The Second Edition of Content Inc. is a fascinating read. If you’re an experienced content marketer, the first five chapters are nothing new; everyone with 5 years or more of content marketing experience should already know and do most of the Content Inc. framework. For newer, more inexperienced marketers, the Content Inc. framework is a useful one filled with practical checklists and suggestions for how to build a content-first business.
Where Content Inc. shines for me is on the back half, on revenue, diversification, acquisitions, and exiting the business. This is obviously the part of the book that didn’t exist in the first edition, before Joe sold CMI to UBM in 2017. He does something that almost no other entrepreneur does: he lays out the bloody guts of the transaction process, including detailed discussions of the financials and conditions of the deal.
This is where I found the most value in Content Inc. You can practically hear Joe reciting all the questions he got after selling CMI, and the chapter on exiting is essentially a recitation, a FAQ for that:
- How much did you sell your company for?
- What was the deal like?
- Who did you consider selling to?
- How did you make your decision about who to sell to?
- When should an entrepreneur sell their company?
Anyone who is or aspires to be a business owner needs to read and re-read the last few chapters to understand just how complex a transaction is. As someone who’s been through four transactions already, watching other people’s companies sell and get bought, all the pain Joe details in the process rings perfectly true. His advice on how to select and pay a financial advisor for the transaction alone is worth the cost of the book, because it’s one of those things that will make or break a deal – and possibly your sanity.
What if you’re not an entrepreneur and have no desire to be? If you’re an employee, reading through the back half of the book will give you a top-down view of what happens in a merger or acquisition, with one caveat: Joe’s a much nicer owner than most, and worked hard to protect his staff from the pain of acquisition as much as possible. I can’t say the same for many other companies.
And for the focus on marketing, the Content Inc. framework is meat and potatoes content marketing. You’ll find a lot of useful tips, reminders, checklists, and tactical ideas in it, stuff that is mostly proven to work.
What would I change in the book? The one area where the book falls short for me will not surprise you: analytics. There’s not a lot of detail spent on it, and I’m firmly of the belief that content marketing you don’t measure well is content marketing that is set up to fail. This is doubly true for a business you’re aiming to sell. Joe rightly suggests that every entrepreneur in a content-focused business exclusively focus on the subscriber, on building a reliably reachable audience, but after that, there’s not much analysis.
What should there have been? An explanation – even if there isn’t an example – of how you analyze your subscriber numbers to determine what’s working, and then make strategic and tactical decisions based on those analyses. It’s a best practice that multiple regression analysis on a KPI is essential for picking apart your KPI, breaking it down so you understand what numbers drive that KPI and then focusing on those sub-metrics. For some businesses, measures like Twitter followers are totally irrelevant vanity metrics. For other businesses, they’re a key driver. You won’t know the difference without that analysis.
That said, I’m honestly okay with Joe not including that level of detail in the book because then the rest of us would have nothing to write about.
So, to sum up:
- If you’re an entrepreneur, you must read the back half of Content Inc.
- If you’re a junior marketer, you must read the front half – and DO the work.
- If you’re an employee and you work for a company that’s even hinting about getting acquired, you must read the back half so you understand what’s going on behind the scenes.
Buy your copy wherever books are sold. Here’s the Amazon link (disclosure: affiliate link).
FTC Disclosure: Joe sent me a copy of the Second Edition of Content Inc. for free along with a pack of cookies. The cookies were okay, the book was better.