Why I’m Going All-In on Long-Form Content

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What do you get when you follow the pack instead of doing what’s best for you? A bad content strategy. A year ago, I decided to focus on short-form content because I saw all the “thread Bois” doing it and thought it would help my business. 

It didn’t. But luckily, you can course-correct your strategies. And thanks to some key talks and inspiration from CEX and Craft+Commerce, I’ve decided that long form is the best strategy for my business (and probably yours, too). 

Top Takeaways

  • When you focus on short-form content, it’s shallow. It’s like pouring a cup of water into a pool and telling people to go swimming.
  • Your content flywheel should start with long-form content. Then, you can break it up and create short-form content. Instead of starting with a cup of water, you’re starting with a well. 
  • If you run a business, your job is to make money. So your content should be helpful enough for people to trust you and then buy your products and services. Long-form content builds trust better. 

Joe Casabona: One of my favorite moments from Arrested Development, the critically acclaimed TV show is when Will Arnett’s character, Gob Bluth, utters the words “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Gob Bluth: I’ve made a huge mistake.

Joe Casabona: Well, over the last year-

Gob Bluth: I’ve made a huge mistake.

Joe Casabona: See, in all of my infinite wisdom, I decided to focus on short-form content for the past year. I saw what the thread boys on Twitter were doing, I saw people growing on LinkedIn, and I thought, “Well, this is a good strategy. I’ll just do what these people are doing.”

But the problem is most of those people already had a huge audience. And while I do have a wealth of content, it needed to be updated. Most of my content is from a previous life of programming. And I really needed to focus on long-form content. Because here’s the thing, only focusing on short-form content means that you’re stretching your content. And as a result, it’s still pretty shallow. You can pour eight ounces of water into a cup, or you can pour eight ounces of water into a pool, and either way, you’ll still have eight ounces of water.

So I have made a decision to focus on long-form content. And that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today. Why I made that decision, what led me to that decision, and my strategy and approach for long-form content moving forward. I hope you enjoy this solo episode. I think you’ll get a lot from it.

Plus, in How I Built It Pro, I’m going to tell you about some experiments with this very podcast, as well as my approach to my new newsletter, Podcast Workflows. So definitely check that out over at casabona.org/join. Really excited for that stuff.

But for now, let’s get into the intro, and then the episode.

[00:02:03] <music>

Intro: Hey everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast that helps busy solopreneurs and creators grow their business without spending too much time on it. I’m your host Joe Casabona, and each week I bring you interviews and case studies on how to build a better business through smarter processes, time management, and effective content creation. It’s like getting free coaching calls from successful solopreneurs.

By the end of each episode, you’ll have one to three takeaways you can implement today to stop spending time in your business and more time on your business or with your friends, your family reading, or however you choose to spend your free time. So let’s dive into it.

[00:02:52] <music>

Joe Casabona: Yes, I decided to focus on short-form content, which was a big mistake for me. I mean, I guess it wasn’t a big mistake depending on the goal, right? So if my goal was to grow my LinkedIn following and my social profiles, then that’s worked. I’ve grown my LinkedIn profile by 25% from the beginning of the year, which is really good. I’ve definitely networked with people in that way.

But what I haven’t done was drive more traffic to my website and get people to buy my services or sign up for my courses. That has changed in recent months because I think I’ve been focusing on longer-form content, sharing more, building, and public stuff like that.

So first, I want to share my current as of two months ago, repurposing flywheel, my content flywheel. This is something I’ve been sharing a lot because like I said, I really thought it was working for me. So first, I would find content to repurpose from my long-form content, mostly my podcast content, or like random thoughts I would have.

I would write down an idea—I’ve shared this a million times before—I’d write down an idea in Google Docs, and then use that as the basis for my content. Then I would create a LinkedIn post with that exact text. From there, I would create a podcast outline, which let’s be honest, it was just pretty much that text, and then I would stretch it into a full episode. From that, I would create a newsletter promoting the podcast, and then that would turn back into more content to repurpose.

The big problem here is I was creating really shallow content. So yeah, I’d have a fleeting thought, but I didn’t really dig deep into it. Sometimes I would do threads and they’d be a little bit deeper but for the most part, like I said earlier, I was trying to spread eight ounces, pour it from a glass into a pool and then tell people they could swim in it. But I’m reversing that now. I’m definitely going to focus on long-form content.

Before we get into that, though, I want to tell you two conferences and interactions that really shaped my view on long-form content. The first is Chenell Basillio’s newsletter Growth in Reverse. I got to interview her for this podcast in Episode 319. So just a few weeks ago as this comes out. I would strongly recommend you listen to that because Chenell has a wealth of information for long-form content. She’s really gone all in on long-form content.

I got to meet her in real life at CEX, and talking to her while also reading her newsletter inspired what I think is some of my best content in years, which is the Podcast Workflows newsletter. So that’s over atpodcastworkflows.com. Each week, I dig deep into how somebody publishes their podcast, how they’ve grown it, their process for it, and what you can take away from those processes.

I insinuated a little earlier that that long-form content is probably what’s driving my newsletter growth. I’ve seen probably 30% to 50% more signups since launching that newsletter than I have the rest of the year. So long form is definitely driving the bus, the growth bus for my newsletter right now.

When reading Chenell’s newsletter, I was inspired by that and I’ve decided to implement it. She spends like 25 to 40 hours researching all of her newsletters. And it’s just such high-value content. She has grown to 11,000 subscribers in six or seven months, which is incredible. And it’s because she has good shareable content. Nobody wants to share the super short, fleeting thoughts. Most of the time, that’s not even worth a like or a retweet. But when you go deep, and people read something, and they learn something from it, now that is worth sharing and talking about. When you teach someone something new, they inherently want to share it with other people. So Chenell’s newsletter was a big inspiration for me there.

At Craft & Commerce last month, I think Jay Clouse kind of put the nail in the coffin of me doing short form first with his Sawdust to talk. He talks about how short-form content is basically sawdust, and you’re trying to build something out of sawdust. And unless you want particleboard, which is flimsy and easily breaks, then you need to rethink your strategy. I really felt like he was talking directly to me. Because the month before, I had committed to creating Podcast Workflows, and then Jay comes in and says like, “Hey, stop making… your content shouldn’t be sawdust. Instead, you should focus on long form content, because that long form content can be broken up.” You can’t…

I have kids. I have three kids. Again, if you’ve listened to this for a long time, you know that. If I have one little square, like one of those nine squares from a Hershey bar, I can’t turn that into more chocolate for my children to share. But if I have one full Hershey bar, which is nine squares, I can break that up into three pieces and give one to each of my kids.

If you have long-form content, you can share that wholesale, and then you can break it up for each of your other content areas. You can clip it into short-form videos, you can turn it into tweet threads, you can share important parts in the newsletter. You can take parts of those stories and share them as a guest on a podcast or on a live stream. So the long-form content is the well from which you draw short-form content.

I’m mixing metaphors now but the water one has been working for me. So if you have a well full of gallons of water, you can pull 8, 12, 24 ounces for that short-form content. So Chenell’s newsletter was a big inspiration to me and then Jay’s Sawdust talk really solidified the idea in my head for focusing and going all in on long-form content.

And you know what? I love writing. I love writing and I hate social media. Like it just doesn’t make any sense that I would create content for a platform that I hate. And this is something that Tim Stoddart talked about as well at CEX. Now that I’m thinking about it, Tim, who’s going to be a guest on the show in a couple of weeks, maybe next week, as you listen to this, his approach is very similar. He writes every day. He publishes blog posts. He takes those blog posts and he breaks them up into smaller pieces of content to share on social media, all in the service of building his newsletter, which in turn sells people on his membership and his services. I’ll let him talk more about that and his philosophy. We had a really good conversation.

Again, shout out to Chenell and my friend Kat, both of whom have been on this show. They encouraged me to go to Tim’s talk. I just like hanging out in the hallway track just meeting people. Most of the time I wasn’t going to go to any talk at that time slot, and they really encouraged me to go. So thank you, Chenell and Kat, CEX and Craft & Commerce, I feel like really set me straight as far as my content strategy goes.

So we’ll get into how I’m focusing on long-form content in a minute. But first, I do want to talk about our sponsors for this episode. So let’s do that and then we’ll be back.

[00:11:53] <music>

Joe Casabona: Okay, so how am I focusing on long-form content? Well, I reworked my flywheel which I will share in the show notes for this episode, which you can find over athowibuilt.it/322. That’s howibuilt.it/322 to find the show notes, the flywheel, and everything we’ve talked about.

So here is my new flywheel. I start with content ideas. Ideas is still going to be the first place I go. So I’m logging all of my ideas in Airtable. Sometimes I’ll write them in Bear or Ulysses. But either way, I have a few buckets for me to go to start with the long-form content. And I should say that ideas can be older content that is repurposed and reframed. But when I was starting from the repurposing content, that was like the first section of my flywheel, again, I was trying to remix without having enough material to remix.

So I would run out of ideas, or I’d have a bunch of ideas that I didn’t want to put time into writing the long-form version of and so I ran out of steam, I guess is what happened. So now it’s content ideas. I write every day. I try to write every day. I’m pretty good at that. I write like 1,000 to 3,000 words a day so I can get the juices flowing and get into a flow state pretty quickly. I love writing.

Number two on this flywheel is long-form blog post or other forms of writing. So usually, I’m going to aim to publish something long form on my blog. This will be the basis for everything else that I share. I will share those articles in my newsletter. I will turn those articles into a podcast episode. Now, as you can probably guess, I have more of a script for that long-form content now, so I’m not pulling from thin air. I’m not trying to invent more content where there’s not. I’m not trying to fill the gallons and gallons size pool with eight ounces of water.

Where this will be the most evident, I think, is with my podcast, which is currently called the Profitable Podcaster. Even though I’ve had mission statements and I thought I had a clear directive for that show, I really haven’t. I started just kind of rereading older blog posts and then I tried the flywheel of starting on LinkedIn and turning that into episodes. Nothing has really stuck.

My most popular episode today is the generative AI podcast, or podcast episode rather… sorry, for everybody who’s really serious about referring to podcast episodes as a podcast. My most popular podcast episode is the generative AI one. And it’s pretty obvious, like that one by a longshot.

But again, I really haven’t been putting a ton of effort into the show if I’m being honest with myself. So what I will likely do is rename that, again, sorry everybody, rename that again to Podcasts Workflows and make those audio versions of my deep dives. I think that this is a really good way to mix up the content and bring people deliver the content in a different way that is probably more convenient for people. Because those deep dives are between 2,000, 1,000 words long, they might take a while.

So what I’ll do is I’ll give the top takeaways upfront. We’ll go through the deep dive. And then I’ll reiterate the top takeaways at the end. And I think that will be really good content. So that’s an experiment. But I think that’s where it will be most evident. So getting back to the flywheel, turn the long-form posts into newsletters, into podcast episodes, and then break those down and turn them in to social posts.

One of my most popular threads/LinkedIn posts is the thread I made from Jay Clouse’s podcast workflow deep dive. That really killed it on Instagram for me, to be honest. It was very popular on Twitter as well. So starting with the long-form content means I can distill instead of trying to expand, that’s really the theme of this episode. Don’t try to invent something out of nothing, create, and then pull the important parts. Where this has proved, at least in my one experiment so far, where this has proved to be even better, is my audits.

So let’s talk about the types of long-form content I’m going to focus on. That’s my flywheel, start with long-form, turn it into newsletter, podcasts, social posts last. But what kind of content am I creating? First, Podcasts Workflows. I’ve talked about that. Again, I spend about eight to ten hours creating these deep dives. And the reason I can do it in eight to ten hours is because I do send a questionnaire to podcasters.

Most podcasters are not making their process super open. And maybe they’re not talking about the things that I might be interested in. So the reason I was able to get 3,000 words from Jays is because we actually sat down and talked for a while and I was able to ask him questions. But the most recent one was with Justin Jackson in Transistor. That was good. Justin shared his experience and then I was able to do some research based on what he said. I have a bunch of those ready to go. I’m trying to write one a week. With being sick and travel, it’s been like two a month. But I think that’s going to increase as I really hone my process.

The other piece of long-form content… well, a couple more. Articles for members. So I was writing on Medium. I was writing these on Medium. That’s kind of where my long-form content journey started. I haven’t been super happy with what Medium has been able to do for me. So I think I’m gonna focus, though, that effort on writing those articles for my members. My members get a Friday newsletter that is generally focused on automation. But then again, I can pull from those bits and share the shorter-form stuff elsewhere. And then I could say, hey, if you want the full kit and caboodle, become a member. That is sawdust from my members’ content that I can turn into essentially promotional content.

Long-form tutorials or thoughts. So something I’m working on right now is called ConvertKit for podcasters. I imagine I can do one of these pieces like a month, maybe once every two months because they’re going to be like pretty big guides, I think. But I have one on mini podcasting, I have the nine bad pitch archetypes, those pieces of content that can do pretty well for me.

And then again, with the nine bad archetypes, ostensibly I can have nine days of content on social media because of that. Or with the mini-podcast, I got an actual mini podcast out of that with ConvertKit for podcasters. There’s like 10 headings, I think, for the outline that I’m writing. So that can turn into a bunch of different pieces of content.

And then finally, and I think this… so this is the thread that’s really done orders of magnitude better than most of my content is sharing podcast audits and coaching calls. A service I’ve been offering lately is a podcast audit. Someone pays me to spend about an hour doing a deep dive into their podcasts from the outside. The only things I asked them are, what are your goals so that I can kind of direct the audit? And what’s what do you think is your best episode to date? Because some people need some time getting really into it. So I’m not gonna look at the first episode, maybe the last episode they put out was a bust. But they probably have one episode that they’re especially proud of. And so I like to ask them for that.

And then I create a 15-minute video, 15 to 20 minutes really, video explaining what I found in the report. I share the report with them and then I go deeper into why I’m telling them to do the certain things and what they should do next. Last week, I published on Twitter my first podcast audit thread. And shout out to Jung Soo Chung, he gave me the idea to do this. Take the audit, break it down into shorter videos, turn that into a Twitter thread, talk about the top takeaways from each video, link to the full audit.

That didn’t lead to any direct sales but my follower count increased, it got a lot of engagement, tons of bookmarks, which is probably people saying like, Hey, I need this, I’ll be ready for this soon.” But it also got over, as I record this, over 11,000 views, which again, most of my content gets like in the low to mid-hundreds. So that content, as multiple people have pointed out, is unique, it’s interesting. It’s not just as Khe Hy puts it, thread [buoying?]. I’m actually delivering super useful show intel content. And it’s also establishing me as an authority.

So I’ve got a bunch of audits I’ve already done and I have ideas for quote-unquote, auditing celebrity podcasts or popular podcasts and basically telling people why they shouldn’t try to copy those celebrities. So I think I’m most excited about that content. So that’s going to be the source for my flywheel: podcasts, workflows, articles for members, longer form tutorials and think pieces, and then repurposing podcasts, audits, and coaching calls.

Now, the goal of all of this is really to build my mailing list. I have four goals for real, but I want to build my mailing list. Building my mailing list is the thing that’s going to serve the other goals. So build my mailing list by publishing more regularly and publishing more shareable long-term content. So I’m going to do two times per week for non-members three times per week with the members’ email, where the Monday newsletter is about 500 words, and then this podcast episode, this week’s podcast episode that comes out. And then if I’m promoting a workshop or something like that, that will go in that newsletter.

Wednesday’s will be the podcast workflows newsletter. And the way that’s formatted right now is the workflow with a link to all 3000 words that will get cut off in the actual newsletter, a podcast listener question, and then a promotion. So I’d like to sell more newsletter sponsorships there. And I have some lined up for July, which is exciting. So that is the format for the newsletter.

I’d also like to sell more services. So one of the things hopefully by sharing my podcast audits is people see the kind of direct, helpful content I’m doing for other people and they decide to hire me. Sharing has been a great way because most people are like, “I didn’t even know that you did this.” So sharing that content will hopefully lead to more sales as well as a few other pieces of my strategy that I’ll talk about in How I Built It Pro and for the members. So sell more services.

Eventually, launch relevant cohort-based course. This is likely going to be on podcasting and automation, but seeing the long-form content that resonates will inform that decision. Then finally, as I mentioned, more sponsorship opportunities. So if I have long-form content and I build my mailing list, this will hopefully give me the ability to sell more newsletter sponsorships, create better packages and increase my reach for them.

For the mailing list, I do want to give a shout-out to Creator Network, ConvertKit Creator Network. They have introduced this for sort of recommendation engine, which has been really great, but they also acquired SparkLoop. So they are making it really easy for… easier, I should say, for newsletter owners, content creators to monetize their newsletter and grow their newsletter. My strategy will certainly be accelerated by the Creator Network, which is cool.

So that’s it for this maybe shorter episode, I haven’t been really keeping tabs on the time. But that’s it for this episode. To recap, I’ve made a huge mistake in deciding to focus on short-form content first, because as Jay Clouse put it, I am creating sawdust and trying to sell that sawdust instead of creating something big and useful.

And I should say that it’s okay to sell your sawdust, but you don’t make sawdust to sell. The sawdust come from whatever you’ve made. So as a result, everything I was talking about was shallow. My content repurposing flywheel was working if the goal was grow my LinkedIn audience, but it was not working in the sense that I want to drive more traffic to my website and grow my newsletter.

CEX and Craft &Commerce really shaped that for me. So now my long-form content strategy is to write the long-form content, turn that into newsletter, podcast, and then finally, social posts. I have lots of different types of content I’m creating, all of which the goal should be to build my mailing list, sell more services, and increase sponsorship opportunities for me because I am trying to run a business. So I’m trying to create something useful for other people, and that should hopefully benefit me as well.

Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear about the podcast experiments I’m doing, as well as how I’m putting my podcast workflows together and some of the other things I’m experimenting with, be sure to become a member over at casabona.org/join. You’ll get access to this and every episode without ads and with the longer portion. But for now, thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.

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