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Block Island 2008

Phoning it in has become a popular pejorative among the blogging and social crowd. It’s considered the epitome of laziness, the pinnacle of apathy, and it’s something that you want to avoid as much as possible, right?

Except… we’re human. Some days we simply don’t have enough A-game in the tank. Some days we simply don’t have a well to draw from and not enough time or resources to recharge the batteries in a timely manner.

Some days, we have to phone it in.

Here’s the funny thing: if you phone it in correctly, at least from a content creation perspective, you can create some stuff that’s incredibly valuable and timeless. Here’s a few examples of posts I phoned in:

  • Tools I use on my Mac. Total phone-in list post that involved opening my Applications folder and talking about what I found in it. In the 3 years it’s been up, it’s one of my top 50 most visited blog posts.
  • Bertucci’s pasta sauce cloning attempt. Another post that’s in the top 50 of all time, I was messing around trying to figure out how they got their pasta sauce to taste as good as it did.
  • Free iPad wallpapers. I was swamped at a conference I was at and didn’t have time to blog, so I fired up iPhoto, browsed through my archives of photos, and sliced up 10 photos into 1024×1024 JPGs, then linked them up. In the top 25 blog posts I’ve ever done, traffic-wise.

The secret behind phoning it in, when you have to do it, is to draw on stuff you’ve already got, stuff that you know so well, stuff that is fresh in your mind that you can write about . These more casual, less “on message” pieces of content appeal to the personal, human sides of ourselves and can be a welcome break for your audience as well.

Some other phoning it in ideas:

  • Favorite songs in your audio collection that make you…
  • Your grandmother’s heritage recipe for…
  • How to make tomatoes taste better in …
  • Five tricks you use to break the ice at…
  • How to shop for…

Should you phone it in all the time? No, of course not. But when you do have those days when you need a break, make something valuable anyway. You’ll be amazed at the longevity and power of some of the phoned-in topics. I wonder how a blog post on phoning it in will do…

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3 responses to “Phoning it in”

  1. Hi Christopher,

    On phoning it in…I couldn’t help but think of my years as a ballet dancer…We had barre work and center work…Barre work was all routine and repetition. The center work is where you pulled it all together, into something original–a dance and not just steps, or parts of a dance. You had to do a lot of barre work to get good in the center, especially when you were just starting out. And you kept showing up at the barre, whether or not you were inspired. It was that discipline, which ensured you would ultimately pull it all together, into something more–something inspirational & original.

    Keeping with this dancing analogy–I was also a jazz dancer. My ballet always improved when I took jazz classes alongside it. That’s when I goofed around and danced without as much intensity. But playing around in this way, phoning it in, if you will, prepared me to do some of my best work.

    Nice post. Well-appreciated.


  2. I wonder how many types of posts this one is going to generate today, simply because you said it’s a good idea. I don’t know if we can measure that metric in any meaningful way.

    Was going to make a joke about phoning it in is impossible as my cell phone isn’t active right now, however, couldn’t come up with a sufficient punchline….

    Another angle might be to look at who we’re phoning it in to, but that may take too long, based on what you’ve posted previously.

  3. […] I read several posts last week about not phoning it in during that week between Christmas and New Year’s. Like this one from Chris Brogan, this one from Jen Fong and this alternative take from Christopher S. Penn. […]

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