I look at tons of content each week and I spend a lot of time separating the wheat from the chaff. So, when I find a perfectly good piece of content to share, you’d think I’d be all over it.
Unfortunately, there can be very good reasons not to share a good piece of content. Most of those reasons, in my experience come down to format and style and plain old personal preference.
Prick up your ears online publishers. Here are a few of the reasons I often won’t share a good piece of your content:
1. Prominent errors are a dealbreaker
Ever come across that amazing piece of content that makes your point better than you could? You absolutely want to share it, but staring you in the face is a big fat spelling error. Maybe it’s in the headline, or it’s a key theme repeated (and misspelled) throughout the piece. Even though I love the piece and think it will add value, the big question is: if I share this, will other people think I didn’t notice this glaring error? Do I re-commit the error by sharing? Admittedly, this doesn’t usually happen Quite distinct from small typos in a piece, in most cases spelling errors are trump and I don’t share the piece.
2. Pagination that reduces usability is a barrier
Online publications break longer stories up into multiple pages. There are very few cases, in my opinion, where pagination improves the usability of the content. This tactic is generally used to increase page views for ads. I will always seek out a “full article” link and if I can’t find one I consider whether to share the piece or not. And I’m not the only one who finds pagination annoying in many settings.
3. Small fonts make the reader struggle
With the explosion of web design themes for blog publishing platforms like WordPress, there is a lot of bad design out there. To be sure, there is also good design, but I find even many nicely designed off-the-shelf WordPress themes are weak when it comes to typography. Fonts are too small. Contrast between text and background is weak. Line lengths are way too long. It all adds up to poor usability – which raises the threshold for readability. In other words, it better be a damn good article if I’m going to recommend it to my networks as something worth slogging through.
4. Bad layout lacks a human touch
There are many content partnerships online where content from one source is published on another site. When this process is automated, sometimes the resulting layout can look careless and, well, automated. In these situations where the content is awkwardly displayed or obviously missing visual elements that were present in the original piece, I tend to go looking for the original source article to share instead.
5. No “Pinnable” images limits sharing
When I find a great article, I want to leverage it across a variety of networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. It’s amazing these days how many articles are still not accompanied by a “pinnable” image. The absence of a shareable image disqualifies the piece from being shared in a space that is driven by images.
6. Slide shows often don’t add value
I’m not talking about a well-crafted slide deck, like the kind Hubspot and many other creative folks publish on SlideShare. What I’m identifying here is a variation on the overly paginated article where the text is broken up into paragraphs that are stuck on a page with an image. Online magazine sites (here’s an example) tend to use this format, I suspect, to maximize ads that can be displayed. For me, this format adds nothing of value. In fact, it reduces the value of the content because now I can’t scan an article quickly because I have to click 8 or 10 times just to see it. Again, the information better be exceptional in order to overcome this reason not to share.
I often discover exceptional content on sites with paywalls or “register walls” (free to registered users only), for example on the WSJ site. Even if I am a registered user, I know that most of the recipients of my content share won’t be. And there’s nothing more frustrating than finding a great article and running into a wall. I know, over time, some users scale the wall and become subscribers, but many never do. They go somewhere else find their information.
As a curator, that’s what I do too.