Message Lab

Our Philosophy for Creating Content People Care About

The battle for attention is about to get worse. Here are 4 keys to making sure your story stands out

By Laura Rich

Every day, the internet grows by 10 million new blog posts, 720,000 hours of new YouTube videos, 34 million new TikTok videos, and, by one estimate, 2 million to 3 million news articles. This democratization of publishing is a wonderful thing, giving more people ways to be creative and express themselves, and establish communities that couldn’t exist before.

It’s also terrible, because it creates a deluge that makes it nearly impossible for people to find what they want. This is likely to get much worse as generative AI tools like ChatGPT drive down the cost to create content to effectively zero, opening up perilous new fronts in the war for attention. 

At Message Lab, we’re constantly war-gaming the battle for your attention. Even as we’re learning and experimenting with generative AI, we’re focused squarely on our mission to “rid the world of content no one cares about,” which is aimed at making it easier to find content that matters. It turns out, that’s pretty hard. 

One tool does not fit all

Just as you wouldn’t bring a knife to a gunfight, as they say, you don’t succeed in this messy, multifront war for attention with a single tool. You don’t just create the best content, as shiny and beautiful as it may be. Volume isn’t the answer, either. To win key battles in this war for attention, only a multipronged approach ensures the right content reaches the right people at the right time. 

Because making a reader care takes work. You need to have a compelling angle and tell your story in a compelling way. It must be relevant (Is it worth looking at right now?), credible (Will I get value out of it?), and effective (Did it spark the desired action?). But that alone is not enough. We've learned that design is paramount — it is the single biggest contributing factor to whether someone is going to begin to read or not, and after that, story takes over. People make snap decisions about whether something is worthy of their time. So you need to make it clear at a glance that the piece merits their attention. 


And content is no good if it’s the proverbial tree falling in the forest no one hears. Story and design are also intertwined with other dynamics we study, such as the conversion rate. An evolution takes place in the relationship between the reader and your brand between the first time they read an article and the point at which they are confidently taking action, whether it’s a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or some other conversion moment. These high-quality stories must be easily discoverable by the right readers, so it’s easy to find what matters. And once they’ve found and read the piece, what was their experience? Content intelligence informs us when a piece has connected with readers in a way that matters — and if it misses, we draw lessons so we can do better next time.

The alchemy of the components

On its own, each leg of the stool is powerful. But what makes a content program really hit its mark is when all four of these work together.

As the internet grows noisier and nosier, you’ve got to signal good content to your target audience — and make sure they can find it. A combination of narrative excellence, premium experience, content intelligence, and judicious promotion will get you there.

About the author
Laura Rich
Laura Rich

Laura has spent her career focused on creating content and community for business audiences. She is a former freelance columnist for The New York Times, author of “The Accidental Zillionaire,” a biography about Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and a former editor at Condé Nast Portfolio, Fast Company, Inc., The Industry Standard, and other publications. As an entrepreneur, she has built three digital media and events brands, including Street Fight, a site for hyperlocal technology professionals. She is based in Boulder, Colorado.

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