Historically the content marketing acronym COPE has stood for “Create Once, Publish Everywhere.” Made famous by NPR’s creation of a custom CMS to facilitate their content distribution strategy, COPE is often lauded as the pinnacle of repurposed, adaptable content.
The reality, however, is that publishing “everywhere” is often neither feasible nor wise.
In 2015, when there are more marketing channels than you can shake a Periscope at, devising a marketing strategy is mostly a matter of saying “no” to the right things. In that environment, publishing “everywhere” seems, as one blogger put it, “a marketing catastrophe waiting to happen.”
Instead I propose an alternative: Create Once, Publish Enthusiastically.
With this approach we don’t try to carpet bomb the world with our content. We create our content and then distribute it through the channels in which we, and our audience, can engage it with the most enthusiasm.
Why Publishing Everywhere Worked for NPR
National Public Radio (NPR) covers a wide variety of topics, but at its core it produces only one type of content: news coverage. This focus on a particular type of content is what lays behind the organization’s wildly successful implementation of the COPE strategy through its custom CMS and corresponding API.
For decades NPR has enjoyed a stellar reputation for its audio journalistic excellence. Their audience was loyal to their content when it was delivered via radio, but when it came to non-radio channels, they actively consumed competitors’ content.
NPR needed to develop a content distribution strategy that would enable their content to reach their audience across various channels, while still being cost effective and user friendly. NPR seized this opportunity and created a CMS (Content Management System) driven by the COPE philosophy.
A key aspect of their CMS was its application program interface (API). An API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that specifies how to use software components outside of the original software. Basically, an API makes it possible for people not involved in the software’s development to use it for new purposes.
For NPR, that meant giving third parties access to their content so they could handle the “publish everywhere” part of of COPE.
Their API made this possible.
Director of Technology Zach Brand described it as follows:
“Over the last year, NPR’s total page view growth has increased by more than 80%. How did we get that much growth? Our API. The NPR API went live to the public in July 2008 and was designed with the philosophy of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE). Through COPE, NPR has been able to quickly and efficiently distribute content to virtually anywhere, including NPR stations, partners and the general public.”
“Delivering more than one billion stories a month and serving thousands of product owners, partners, stations and public users, the API has clearly become the centrepiece of NPR’s digital media and mobile strategy.”
Essentially, NPR’s COPE implementation relied on a completely customized piece of software (their CMS) and a sophisticated, preexisting network of product owners who were ready and able to enthusiastically publish their content.
Why Publishing Enthusiastically is Better for the Rest of Us
Publishing “everywhere” sounds like a laudable goal, but 90% of marketers and marketing departments don’t have the resources to manage that kind of distribution, much less monitor it.
That’s what Clinton Forry, the blogger I mentioned in the introduction, meant when he said that, “COPE makes the assumption that content (once produced, properly marked up, and made available via CMS or API) is suitable for any use. The everywhere in create once, publish everywhere is a marketing catastrophe waiting to happen.”
His solution is to turn COPE into COPS (Create Once, Publish Selectively), and my adjustment to COPE runs along the same lines.
Unless you are bringing massive resources to bear, creating once and publishing absolutely everywhere is a tracking and maintenance nightmare. Without the right high tech tools supporting such an effort, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of stress and a potential disaster when content ends up in places it doesn’t belong.
How to Know Where to Find Your COPE Channel
If you are in the process of producing your own custom CMS that will empower your international network of content crazy employees to create and disseminate your content at will, please take this high five and check out another article.
For the rest of us, it’s time to visit our old friend Google Analytics. Your goal in this hunt is to find out where your enthusiastic content consumers already live.
Take a look at your Referrals traffic. This is traffic that’s already coming to your website from third party sources, many of which are going to be social media. Find the one that is sending you not only the highest volume of traffic but the best quality of traffic.
Hopefully you have goal tracking setup that will tell you what traffic is completing your preferred actions after arriving via social media. If so, you’re after the channel that gives you the best conversions.
If not, engagement will suffice. That means highest average time on site, lowest bounce rate, and most pages per visit.
Whatever channel is giving you the best traffic, that’s your enthusiasm channel. That’s where you want to publish enthusiastically and engage with readers around your content.
Note: we’re distinguishing channels (places where your content is published) from formats (the type of content you’re producing) and devices (phones/tablets/desktops/etc.). In this instance we want to figure out which channels are garnering the most engagement and focus our efforts there.
By limiting your publication to just a few channels and concentrating on the ones that are already generating enthusiastic readers you can establish actual meaningful connections with your audience.
Scaling Up on Create Once, Publish Enthusiastically
This strategy obviously applies more to smaller marketing groups, but it can certainly be applied in larger departments as well.
You can scale COPE 2.0 by simply applying it to different types of content. So first you’re looking at your blog content. Which channel is driving the best engagement with this content? You can still publish elsewhere, but concentrate your enthusiasm on that channel.
Next examine a separate content type, and find out where the enthusiasm lies for that one. Maybe it’s your infographics on Pinterest. Maybe its white papers on LinkedIn. Whatever the channel, publish there with enthusiasm.
The tackle another content type and channel, and continue on.
For this type of COPE philosophy, you can scale it up and out as far as you have the resources to engage with enthusiasm. That might be one channel or it might be 15; it all depends on your resources.
COPE and COPE 2.0
The original version of COPE is certainly a valuable philosophy. If you have an army of evangelists who cannot wait to get their hands on your API to craft unique ways to distribute your content, you should absolutely be using a custom CMS to create once and publish everywhere.
If that’s not your situation, an approach that focuses on enthusiastic, focused engagement on your highest value channels will most likely be a better use of your time.