Content Value is in the Eye of the Reader

Content value is a shifting target, unless you carefully choose who your reader is going to be. A webinar I attended years ago makes a good example of this truth.

It was presented by an internet marketer I once followed. That webinar still impacts my approach to writing valuable web content, even though his products ceased to be of value to me at least five years ago. I walked away from that webinar impressed with one key point. It’s an old saying, yet remains true. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

You only get your reader’s attention when you are relevant.

During the webinar, I cheerfully took the chiding of the speaker who kept telling us that we needed to stop multitasking and pay attention to him. As the beholder, I found his message didn’t require my full attention. Why? Because he wasn’t saying anything new—yet.

Does this mean his webinar wasn’t good? No. It was an excellent webinar on how to be successful in online marketing.

So why was I multitasking instead of giving the speaker my full attention? His valuable content wasn’t targeted at me for most of the webinar.

Yet, the moment came when I sat up and gave him my full attention. I had expected that moment. I had joined the webinar expecting him to have a nugget of information at some point that would be too good to miss. That’s when multi-tasking stopped.

Relevancy may not be your #1 concern, yet it competes for the top of the list.

Unfortunately, the only book format that’s going to allow multi-tasking is audio. Thus as an author, you can’t expect potential readers to wade through pages of mistargeted content. Reading just isn’t that popular anymore. You have to hook your reader with the cover (title, appearance and book description). Then your first sentence must be relevant and intriguing enough to keep them hooked. That’s true for both non-fiction and fiction markets. You want potential readers saying, “I have to get this book,” within seconds of picking it up.

Relevancy is to ‘hook and hold’ what heads is to tails on a coin. No successful book or article can exist without the two elements complementing each other.

Valuable Content Begins with Knowing Your Reader.

As an author seeking readers, it’s a challenge to provide valuable content. Knowing who you are is a good start, yet this isn’t enough. Your audience can be at so many different experience levels. One reader may find your content a mere review, while another may be learning things for the first time. How do you ensure that you are writing valuable content to both of these readers? Is it a viable strategy to reach out to readers at multiple experience levels?

Much depends on the complexity of your subject. Obviously a book in the ‘X for Dummies’ series needs to focus on an inexperienced audience. The title makes it clear that is the reader the book is written for.

However, there are many situations where a non-fiction writer can target readers with different experience levels. Self-help books are a good example. However, to remain relevant to a broader audience, you must embrace three concepts.

1. Express New Ideas.

The new information I anticipated led me to joined the webinar. The speaker had built his reputation. Because I knew that there was going to be something there, I hung on—even though it took over an hour before his content became relevant. This content is for members only.

2. Commit to a Meaningful Message.

Valuable content may be in the eye of the beholder, yet that doesn’t rip all control out of your fingers. When you commit yourself to providing something worth reading each time you publish, you’ll build the kind of brand that makes people interested in what you have to say, even if they disagree with you. (I am assuming you want to publish again and again.)

What do readers find meaningful? This content is for members only.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Start with an Opinion.

Controversy creates interest. Though it’s not essential for a good read, the courage to express an opinion and support it persuasively draws readers.

Look at a very successful author in the non-fiction sphere, Gretchin Rubin. This content is for members only.


Your work will be more valuable to some readers than others. There’s no avoiding that. Yet, when you focus on being relevant, it’s easier to grow an audience.

There will always be people who think your book is worthless. Don’t fret over it, if you didn’t write your book for them. After all, if your audience feels that nothing you publish is worthless, they will become your sales team.

(Interesting Note: The best way to achieve SEO results is capturing an audience who finds what you write relevant.)