How to Write Content People Want to Read

This article explains what makes great content, rather than just words filling a page, which is the case with so many sites.

There are four types of subscription websites:
1)                  Resources Based – gives factual information in a directory format, e.g., Hotcourses guide to University courses,
2)                  Expertise Based – gives more descriptive information about a subject, for example, “How to retire to Florida”
3)                  Market Place Based – The website acts as a way to bring people together. It could be a dating site, a site for tendering for building contracts or a specialist auction site.
4)                  Application Based – The website can give members access to an application in exchange for their monthly subscription. An example of this is eFax, which allows subscribers to receive and send faxes from their computer.
Many subscription websites are hybrids of two or more of the above. For example, a hotel review site could be a directory of hotels with opinions attached. This a combination of resource based and expertise based.
To create a successful publication the content should be:
  • Well targeted at the audience
  • Highly relevant
  • Exclusive and unique – content that is not available elsewhere is very valuable. This can be your own opinion on your subject.
  • Frequently updated – definitely weekly, preferably daily.
  • Current – Make sure the content is bang up to date.
  • To the point and factual – You don’t need to pad articles like in print publications. Get straight to the point ... and stay there!
  • Easy to read and digest – Simple words; short sentences; short paragraphs; avoid jargon; clean layout; lots of sub-headings.
  • Variety is the spice of life! - Keep trying new things and keep an eye on the web stats to gauge your member’s interest. You maybe surprised at what works (and what doesn’t).
  • Give it your personal style – Your members are buying your opinion. Make the content reflect your personality. If your members like it, they can’t find it anywhere else so they remain loyal. It is the same principle as the opinion columns in national newspapers.
  • Involve your members – Give your members their 15 minutes of fame. Mention them. Include their quotes, opinions and thoughts.
  • Make it easy to print – Many people will want to read content offline so ensure it is printable.
It can be quite challenging to create weekly or daily content updates, so it is worth building a rolling three-month content plan so that you are always on top of what you should be writing and when. This also helps you to outsource some of the writing to journalists and third parties.
Examples of types of content you can create include:
  • Specialist news – News from around the world of interest to your audience. Collect from industry publications, internet news sites, talking with industry experts, etc.
  • What’s in the press? – Build up a list of resources where you can go to find information about your subject. Save your members the hassle of having to do the search themselves. Summarise what the press are saying and give your opinion about what this means to your subscribers.
  • How-to … articles – Always a winner! Give your members very practical and easy-to-follow advice on how to do something.
    • “How to find an lawyer in Spain?”
    • “How to take the perfect portrait photo with a digital camera”
    • “How to increase the value of every dish on your menu”
  • Case studies – Real life examples of people who have achieved what your members are trying to achieve. They tend to be easy to write and are usually highly relevant.
  • Questions and answers – Get your members to ask questions and then your answers become the article. The problem pages in the tabloids and lifestyle magazines are some of the most highly read sections. It also keeps your members involved and they feel like they’re getting your personal attention.
  • Checklists or action lists – Checklists are simple to do and can be very useful for your members.
    • “50 things you should do to ensure a perfect wedding”
    • “10 steps to marketing your restaurant to families”
    • “21 ideas to run a perfect seminar”
  • Feature articles – These could make up the bulk of your content. Articles about your subject area that are of interest to your audience:
    • “Is Google Good for the Internet ... or are They too Dominant”
    • “Why Should You Choose to Educate Your Children at Home”
    • “The History of Porsche Cars”
  • Reviews (products, books, websites, etc) – Specialist websites are often about saving your members time and keeping them informed. A simple way of doing this is by summarising books, reviewing websites and products, writing about places you’ve been and so on.
  • Interviews – Interviews are a great way of getting good quality, unique content. They are also simple to write and can be very valuable to your readers. With a website, you can also present interviews as audio or video files.
If you interview well known experts, your members will interpret this as an endorsement for your website. This will increase their perception of the value they are receiving.
  • Guest articles (experts, celebrities, members, etc.) – You must take advantage of other people's work to lighten your load.
Once your website has credibility and a strong membership base, third parties will fall over backwards to be allowed to put their content on your site for free. Usually all you have to do is offer to have their name and contact details at the end of the article. Good quality third party articles should not be blatant advertising for another company's goods or services. They should be useful and factual pieces.
  • Reports from events -  Another valuable and enjoyable form of content. You should be able to apply for a press pass to many events, and soon will be getting invited to seminars and conferences free of charge. Summaries of the events are very useful both for people who attended and those who did not. If you cannot attend an event, see if you can get one of your members who was there to submit a report.
  • Research and Survey Results – As a specialist website owner, you are in the unique position that you have access to a large group of people whose combined views are very valuable to your members. It is easy to run online surveys with your members and then create valuable reports from the results.
  • Directory of services – Some subscription websites are only directories of services, which create great opportunities if you have a list of suppliers, contacts, products, materials, etc. for a particular industry or hobby. A good example is The Directory of Ezines (
  • Downloads – These are files of books, music, video clips, etc., that can be downloaded. More on this in a minute.
  • Applications – These are tools that users can use on the website. They could be applications that allow the user to search for cheap airline flights, a calculator that works out mortgage interest rates, or a communication tool that allows people to send photos to a mobile phone.
Tip to Avoid Failure: Some subscription website owners start writing their own content and then suddenly find they can find huge amounts of free content on the web that they can use. They start getting lazy. They write less and copy more. They feel smug at how little work they are doing.
Then their site starts to get bad write-ups in blogs and chat sites.
Members start to leave. One or two to start with. Then the renewal season comes around and only a few members renew.
Sites that cut and paste free content from other websites often end up failing.
By all means, re-write relevant articles you find for free on the web, but add value to them with your personal style and opinion.