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How much does original blog content cost?

December 20, 2018 - Content Marketing, Practitioner Marketing - ,
By: Chris Riley

In early 2017, Fixate created this awesome infographic that represents an ROI calculation for in-house content creation versus working with an agency such as ourselves. While the calculations are now a little dated, as we enter 2019, the magnitude of difference in cost has not changed. So in this post, I’m going to look at the cost of original blog content from a different angle, and with updated numbers.

We have another two years under our belt after the original calculation, and the major thing we learned in those two years is that when computing your cost and ROI for original blog content, you cannot talk about cost per post. Why? Because when organizations create content in-house, a large percentage (by our estimate, over 70%) never gets published at all. The reason for this is both tactical and political. Tactically, most marketing teams are under pressure to do a lot of marketing activities, and do not specialize in the creation of content. Even with a backlog, the effort to get content out the door (or focus on it) is difficult. Because of that, they do not have the mechanism to ensure a regular monthly content volume that an agency can provide. Politically, when a marketing team engages with their internal engineering team, there is always a concern about rocking the boat by NOT accepting a blog post by a team member. So they get the content, say it’s good, and move on without publishing it. But the value of their blog suffers.

So the cost of your blog content must really be calculated as cost per published post. If a post isn’t published, you are not getting any value from it. And if you aren’t getting any value from it, then there is no chance of a return. So what follows are the numbers hard and soft of what to expect for cost per published content for in-house vs. freelance vs. practitioner content agency.

Any good ROI calculation needs a basis. Here are the assumptions (based on 527 blog posts created in 2019):

    1. Quality is important. You are not just investing in content for the sake of content. If that is what you want, use a blog mill.
    1. The average practitioner post copy takes 3 hours to create.
    1. The average practitioner post peer review takes .5 hours.
    1. The average practitioner post editor review and copy edit takes 2.5 hours.
    1. The average practitioner post SEO review takes 2 hours.
    1. Qualified practitioner average annual salary of $110,000 + benefits and internal cost
  1. Product marketing manager/content marketing is running internal in-house creation

Content agency client content is published at 80%, for two reasons. First, if a post is not hitting the mark (it happens), the content agency will replace it. And for Fixate in particular, the second reason is that if a vendor can’t get a post published on their own soon after it’s completed, we have the ability to publish it on Sweetcode.io.

And there are opportunity costs — those things that are harming or benefiting you that you don’t know about.

Some freelancers and agencies will allow ghostwritten content, which can support boosting internal personal brands as well.

When you work with a content agency, you are investing in a process, not just content. When you produce content in-house or with a freelance writer, you’re investing in individual pieces of content with mixed success in terms of completion and quality. The simple math with a content agency or freelance writer seems to equal an expensive price per post. But this calculation is inaccurate, and misleading. Your hard and soft costs are much higher than the cost of an individual post.


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Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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