The Content Corner: Ranking Six Common Content Types

May 11, 2015

In last week’s column, I went back to a frequent theme of mine and discussed another method for helping to feed the content beast, which was learning when to say no to a new and potentially resource devouring digital channel or platform. However, we also need to take a look at six of the most common content types that you may be creating and examine the ROI for each. Ascend2 recently published the results of their annual Content Marketing Survey providing some useful insights into the effectiveness of specific content types measured against the difficulty it takes to create them.


Articles are probably the most common form of content that we generate on a normal basis (I’m using articles generically to include most text-based web content). Ascend2’s survey data shows that this type of content remains the most effective with 54% of all surveyed stating that articles (and case studies) were still their most effective content. It is important to keep your articles focused on a user need and make sure they are clear and concise. This helps ensure maximum effectiveness of your majority-text content.


Videos remain a popular method for reaching customers and providing coverage for an event or for helping explain a complicated topic. Companies involved in content marketing tout a higher conversion rate for their video content as compared to all other content. And Ascend2’s survey data shows that brands rank video as the second most effective form of content at 46%, however 59% of respondents also felt that video content was the most difficult to produce. Depending on the style of video and the audience you are trying to reach, this can be true, but lower production, more informal video content via Vine and using a mobile device is more and more common (and acceptable by the audience). Keep this ratio in mind when deciding to create video, but remember that low-effort alternatives are available.



Visualized information has increased by more than 9,000 percent across all types of media, including digital, and despite that crazy number, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. One of the many reasons that content such as infographics have become so popular is due to the way humans consume and process information. As the image shows, we can process visuals in 1/10th of a second compared to 60 seconds to read 200-250 words. Survey data also shows that infographics are the third most effective marketing content with only 34% of respondents finding it difficult to create.

One concern that should always be considered when creating visual content, such as infographics, is ensuring accessibility for customers with visual impairments. Strong alt text and including a brief description of the infographic for screen readers (and also for search engines) is recommended.


Webinars are most commonly used for educational purposes and have an advantage over videos by being interactive and allowing participants to ask questions during the event. Survey responses do find that they are not as effective as several other content types and do require a great deal of effort to create.

From personal experience, I certainly agree that developing webinars can be time-consuming with developing the content, creating marketing materials, and many times the interactivity you may have hoped for just never pans out. In some ways webinars can be similar to podcasts in that they have a much narrower reach, but the customers that do attend seem to greatly benefit.


I recently discussed the slow and steady growth of podcasts and as stated above they have proven to remain a solid content option for many brands and organizations. But just as with webinars, the effectiveness vs. effort should be critically examined. Podcasts commonly take the format of an interview show which entails a significant amount of effort required to:

  • acquire interesting participants,
  • research and develop interview questions,
  • coordinate various technology needed (audio, telephone), and
  • edit and check for satisfactory audio quality.

Each of these items would need to be done on a regular basis, weekly or monthly, and can definitely be a significant undertaking. Just be sure that one good infographic or article can’t say the same thing and actually reach more of your audience.


Tablets and e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle have made e-books another viable content type that organizations need to consider. Content marketers have definitely latched on to the e-book format with almost every site asking you to download their free e-book on one topic or the other.

Closer to home, in February 2014, the Government Publishing Office (GPO) announced an expansion of their e-book offerings as part of the Federal Depository Library Program and in an effort to “expand and provide greater access to U.S. Federal Government content.”

With the GPO, this was broadening access to content that was already available and not the creation of a new custom content type. As with most things, your agency may have content that is well-suited for an e-book format, such as reference materials or whitepapers.

Efficient content means efficient for the consumer but also for the creator, especially with smaller budgets and fewer resources. By reviewing these common content types, you should be better able to plan how best to expend your energies and reach your audience. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.

You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing federal digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.