All content creators realize that originality is essential. Remakes and reboots exist in Hollywood, taking advantage of successful older movies by overhauling them and presenting them for a new audience. Still, even these transformations typically fail unless they genuinely add something novel to the experience. If you write an article or create a video that’s a simple rehash of something someone else already did, not only will you fail to get value out of the piece you created, you may also run into reputation issues, becoming known as a plagiarizer.
But if you’ve been creating content for a little while, you may have hit a significant plateau. As a result, you might feel it’s exceptionally difficult to create work that’s truly original and differentiated from your competitors’ content.
Why is it so hard to create original content, and what can you do about it?
Why It’s Hard to Create Original Content
Let’s take a look at the problem from a ground level. There are many obstacles in the way of your original content creation and many sub-problems that need to be addressed.
- The saturation problem. You don’t need to be a content analytics genius to know the oversaturated content world. There are hundreds of millions of people actively creating content on the Internet, and millions of them are investing heavily in promoting their own work. We’ve had more than 20 years of a thriving, blog- and social media-centric online environment, and so the amount of content in circulation has compounded over time. In addition, more and more people are recognizing the benefits of content marketing and are flooding the market with even more work. Trying to find a topic that hasn’t already been done to death is excruciatingly tough.
- The successful formula problem. There’s also a problem with the “successful formula” for content generation. Have you noticed that many YouTube videos lately have thumbnails where a person is making a surprised face, titles that imply something shocking, and the length of just over 10 minutes? That’s because these types of videos tend to do exceptionally well within the confines of YouTube’s algorithm. You could blame the content creators for resorting to clickbait, or copying the tactics of their competitors, but it’s still the logically reasonable thing to do. If you don’t follow the tenets of successful content, you may be original, but you’ll fall flat with audiences. If you resort to tactics like these, you’ll have no hope of creating something truly original.
- The creative stagnation problem. Once you’ve created 100 videos on a given topic, It becomes hard to develop new ways to cover the subject. Most content creators suffer some form of burnout or writer’s block at some point, finding themselves unable to come up with original material or realizing that most of the work they’ve done so far is, in some way, unoriginal. This creative stagnation can persist for years and make it incredibly difficult to break through the plateau.
- The risk problem. Anyone can come up with a technically new idea. You can create an avant-garde video or try to write a piece of content that breaks every blogging norm that’s ever been written. But these pieces probably won’t be successful because they deviate from the norm so much. Every piece of truly original content is a list to its creator, presenting a risk with every new piece of content generation and punishing those you try to break free of conventions.
The Demand for Originality
With all these obstacles in the way, why bother trying to be original? Can’t you just copy your competitors’ tactics and still see reasonable results?
The short answer is yes, you can technically get decent results with mediocre content as long as you produce it steadily and you do your best to inform and entertain your readers. However, original content could give you an amazing advantage, setting you apart from the crowd and giving people something they genuinely want – instead of something that barely meets their minimum criteria.
How to Create More Original Content
So what steps can you take to create more original content?
- Get ideas everywhere. First, trying to get ideas everywhere. You’re probably already familiar with the concept that you can’t force creativity; if you sit down at your desk with 20 minutes of spare time with the intention of coming up with a new idea, you’re only going to walk away disappointed. Creativity tends to emerge when we are bored and unoccupied – which is why it’s so important to be open to new ideas no matter where you are or what you’re doing. You can look for content ideas, specifically as brainstorming tools. Still, it’s also important to keep an open mind when interacting with other people, learning new things, or even when you’re alone with your thoughts in the shower.
- Look for holes in the canon. Next, look for spots in the canon that need to be filled. Pay attention to your competitors and see what types of content they’re creating. Are there any critical topics in your industry that haven’t been covered by one of your rivals already? Are your customers asking questions that aren’t sufficiently covered on the Internet somewhere? Every hole is an opportunity if you’re creative enough to find a way to fill it.
- Prioritize authenticity. One of the biggest problems with the surge in content marketing’s popularity is the decline of authenticity. Brands everywhere have resorted to generating the most placid and safest content they can, for fear of offending readers or negatively disrupting the industry. As a result, their content reads like a boardroom of stuffy professionals assembled it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that a loose-end casual approach will be suitable for your brand, but if you speak from the heart and inject your personality a little bit, you’ll find it much easier to stand out from the crowd.
- Share something truly new. If you have truly unique information to share, you’ll find it easy to develop an original content headline. Of course, the most common route to finding new information is original research; even simple studies, leveraging the power of customer surveys and basic human observation, can lead to findings that the majority of your readership will find valuable.
- Get more people contributing. Even working within a small team, you don’t have to do all the content creation work yourself. It’s much better if you work with an entire team and get content ideas from every member. In addition, work with several writers on your staff and consider accepting contributions from guest writers; not only will it limit the amount of manual effort you have to spend creating content, but it should also help you cover new topics and cover old topics from new angles.
- Diversify your content risk. You may not want to risk offending the search engine gods with a Piece of truly novel content that contains controversial opinions, nor do you want to stake your entire brand reputation on a fundamentally new content medium that could drive people away. That’s why you should treat your content portfolio like an investment portfolio and diversify your risk. Make sure to include several pieces of “risky” content, grounded by less original and safer contributions. Nobody said all your content had to be groundbreaking.
Technology will help resolve the “original content” problem, at least in some ways. New ways of creating and interacting with content will emerge, stimulating the creativity of countless content creators and inspiring them to come up with fresh takes. But, of course, you can’t rely on this exclusively, so make sure you invest in content originality strategies that allow you to separate yourself from the pack and make better, more exciting appeals to your target audience.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!