Sunday, July 18

Ranking Content Providers: Fresh Content Project, Second Quarter

For those who don't know (or maybe forgot), Copywrite, Ink. is running a year-long experiment called the Fresh Content Project, which puts popularity to the test. By eliminating the popularity equation from about 250 blogs, we pick a single standout post per day (with weekend posts spilling into Monday). There is no algorithm.

In fact, we don't even tally daily picks until the end of each quarter. And, after kicking it around the office, we decided not to keep year-to-date tallies either. Each quarter can stand on its own. We'll recount it all, every post, at the end of this year.

Last quarter, we published 36 Fresh Content Communicators. This quarter, April 1 to June 30, we found 38. Some names are new. Some of last quarter's names didn't make the cut.

What does that mean? It could mean anything. It might mean their best posts landed on a day when someone wrote something better. It might mean they're on vacation or haven't written in some time. Some have already been fresh picks in the third quarter. So suffice to say, this experiment isn't about winning and losing and there is no possible way to game it.

The way we see it, anyone included last quarter or this quarter has provided some invaluable content. And in our book that makes anyone who reads their blogs the real winners. Also, in terms of ranking, there is no correlation between the first quarter and second quarter. Nobody really rose and nobody really fell. If you think otherwise, wait until the end of the year.

So, below are 38 communication-related professionals who provided Fresh Content picks in the second quarter of 2010. While some are suited for specific tastes, the top of this list (with more than one pick) ought to be in your reader.

The folks below represent some of the freshest, most original content related to communication today. And, we look forward to reading more of their fresh content in the third quarter along with even more new and fresh faces. The comments are yours.

38 Fresh Content Communicators By Quality Of Content

1. Valeria Maltoni continues to blend communication strategy into everything she does at the Conversation Agent. Some regular readers might have noticed Maltoni is favoring tighter posts lately. In this case, tighter might not be better but it doesn't hurt either. Maltoni belongs on your daily read list. Her posts consistently land on the top of the pile.

2. Last time around, we called Ike Pigott an undervalued smart guy who pens Occam's RazR. In the last three months, he has only gotten better, with one of his posts still considered the best we read all year. His ability to simplify subjects by employing analogy and storytelling is a rare treat to read. Even when there isn't room to be the top pick of the day, Pigott always provides something within the top three.

3. We made Adam Singer smile over the idea that The Future Buzz might have been overly bullet heavy last quarter. You won't find it that way anymore, and it makes for memorable reading. Singer is easily someone to put on your watch list, especially if you like your communication conversations sprinkled with business. Memorable.

4. Geoff Livingston doesn't write as much about communication like he once did. However, anyone reading his work at Geoff Livingston will find it still rings loudly in whatever theme he covers. Even when you don't agree with him, his knack for nailing the truth on a great many subjects will dazzle you — especially when they go against the grain. More than that, he has a big heart and his recent efforts to help people in the Gulf are admirable.

5. If you have ever had the pleasure to meet Jason Falls, you already know he can best be described as infectious. And lately, Social Media Explorer has been digging ever deeper into the fine line between perception and reality. His conclusion: Get out of your comfort zone because sometimes the people who aren't talking hold more insights than the people who are. So that's why we read Jason Falls.

6. Louis Gray, author of LouisGray.com has penned his fair share of surprising insights in the last quarter, including his comprehensive list of 50 top startups. So if you want to keep up with the tech business side of social media, he has to be included on your read list.

7. As the dominating voice on TopRank, it's probably no surprise to see Lee Odden on this list. Lately, what we've loved best about Odden's work is his quest to keep pace with the changes occurring within SEO and social media. For the last few months, Odden has also led the charge on putting a more human face on SEO, which is a direction that will only make the industry stronger.

8. Roger Dooley doesn't only care about what people think. He cares about how they think too. Several times a week, he'll show some studies and observations about how they do on Neuromarketing. If you're in communication today, you ought to be interested. Nothing will help you think more strategically than skipping tactical tips and thinking about how people think.

9. You know Ian Lurie must write some good posts on Conversational Marketing. Why? If they weren't good, I'd never pick them just because it's such a hassle to find his Twitter account. That little rant aside, Lurie has a nice blend of SEO, social media, and marketing that become addictive over time. He's especially good when he's grounded. Watch for those moments.

10. Arik Hanson and his Communications Conservations is another under-read communication blog, with an emphasis on social media. Many of his tips are task-oriented, but every now and then Hanson tackles the reality of a deeper issue — like the myth of a viral video. In addition to his blog, make sure you follow him on Twitter.

11. There doesn't seem to be any doubt that Dave Fleet is at his best when he outlays what he thinks in the frankest way possible. The DaveFleet.com blog is a mix of lists with the occasional burst of well-thought-out insights. It's a good mix of anything goes and everything Fleet finds relevant. One of our favorites this quarter was Fleet telling people why their social media campaigns probably suck.

12. It seemed to take some time before the Web Strategy blog by Jeremiah Owyang had as much as passion as it did when we first started reading it. But this time around, Owyang's less frequent posts seem back on track in between the news bites. His tried and true signature matrix maps always bring something new to communication strategy. Watch for those.

13. Mitch Joel isn't going to go anywhere soon. Six Pixels Of Separation always provides a deep look at whatever content Joel happens to be presenting. Some people say that makes his blog too heady to be popular. But on the contrary, that is precisely what makes his blog worth reading daily. You'll find a sort of zen there that other thinkers just don't seem to have.

14. If you are looking for someone to make you smile while you learn some lesson in communication, try This One Time At Brandcamp, penned by Tom Fishburne. Every week or so, Fishburne offers up a lesson or two tucked under an illustration that could stand on its own. You might not always be sure which came first, the cartoon or the post, but they always match just the same.

15. Reading The Brand Builder by Olivier Blanchard won't be everyone's bag. We say that only because his most memorable posts attempt to teach us two things at once. It makes the post much longer, and we think more memorable too (which is our bag). We especially like his lesson wrapped up in history. He's sharp on ROI too, you know, for good measure.

16. Perhaps it's because he hails from South Africa, but Patrick Collings sees things differently at the Brand Architect. What's somewhat refreshing here is that he doesn't always have a need to repurpose other people's ideas. He just shares them straight and allows you to draw your own conclusions. It also makes his thoughts on branding more powerful when he does take the time to share his ideas on how things could be done.

17. Peter Winick is a new face to Fresh Content, but Thought Leadership Leverage has been in our personal reader much longer. What we like best about Winick is his regular procession of asking the right questions at the right time. A few days ago, I mentioned that asking questions is one of the three cornerstones of creativity. Winick gets it.

18. Peter Himler offers up plenty about public relations on The Flack with an emphasis on using YouTube as a conversation starter. Sometimes there are great social media crossover topics too, including his analysis on what BP could have done better in reaching people online. It was smart, bookended by many other smart ideas.

19. Dean Rieck isn't as well known among the social media crowd, but he has made a name for himself in copywriting circles. We met online several months ago, and I've been reading ProCopyTips ever since. If you want to start looking outside your bubble, make sure you add him to your list. I'm not just saying that because of my background as a copywriter. Heck, Rieck didn't even call while he was in Vegas.

20. Maria Reyes McDavis aka WebSuccessDiva is our favorite colossal digital geek brainiac at Digital Peas & Carrots. She's always helpful outlining various SEO tactics for copy and content writers as opposed to the IT teams. And she always tempers her SEO advice with a warning. Being found is great, but you still need great content to keep people around.

21. Anytime you need someone to liven up a party, don't look any further than Bill Sledzik. Before heading out for the summer, he sparked more than his share of conversations at ToughSledding before moving it to a new address. No worries. ToughSledding, when Sledzik has time, is as tough as ever.

22. Jay Ehret aka The Marketing Guy knows a thing or two about branding. The Marketing Spot has been a long-time favorite around here for that exact reason. Any time Ehret tackles a branding issue, it's likely to help you clarify your thoughts on the subject and lead to new insights on old ideas that feel worn.

23. Last quarter, we noted how Jenn Riggle was providing valuable insight into social media with a medical twist, but her content is becoming more expansive on The Buzz Bin. Much like I once said of the person who founded The Buzz Bin, she's somebody to watch. So are some of the other voices over there.

24. Jeff Bullas seems to be on a roll lately, with some well-considered tips on Internet marketing, buried under his always sensationalized headline. Skip the headlines and get into the meat of the content and you might be surprised to find some compelling data and research on trending. Bullus needs more readers. It's that simple.

25. Chris Brogan always has a lot of irons in the fire. He has one of those blogs you almost have to read even if, over time, you come to realize the reading isn't all that deep at Chris Brogan. Don't misunderstand me. There is obviously some solid content there or he wouldn't be here (there is someone as equally popular who isn't here, I might add). Still, I'm only mentioning it now because sooner of later someone might appreciate that deep and read don't always go together. Brogan is read.

26. Kyle Flaherty tends to look upon social media with a skeptical eye. Anytime someone does that, they are likely to see some social media enthusiasts turn off. Maybe that's why we liked a post or two from Dances With Strangers. In fact, we like Flaherty, even if he is wrong about all ROI being mostly about sales. It ain't all direct response. Ha.

27. Ari Herzog, writing AriWriter, frequently finds himself on the lower end of the AdAge Power 150. (No worries. We don't even play.) And yet, his blog — between shorter personal interest posts — frequently brings a perspective to social media that can't be ignored. What you might like best about this blog is his willingness to take a hard look at the finest of details. What do we like? Its crispness.

28. When it comes to visual communication, few people do it better than David Armano. Logic + Emotion has been around for some time. Recent social media rant aside, anytime Armano has time to illustrate his thinking is something not to miss. Sometimes in a single image, you immediately see what he means. Sure, he has a little less time since he joined Edleman, but it's still a treat when he has the time.

29. Sean Williams is one of the nicest guys around online (and one of several that I'd most like to meet). Communication Ammo is also climbing up as one of our favorite reads because it often covers topics that we just don't find anywhere else. It's less popular but more relevant than many other reads out there.

30. When Jed Hallam mapped out an online network theory at Rock Star PR, we immediately knew why we decided to add him to the list. Even if the devil is sometimes in the details, Hallam is on the right track in mapping the connections people make online. Social connections can tell you a lot. Hallam had several second pick posts this quarter too.

31. Anytime someone says online and B2B in the same breath, it's hard not to immediately think of Christina Kerley. The Ck's(B2B)Blog is a longstanding veteran on the topic. And, like many other bloggers, picking this niche was a decision she made to stick close to her core as opposed to making a break for popularity. True, CK doesn't post as often as she used to, but you'll always find passion when she does.

32. Kristen Hines was one of the newer fresh content finds this quarter. She writes the very robust blog at Kikolani.com. We absolutely love her blog, but the drop down banner makes her a better read in the Google feeds. What also makes her stand out is she generously shares what she does and how she does it, ranging from why you need an e-newsletter to the experiment that proves popularity and page rank don't mix.

33. Since Chris Koch approaches marketing from the B2B perspective on Chris Koch's B2B Marketing Blog, he tends to be a little more targeted. To be more targeted, he suggests that copywriters and marketers learn something about the stories that journalists tell. We've grown fond of him because he see marketing as leading in social media, but adds that marketing has to change in order to do it.

34. MarketingProfs, headed by Ann Handley, still cuts through the clutter with the occasional study. This time around, MarketingProfs shared findings from Vision Critical to show how social networks can be influential, but not always trusted. It mirrors our findings that influence is often a collective action attached to an idea and not an individual.

35. Jay Baer likes to bill himself as hype-free social media, but we know better. His posts speak volumes about his enthusiasm for everything social and we wouldn't have it any other way. He sees social media as the final frontier and often uncovers evidence that will have you believe it must be so on Convince&Convert, where you'll find other fine voices too.

36. When Brian Solis isn't writing about his book, he recaps studies and adds insight better than most. It makes us wonder if maybe that's it: We read Brian Solis because he has a nose for news as it relates to social media. And even when we don't agree with his assessment of what that news might mean, we still give him credit for setting the right agenda.

37. Ben Decker is another new addition to the list, writing for the Blog Decker. He tends to contribute less than the co-authors, but he always makes it personal when he does. I like his prose better than his videos because video seems too linear. However, I know plenty of people who will disagree with me. He's very personable, on camera or off.

38. Michelle Bowles hasn't been active on TopRank Online Marketing Blog since April (she left in May), but her contributions are considerable. Her forte tended to be developing clear and concise tip sheets, usually with three to five tips at a time. We'll keep an eye out to see where she lands next.

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