Curated Content's Blog

Content marketing articles from our agency


Jun 2011

The Healthy Fetishism of Today’s Content

Posted by / in Blog, Content Strategy / 2 comments

Let’s say your company specialised in listings of bricks-and-mortar businesses. In terms of content, you have the ‘what’ and, if properly geo-located, the ‘where’. Chances are, looking at your organization’s front-end search functionality, your search capability has exactly those boxes, prompting your users to access your data/content traditionally – or what we call the equivalent of the missionary position for search.

If this is the case, has your website or app maxed-out the potential on searches like this? Are you happy with the level of user engagement with your content? Are you netting the revenue you’d hoped for on search?

Even if there’s not much more you can do with your core search functionality, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be more creative with your content and therefore create new search opportunties. In other words, try some other positions. Think creatively. Don’t be so traditional. Experiment!

“…get kinky with a content strategy. If you don’t, someone else will.”


An example of a company that has experimented with content, especially in the acquisition of the most cost-effective form (user-generated), is Foodspotting. My feeling is that, upon brainstorming the crowded marketplace of restaurant and food apps, Foodspotting chose a narrative, a gimmick, to tease out content from interested foodies. The narrative they chose isn’t the traditional search path for a directory of restaurants and their locations. What Foodspotting did was focus on acquiring content around specific dishes, for example Chinese dumplings or fillet mignon.

Foodspotting App

The functionality of food porn (Foodspotting iPhone App)


The primary piece of content for Foodspotting is the dish; the photo being very important, as well. Where that steak was being served is secondary. Say you had a particular hankering for steak and you’re after the best steak you can find. Foodspotting let’s you browse by the dish, not just browse restaurants by the missionary position fallbacks of location and cuisine.

The result is that Foodspotting is global, showcasing over 600,000 dishes world-wide, and is happily sitting on a pile of user-generated content and user-behaviour data—while your restaurant app is prudently sitting on the shelf, seeking and competing for the exact same user-generated reviews as every other traditional company. Going strong with this strategy since 2009, Foodspotting has been serving food porn to a passionate community of restaurant goers. The proof of its creative content strategy can be seen be seen in one number: it’s financial backing. In January, 2011, Foodspotting raised US$3 million in Series A funding.

Let’s take the Foodspotting brainstorming even further. Imagine someone coming up with a way to search solely by hero ingredients, say garlic or cumin. This obviously gets into the world of fetishes—getting very niche, very quickly, but the exercise of brainstorming what your brand needs to accomplish with its content, both in its acquisition and for its search, is the important point. If Foodspotting put out an app with a traditional ‘search restaurants by location and by cuisine’ functionality, it would be trying to learn how to paddle in a sea of accomplished swimmers – all doing a very traditional stroke, no doubt! In reality, your app would be wallowing in the App Store, unloved.

But it didn’t. It chose a creative path and was richly rewarded for it!


So inspired by Foodspotting, let’s do an exercise.
1) List the numerous ways searches are preformed on the Internet. Hopefully, you would have teased out a few of the star performers: keyword, brand, location, product, and time-based search (e.g. Saturday at 1pm).
2) Choose one of those methods of search. For the purposes of explanation, let’s choose ‘time-based’ search.
3) Now riff creatively on an app that could tease out that content, in this instance, content solely revolving around time.
4) Now allow the twin feelings to sink in: a) The world’s population of 7 billion and b) The fact that there’s someone more creative than yourself out there in the world. Your idea has been thought of already, and probably sitting in beta-form somewhere with a Belgian domain name.
5) Don’t get discouraged.
6) Add a twist — riff creatively on your choice of a search method. Remember we chose, in this instance, time-based search. So what more, creatively, can we do in this space? What about an app that’s interested only in what happens after midnight? Or one that can only be activated on Sundays? What about a specific time of the day, say an app that connects users at 4:20 p.m.?

You get the idea. The end result of this exercise is something that may be a throw-away. That’s the point. You’ve found yourself in a new position: You’ve thought about content creatively. And that’s more than most of the other companies are doing.


Your creativity and brainstorming now need validation. User-test your best ideas, ruthlessly. Make sure they would stand up in the market. There’s no sense in pushing out a new way to search for content if no one will use it or buy it. So ask around—friends, family, co-workers, and if you’ve done the legwork in advance, business mentors that have experience in the field in which your app and idea will one day land. Will this new way of search for this new content solve a problem (time spent, revenue lost, etc.)? How big is this problem? Is someone already solving this problem?

If you’ve vetted your idea properly, you will have gathered advice and data from all areas of business and that includes marketing, legal, technical, and design.

Still got something? And still passionate about it? Good. Now get on with it.


Switched-on companies know competition for users and their input is fierce. This competition has resulted in a fetishism in the world of digital content and a perversion in the way we search and find content. This fetishism and perversion are healthy, I would argue! They are the by-products of creative minds, minds that know their place in the pecking order of digital properties and their timing into crowded app stores and an infinite internet.

So get kinky with a content strategy. If you don’t, someone else will.

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Otto Ottinger is the Senior Product Manager of Curated Content, in charge of bringing infographics, data visualization, video and other visual content to life. Originally, a game designer and Online Manager for National Geographic Kids in Washington, D.C., Otto began producing apps and Web sites for Telstra brands such as Whereis, Citysearch, and 1234. One strategy to get ahold of him is through Twitter —!/OttoOttinger