September 23, 2006

Four Questions With Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

This week, I welcome Ann Handley to the "Four Questions" segment on MineThatData.

Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs -- which means that she is the Queen of all Things Content on the MarketingProfs Web site and newsletter and the Primary Caregiver of the blog, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix. Prior to that, she was the co-founder of Ann also spent time as a freelance journalist, and wrote regularly for the Boston Globe.

Let's see what Ann has to say!

Question #1: Tell us a little about your career, from being a freelance writer to starting ClickZ to your role now at MarketingProfs. What were the inflection points that caused you to make changes in your career?

Funny how after the fact, it seems like there was a plan all along!

I could say that I saw the Internet and I realized the enormous potential for me personally as well as for publishing. I could say that I was some sort of digital mystic who envisioned that the Internet would revolutionize the way we do business. I could remind you how I invented blogging.

But the truth is far less grand: I was a business journalist in Boston who wanted a little more balance in my work and family life, and thus sought out any opportunity that would give me more flexibility, some degree of intellectual challenge, and hopefully a little money. Early on that meant I became a freelance writer for everything from the Boston Globe to American Baby to those magazines in the back of airline seat pockets.

But in the late 1990s, I co-founded ClickZ to develop its editorial, and I realized I had a bit of knack for finding and developing good writers, honing a publication's overall voice and mission, and in directing this product now known as "content." We sold ClickZ in 2000, and when my noncompete expired two years later, I dropped a note to Allen Weiss, who was then flying solo at an up and coming web site and email newsletter called I volunteered to take the content piece off his hands, he didn't argue, and we became a team of two.

Four years later, MarketingProfs has just over 190,000 subscribers, a dozen employees, and more products than your readers would have the patience to read about here.

Question #2: You have grown the Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog into one of the ten most visited marketing blogs in the world. Many of your contributers already have very successful blogs. Why do you believe these talented individuals take the extra time to contribute to the Marketing Profs blog?

Because I pester them until they knuckle under.

No -- not really. I'm not sure the reason is the same for every author -- but in general it's probably because the collection of writers I've assembled are, in my view, some of the sharpest minds in marketing, and it's a bit of a kick to be included in such great company.

Also, some of the writers get exposure to either a wider, broader, or more varied audience than they might on their own blogs. For example, the talented David Armano has an awesome blog, but many of his readers are design or agency-focused, and MarketingProfs offers him exposure to a broader marketing audience. Same with Tom Ehrenfeld, who writes his own blog about the intersection of business and writing. And Eric Frenchman, whose passion is online marketing with an emphasis on political marketing. Finally, some of our authors -- like Ted Mininni and Gerry McGovern -- don't maintain their own blogs at all, so the Daily Fix gives them a blogging outlet without the need for daily maintenance.

And by the way, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix is now number 7. (Yay!)

Question #3: Which blogs do you like to read?

Tons. I read the big ones, certainly, which are obvious enough that I don't need to mention them, probably (but will): Seth Godin, Church of the Customer, MicroPersuasion, Guy Kawasaki. I also read all of the blogs (or newsletters) published by the 50-plus MarketingProfs Daily Fix authors. Or I try my best to.

But in truth, I like reading blogs published by lesser-known bloggers the best. What I like about smaller blogs -- the smallest blogs -- is that they are less affected by audience, advertisers, or any of the trappings of larger publishing ventures. They don't necessarily write for any other reason than that they have something to say. And I like the unaffected result.

I can't do that -- I can't write without imagining an audience, which is probably why I admire it.

Question #4: In ten years, where do you think today's journalists, newspaper writers, fiction writers, authors, biographers, and bloggers will be writing their content, and how will audiences find their content?

Oh Lord if I could answer that I'd be a genius -- wouldn't I? And an oracle, too. And then I'd head to the race track to place my bet!

But I guess my best answer would be that writers will have expanded their content offerings further into platforms we are already seeing emerge...vlogging, vcasting, mobile, podcasts, etc. Some of the writers I see blogging now, for example, will probably switch completely to audio or video formats as the technology and audience evolves, separating those with a true passion for writing from those who are more visual or aural. Various people will gravitate toward the kinds of platforms that thrill them most, in other words.

Generally, technology will continue to become more invisible, and therefore the way it is ingrained into our day-to-day lives will become more seamless. And those driven to deliver content will still be using it to keep writing, and/or speaking, sharing their opinions and knowledge and research, and finding all kinds of new friends, communities and audiences just the same.

Thank you, Ann, for taking the time to participate in this week's "Four Questions" segment!


  1. Great interview Kevin! And Ann is being a bit too modest about Daily Fix. Sure there's something to be said for writing for the same blog that so many 'A-List' bloggers are on, but it's Ann's sense of community that's impressed me the most. She is one of the very few bloggers that understands the importance of reaching out to bloggers regardless of how many Technorati links or what their Alexa score is. She takes the time to respond to everyone that comments on Daily Fix, but also takes the time to go back and read THEIR blogs and comment back.

    Which of course leads to a greater sense of community. Ann gets that, and there are VERY few bloggers that do.

    Course great interviews are a good way to set your blog apart as well. Nice job Kevin!

  2. Ann demonstrated her dedication to the "little guy", with this interview.

    And, as she said, she invented blogging, so this makes her contribution even more significant!

  3. Anonymous6:57 PM

    Thanks to you both. This was a fun interview, Kevin. I appreciate the opportunity!

  4. Anonymous7:23 PM

    What a good "human" interview. You know how some interviews are all stale...this felt truly conversational. Good stuff, Ann.

    I will go on the record and vouch for her--she did, in fact, invent blogging. 'Twas her and her only.

  5. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Thanks for the interview with Ann.

    Mack is right on target. Bloggers write for Daily Prof because, well sure, it's a nice visibility, but Ann makes it personal. So if I feel guilty for not writing more often (and I do!) it's because of the relationship I have with Ann, not because of the increased visibility a post or 2 may gain me. She totally gets it.


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