You Have No Idea Who Will Use Your Content

I ended up as an inadvertent expert on ketchup and cats

As a content creator, you can sometimes predict which pieces of content (articles, photos, videos, etc.) will do well before you even hit the Publish button. But in many cases, you have no idea.

As a journalist and photographer, I’ve had all manner of random topics suddenly blow up, or attract interest in unexpected ways. Case in point? I’ve recently become the go-to photographer for media interested in documenting America’s ongoing ketchup shortage.

During the pandemic, ketchup maker Heinz is apparently having trouble meeting demand. There has been a fair amount of news coverage about this. Much of that coverage has used photos that I took.

Here’s one in WBUR:

Fox News:

And my favorite, Newsweek:

Likewise, earlier this year I published several stories about the Lawyer Cat incident, where a Texas lawyer mistakenly engaged a filter on his Zoom call, turning himself into a cartoon cat while testifying in court.

Overnight, I inadvertently became an expert on the subject. I ended up giving an interview about the incident on CNN, being used as a source by Fast Company, and going on This Week in Tech (TWiT) to talk about it, too.

Cats and ketchup. These are not niches or content areas I intended to develop. No one wakes up in the morning and says “What should my new content strategy be? Ah, I know! I’ll focus on the Felines and Condiments beat!”. In each case, when I produced the original piece of content, I had no idea it would become popular, much less land me on CNN or in Newsweek.

The lesson for content creators? You might think that you can predict which pieces of content will do well when you create them. But really, you nave no idea. You can labor for months on a super-detailed piece that goes nowhere, and then write something on a deadline in 45 minutes that lands you on TV or brings in 100,000 views.

How should you adapt your content strategy to address this uncertainty? For starters, it helps to be prolific. My ketchup photo took off because I photograph absolutely everything. I happened to have five photos for the keyword “ketchup” already in my portfolio when the ketchup shortage story broke, so I was ready to go in advance. That comprehensive coverage maximized my chances of capitalizing on a random, unpredictable market need.

It also helps to move fast. With Cat Lawyer, I was able to research and produce content about the story in under 24 hours. That made me a fast expert on it (it tied into my overall expertise in visual AI, too), and that helped in covering the breaking topic. And it helps to avoid niches. If I focused only on covering technology companies with my photography, I would never have thought to photograph ketchup. Niches are outdated — you don’t need them in today’s content world.

Overall, though, the best strategy is just to produce a lot of content, and to ensure that it’s readily available to your audience. The more photos, videos, article, etc. you produce, the higher the chance that one will hit on a random, unpredictable content need and take off. So rather than focusing on trying to find the next big thing, take a step back and use you time for broader, more prolific, faster creation. The next time a random topic comes along and attracts a surprising level of interest, you’ll be ready.

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography.

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