that of food.
Most people don't want to spend a long time in the kitchen cooking dinner. But at the same time most of us do enjoy a really good meal. So here we have a high-intent (you love great food) micro-moment (but you don't want to make it).
Right? And as a result of this we now have an industry of places where we can buy great food that others have made for us.
Mind you, this dilemma doesn't just affect how we consume things. It also affects how we decide upon things. It's not just that we don't want to think about making dinner, it's also that we don't want to spend much mental energy deciding what to get.
The result of this is that people often turn what they wanted to be a high-intent moment into a low-intent moment. In the food industry, we call this fast food (as we all know).
This is what happens when people want something, but also don't' want to think about it. People very often end up with the simple choice of just getting a big mac. But is this really what people want? Or is this simply optimizing (and scaling) for the path of least resistance?
The same thing that you see here is happening every single day in the media industry. People have so many high-intent micro-moments each day, but because they don't want to spend any time on them, we end up missing this market completely and just optimizing for low-intent snacking instead.
Instead of giving people what they want, we give people posts on Facebook.
But is this such a bad thing? Well, yes and no. McDonald's is a massive company, and so is Facebook. But they are companies that exist purely by scale because their margins per meal/view are so low.
My point is not that one market is better than another. My point is that because we don't make the effort to fill this market, we are missing an opportunity for creating something special ...which is especially important for smaller publishers who cannot scale (either because of their local markets, language, focus, or other factors).
And just to put this into perspective, here is a comparison (by Monday Note) of different revenue models. Where do you see the most potential?
So, how can we make the market for high-intent micro-moments work? How can we convince people to do that instead of resorting back to the low-intent (and low margin) moments that we see everywhere else?
Well, let me give you a couple of examples of companies and people who are trying to do just this.
The first example is a new education/learning startup called Highbrow.
Education (outside of schools and textbooks) has long been problematic for publishers to really get into because most people see education as something they don't have time for. But things are changing.
For instance, in Ofcom's 'Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report 2016', they found 45% now use YouTube to watch educational videos (DIY, How-to's, tutorials, etc). And many of these videos are already designed as micro-moments.
Note: Here is a great list of some of the best channels for learning on YouTube today.
Take this video about human (over)population by Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell. It's only 7 minutes long, so it's something that you could easily watch while having a break, during lunch, or while waiting for something.
But while Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell is a wonderful channel, most people don't really consume it with high-intent.
This is what Highbrow is trying to solve. It has created snackable education that you consume with high-intent without the need to really dedicate time for it.
The way it works is that they have divided up each course into 10 individual lessons, each being only five minutes long, delivered to you daily by email, and only one at the time.
For instance, if you learn about data science, there is a course for that. It's premium, so you need a Highbrow membership of $7 per month ($4 if you sign up per year), but just look at this format.
Once per day you will get one lesson, each being five minutes long, for 10 days. How incredibly simple is that?
Mind you, I haven't taken this lesson, so I don't know if this or any of their other lessons are any good, but think about the concept here.
This is the perfect high-intent micro-moment. And it's not just the moment that is interesting here. It's also the perfect form of distribution.
It's brilliant...and it's monetizable (unlike all other forms of micro-content).
Not everything about it is good though. Like so many other tech startups (which Highbrow is since they are focusing more on the platform than on the actual content in it), they forget the all important element of 'momentum'.
When you go to Highbrow and you look at their lessons, you find that it's a very mixed bag of all types of topics. You have lessons about how to meditate, how to sing, how to get up in the morning, how to learn a language, how to generate business leads, how to go vegan, and so many other completely random lessons.
The problem with this is that once you have spent 10 days learning about the basics of meditation, there is nothing being offered to really continue this. Instead, you are being asked to choose another random thing that you want to learn about.
This randomness is terrible, because this isn't high-intent at all. High-intent is when you have a need and you make decisions upon that need. Choosing something at random because you happen to come across it is a low-intent model.
And this is the problem that we see with pretty much all the tech startups. They are so focused on building platforms of scale, that they never really think about what they put into it.
So, Highbrow has a very interesting concept, but their business focus doesn't match.
But think about if it did. What if you take what Highbrow is doing, and continue it.
For instance, as an analyst, I'm very interested in learning about data science especially right now when we are seeing so many advances in this area. But at the same time, I'm not really interested in spending hours in a classroom to learn about anything specific.
So, to me, the absolutely perfect model would instead be a daily teaching series, lasting only five minutes, but that would continue to teach me about new things in data science. Not just for 10 lessons, but every single day...forever.
I would definitely pay for this, if the lessons were valuable and not just shallow snacks of obvious things. And especially so if the teachers behind the lessons was someone that I admired for their work and expertise.
So, basically, it's the same as Highbrow, but as a continuous series that I can focus in on an really be a part of.
Mind you, this is just what I would like, and I can come up with 10 other examples of things I would love to learn about. But you can look at any person and create the same thing.
Think about gardening. It's a seriously popular topic and has been the basis for many publications, TV shows, and books. But could you transform that into a high-intent micro-moment?
Instead of giving people one big thing that they can only read once per month, could you atomize it and give it to them every day instead?
Well, consider this:
This is just an imaginary concept. Monty Don isn't actually doing this (at least not that I'm aware of). But isn't this a wonderful model?
'Monty Don: The Morning Garden' would be a daily experience with one lesson per day, of five minutes each, for the total cost of £4 per month.
What you have here is the combination of a very popular expert of gardening and you have a format of a daily lesson, which makes it feel more like a social experience where you are part of Monty Don's existence.
You have the atomized lessons, which means people can spend more time in the garden each day, while at the same time get what amounts to 2.5 hours of content every month (much is more than what you would get from a magazine).
Of course, since gardening is a visual activity, you probably shouldn't do this as text. It would be far better to do as video.
And in terms of production, it's not that different. Monty Don wouldn't have to produce a new video every day. He could instead set aside a single day once a month where he would record 30 lessons of five minutes each.
Wouldn't this be an interesting model compared to the traditional way we do gardening publishing?
Mind you, the trick here is to make it valuable enough. Even though the format is designed as a micro-moment, it would never work if the value was also micro. Micro-value is what we get from Facebook, or popular channels such as BuzzFeed Tasty (which I analyzed here). But since this is designed as a premium high-intent moment, we need to seriously step it up when it comes to the value or else it would never work.
The key to doing this is to not think about this as content, but instead think about it as miniaturized education (hence why I started talking about Highbrow). And this is the challenge for most publishers (who are used to creating random packages of content).
Another great example of how this could work is to look at exercise.
Again, most publishers completely miss the point about exercise, focusing instead on posting content about it which isn't really what people need in the connected world.
So how could we turn that into a high-intent micro-moment?
Well, first of all, there are generally two ways to think about exercise. One way is to think about it as a goal oriented exercise, which is what most exercise companies focus on.
Goal-oriented exercise is when you are trying to achieve something, like if you decide to run a marathon and start an exercise program to build yourself up to that, or if you are one of the millions of people struggling with obesity and you want to lose weight through exercise.
This form of exercise publishing is something that a lot of publishers and companies already do, and some of them do it very well. But reaching an exercise goal is not a micro-moment. It's very much a high-intent macro-moment.
In order for us to have a high-intent micro-moment, we need to focus on the types of exercises that aren't about achieving anything, but are instead about maintaining your daily well being.
One example could be this:
One of the ways I try to stay healthy is with HIIT, which is short for High Intensity Interval Training. It's a fascinating form of exercise that you can do in just 15 minutes per day, and yet it has been proven to be as effective as longer (but slower) forms of exercise.
My source of inspiration for this is to watch Joe Wicks (TheBodyCoach), who has published a lot of videos about it. (I have a playlist here if you are interested).
Here is one example:
These videos are great, and Joe is doing an amazing job, but there are two problems with this:
First of all, the way you are supposed to do HIIT is that you should train for 4-5 days per week and rest for 2-3 days (although not necessarily in that order), but his videos don't follow this schedule.
At the same time, I am one of those people who think exercising is the single most boring thing in the world, especially if I have to do the same exercise over and over again. I just get so incredibly bored out of my mind, and it's because of this I struggle to stay motivated, even with Joe Wicks excellent videos.
So, could we do something to fix this?
The answer, again, is to look at this very interesting market for high-intent micro-moments. Instead of just posting a new video now and then, let's design for these micro-moments, and let's design them around this momentum.
In other words, how amazing would it be if Joe Wicks was to post a 15 minute video every day, combining different HIIT sessions for 4-5 days of the week mixed with health or wellbeing 'insights' related videos for the 2-3 days where you are supposed to rest?
Mind you, Joe Wicks is already very successful with his 30 or 90 day "Shift, Shape and Sustain" plans, which are optimized for fat loss. But again, this is designed for people who want to achieve something. It's for people who, within the next 90 days, want to transform their bodies.
I'm not looking for this.
What I want is a daily exercise moment, which HIIT is perfect for, that isn't trying to get me to achieve something, but will just help me stay healthy and in balance. And because I get bored doing the same exercise over and over again, I want each exercise day to be slightly different from the others.
And I believe that there are a lot of people who want the same thing. We don't want a high-intent macro-moment exercise plan, where we are supposed to reach a goal within a limited time. We want a high-intent micro-moment exercise thing that we can enjoy as a continuous form of momentum every single day...forever.
You see the difference here?
You see the potential market here?
You see how this specific form of market is currently unfulfilled because we are either focusing on the big stuff (high-intent macro-moments) or the pointless snacking (low-intent micro-moments)?
In this article, I have now highlighted just three different examples of how to make high-intent micro-moments work. We have looked at education, hobbies, and well-being. But you can look at anything in the world and spot the same kind of unfulfilled moments about that.
On the business to business side, there are many other forms of intelligence that professionals need in order for them to do their jobs better. And in many of these cases, people aren't looking for quick content optimized for Facebook, because that frankly isn't valuable (but I see many business publishers optimize for that), nor do we want content that we have to dedicate half a day on...because we don't have time for that.
Again, the answer here is to focus on high-intent micro-moments. Content that has very high-value, but is optimized and designed to be consumed quickly and efficiently during these specific moments within people's day.
And the key to making this work is to be really good at doing three different things:
The vital thing to get right is to understand when the moment is right. And let me give you an example.
There is one moment that most people have every single day that seems perfect for publishers to fill, and it's the moment when people are commuting home from work.
And true enough, there are many things that could be optimized for that period of time, but consider people's state of mind.
After work, people are usually worn out after a long day of struggling with work-related issues. They might be worried about how things are going, because maybe a project isn't working out right, or maybe the company is in trouble and they fear losing their job.
So what type of moment do people want to have after work? Do they want to have another work moment? Or do they want to have a non-work moment?
The answer is obvious. Most people don't want another work moment after work, especially not during their commute and directly after a long day. They probably just want to do this:
The after-work commute moment is not good for work related publishing. Instead, it would be better to focus those on people's mornings or even better during moments people can have while they are at work.
But, a good focus for the after-work commute might be the examples I showed you earlier with Monty Don's daily garden content.
It's the same about exercise. You can't do HIIT while commuting (well actually you could, but people would look at you as if you were an alien). Nor would you like to do it just after dinner, because that would probably kill you (it wouldn't, but high-intensity on a full stomach is not fun). So, when is the right moment for that?
We also have moments within moments. For instance, some (crazy) people like to get up really early in the morning and go for a run, which means they have a 20 minute moment for us to add something to.
What would fit into that? Especially considering that this is a very active moment in terms of people's state of minds.
Would it be work related stuff? Nope, that's way too soon for that. But what about things related to personal development? Yeah, that could work.
Of course, you would need to design it as a podcast, because people can't view or read anything while they are running. But yes, that could work too.
So, every single focus area has a different moment. And it's something that you need to understand for just the thing your publication focuses on, because otherwise you might be creating something that is good, but not relevant at that time (which is often a problem).
The second thing is to focus on providing intelligence to your audience, instead of content. This is something that journalists generally are not very good at, because, in the past, the focus was always to publish a package of content to a mostly vaguely defined audience.
But content designed for high-intent micro-moment is all about condensing people's 'intent' into the most efficient and relevant form possible. Meaning, it's not really about the content. It's about what the content provides.
Think of it like this. On Facebook, the primary focus is on getting people to 'consume' your content, because that moment is defined as a low-intent moment. But what we are trying to do here is to get people to 'use' the content.
It's very different.
So, think of yourself as an intelligence officer that a very specific audience has hired to help them. Be really good at this, and attack it from every angle possible.
We see this very clearly with Joe Wicks and HIIT as I explained before. Here it's not just about posting content about HIIT, because nobody cares about that. It's about doing HIIT, and making HIIT part of people's lives. But that's only one angle of attack.
Another angle is the insight that you bring to people about what HIIT is, why it's so remarkable as a form of exercise, and what health benefits that it provides. If you can then link that to actual intelligent information, like bringing in a real fitness doctor to bring real medical insight.
This is the level of value you need to focus on. It's not about reading. It's about doing.
Finally, think about people's workflows. The way publishing has been designed traditionally is to focus on content as a separate activity that people sit down with, and that is still true for the macro-moments (like with entertainment).
But for micro-moments, you really don't want to think about this as a separate activity. Instead, you need to embed it into people's workflows.
One example of this is to look at WGSN and the service that they provide. WGSN is a specialized business publisher for mostly the design industry (fashion). And what they offer (among many other things) is this:
Think about what this content is. This is not something you sit down to read after you have finished working. This is content that you use to do the work itself.
And if you want to make high-intent micro-moments work, you need to think this way too.
Mind you, this isn't just true for business related content. It's also true for everything else. Remember the example with Monty Don's Daily Garden? Remember how I said that a good moment for this is during the after-work commute?
That's true, but there is an even better moment for it. It's when people are doing the actual gardening itself. That's when people need this. That's when they are in the right mood. That's when they feel inspired by it.
Don't focus on creating content as a separate activity. Make it a part of people's workflow. Make it valuable for people to use at the exact moment when they are already doing it.
So, we have all these elements to work with and to get right.
We have the different types of moment that define very different markets for the media to engage in, each one requiring different models, strategies and monetization models.
We already know how to do the low-intent micro-moment stuff and the macro-moments, but we have been missing out on the high-intent micro-moments.
It's not an easy market to get into. In fact, it's probably the hardest one of all because you have to convince people to pay for something that seems small on any given day. So it's about building momentum, which takes time, value and effort.
And it's a market that is very different from traditional publishing, and also very different from social media publishing. But if you can make it work, it's such an interesting market with a lot of potential.
The key though is to make it so valuable that people want to pay for it, which means stepping up the effort on all fronts. It means that you need to do it with people who have a strong reputation, and real insights (random journalists hidden behind a byline would never work).
It also means putting a lot of effort into selling it to people. But it's such an exciting emerging market that is just waiting for us to get it right.
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