It's an odd-numbered "light" issue, rolling up snackable content with promotions, links, and other tasty bits of content and technology. This week brought with it a feast of extra juicy links, and if you direct your attention thataway ⬇️, you'll find content fit for chewing. None of the links are about the potential U.S. TikTok ban because you can find that elsewhere. All are great reads.

But first!

You may not be using AI to create content, but systems powered by AI (often called "natural language processing") are reading and distributing your work. Much like the high schoolers who labeled you as a "nerd" without asking your opinion, natural language processing and recommender systems are building a Knowledge Graph about your brand, whether you're an organization or an individual.

That sounds sinister, but it's not. Unlike the kids who never shake their opinion, you have control of what your Knowledge Graph says, as long as you pay attention and know what to look for. If you develop content with Knowledge Graph architectures in mind, you'll have more control over algorithmic content distribution in the future.

This Tuesday! I'm chatting through how you can build your content—and your digital presence—by understanding your Knowledge Graph. It's free! And live! Followed by a Q&A. Even if you can't tune in, you'll receive the full recording of the session if you sign up.

Register for Tuesday's webinar here. (If you registered on LinkedIn, it's the same broadcast.)

I'm sharing some brand new research I've put together, and it'll be an entertaining, slightly nerdy time in general. I guarantee you'll learn something.


Keyword research: A guide to everything we've ever published

Perhaps we're ahead of our time because we've been writing about how algorithms perceive and process language for years. Here's everything we've ever published about keyword research and its attendant algorithms.

Read the guide to keyword research

Content distribution thought starter

Honestly, truthfully, really: what is the business reason for separating "marketing" content from all the other content your product, publication, or organization creates? Does your customer/client/audience know the difference between marketing content and your other branded content?

Two links this week use some unnecessary and inaccurate hyperbole to attract you, the intelligent reader. And while I tend to stay away from sharing the "blahblah is dead" content on principle, the inaccurate titles in this week's links belie the very good information in the work itself.

Plenty of people buy books. My city sustains a remarkable number of independent bookstores, and yours likely does as well.

Google search is still used by something like 80% of the world, daily. It's not suffering, no matter what media outlets say.

Neither technology is dead or dying, at least from a consumer perspective. But business logic in both tech and publishing are certainly skewed to embrace a dramatic narrative of scarcity and constant conflict, rather than the persistent wealth and power both have amassed.

Read the full posts for good explanations about how publishing business models work and how growth-oriented business decisions are made.

  • An exploration of the largest book publishing business models—and why the publishing industry is not set up for you, indie author with no connections, to succeed financially—in Elysian Press. The post is erroneously titled "No one buys books." The story in the post says otherwise: most books don't make money, and yes, publishing economics look a lot like venture capital or creator economies that bank on virality. Book publishing, the music business, and film distribution are similar: a few major publishers make bets on a lot of content that people may or may not like in hopes of a megahit. 'Tis the way of things in mass media.
  • Decisions made by Google executives in 2019 rolled back quality control algorithms for search that the company had implemented years before. Ed Zitron creates an entertaining read from examining Google's antitrust emails and pinpointing moments of bad decision-making to artificially induce growth. While he puts a little too much emphasis on individual career history (does executive careering matter more than the fact that a product with a 90% global market share was unsatisfied with its growth?), he also describes that the origin of the term "code yellow" at Google derives from corporate tanktop lore. As a close watcher of Google search, I had been blaming 2019's decline in quality in search results on machine learning models, but turns out the shift was due to decisions intentionally made by people! It's always people.
  • On the good side of "it's always people," Wired tells the story of the eight Google employees who co-authored the paper that helped Large Language Models understand context (the technology called transformers in machine learning world). It's a nice read, kinda like an oral history, and it's always encouraging to hear from the people who actually build the technology, rather than the execs.
  • In this week's Contentment, Tracey Wallace discovers network effects, which are massively important in digital content distribution. If you've never heard of network effects before, start here!
  • The Tyranny of Content Algorithms by Om is a solid read—although I'd argue it's more about how people perceive and react to the algorithms and not the technology itself. (h/t Storythings)
  • I love when younger people finally get fed up with constant software interface changes. In Embedded, Kate Lindsay discusses how Instagram's newest UI shifts are bothersome and counter to audience needs.

Three links on data and measurement:

  • In CommonCog, Cedric Chin describes the goal of embracing data from the business side. Once you skip the first three paragraphs, it's surprisingly well-written for a business-first publication. I recommend highly.
  • In Bloomberg, Reyhan Harmanci argues that there is no good way of measuring internet audiences. While they're not wrong, the piece completely neglects to acknowledge the long history of audience measurement in media sales and advertising and fails to consider that any measurement systems exist outside the endlessly navel-gazing world of internet journalism. (Hello, hi, respond to this email and I can help you measure your audience. I swear it's not that hard.)
  • And in Columbia Journalism Review, the audience director at The 19th argues that the publication "invented a new metric" to measure their work's reach. Inventing a new metric is akin to inventing the piano key necktie (one of my most overused but hilariously useful film references). You're not "inventing" anything by reorganizing existing measurement systems into a key performance indicator (KPI) that better serves your organization. And ad buyers are still going to ask for a CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions), no matter what you concoct (see above about the long history of advertising and measuring audiences). But it's a good effort to understand audience measurement and impact, and the metric they've constructed for internal success looks sound.

The internet will get better I swear:

  • Ghost is adopting ActivityPub, a federated content distribution system to bring back the open web. Based on the nicely designed but confusing landing page, I am still struggling to determine what "adopting?" actually means—did they acquire the technology? or did they invent it? how will this system actually be better than what already exists?—but I generally trust Ghost to build good web, so hooray!
  • The HTML review is the best web experiment I've seen in years. I'm still playing around with it. Oh boy. I love this stuff. More like this!

The Content Technologist is a newsletter and consultancy based in Minneapolis, working with clients and collaborators around the world. The entire newsletter is written and edited by Deborah Carver, independent content strategy consultant, speaker, and educator.

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Cultural recommendations / personal social: Spotify | Instagram | Letterboxd

Did you read? is the assorted content at the very bottom of the email. Cultural recommendations, off-kilter thoughts, and quotes from foundational works of media theory we first read in college—all fair game for this section.

No matter what field you're in or where you stand on The Tortured Poets Department, I promise the Wall Street Journal's write-around profile of Taylor Swift's publicist will intrigue you. Tree Paine is a legend. I originally read this piece with a gift link since I refuse to subscribe to WSJ, but seek the whole thing out if you can.

And, as a casual Swiftie, TTPD is fine. It's too early to judge whether it lasts the test of time, and if it doesn't, great artists are all allowed to make mediocre records. Let the woman do her thing.