How researchers get heard
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Are You Need or Feed?

Howard Mittman, whose career encompasses top roles at Bleacher Report, WIRED and GQ, tells Brian Morrissey’s “The Rebooting Show” that there are two kinds of publishing today: Purpose-Driven vs. Mission-Driven, or what Mittman has called in the past “Feed” vs. “Need”: Here’s Mittman on the difference:

“Purpose-driven publishing is about ad dollars and collecting affiliate revenue. It’s about filling a gap that consumers have based off of a Google search or social media. Mission-driven is where I’m interested in now. You see that in areas like the environment and in news.”

This trend sounds like good news for research-driven organizations like yours, many of which would describe themselves as mission-driven. As Morrissey puts it in his teaser for the episode, “in the next era of digital publishing, you want to be on the Need site.” And who does Need content better than the research-driven and mission-driven? Doesn’t everyone within our target communities need our content?

And that’s the problem: Too many research-driven organizations interpret “Need” content as “content that our target communities need to see/hear/watch,” not content those audiences think they need.

Unless your organization has highly differentiated positioning andunless that positioning is expressed in your content and unless your content delivers a clear, timely need to your target communities that no one else does — then no one will think they need your content. No one will stop what they’re doing to read it.

Which means you’re just more Feed.

Here’s how Mittman defined Need vs. Feed in an earlier interview with Digiday:

Need has higher engagement, shareability, passion. If I worked at Bloomberg, I’d be psyched about this moment. If you’re into finance and you need to know what GE closed at, you’re going to push aside the beeps, the blinks, the texts and get to exactly what that closing price was. It’s a need, a deep-rooted passion, and it’s timely. Sports is the same way. We have a horizontal vertical, and we get to tap into that content. A small percentage of content that we consume is need. Everything else is feed. Inside of feed, things you’re happy to consume but you’re not looking for it, you won’t engage or spend time with it. The brands that have been subsisting off of feed versus focusing on premium content in need are having a reckoning.”

Need isn’t about your perception of their needs. It’s about their perception of their Need and how your content helps fill it. Obviously, you’re not competing with Bloomberg or The Athletic. But what Need does your content address?

Putting out premium content for people’s Needs isn’t magic beans — it needs (pun intended) distribution. But distribution isn’t magic dust, either. Distribution of content nobody’s looking for is just more Feed.