Interactive could be an ideal content marketing side dish

If you run a search on content marketing, prepare to receive an avalanche of ‘how to’s’, most missing anything by way of good example. It seems odd the sector seems to fall over when it comes to producing content about itself.

The ‘how to’ avalanche highlights that everyone wants to maximise productivity, everyone wants a magic bullet. But to our mind, if you are failing it may be the fault of your written content. The most SEO-friendly headline in the world is not going to make something interesting.

Equally however, the most interesting ideas can’t be presented in a boring manner; it’s a total package.

To illustrate this, look at evidence that readers are more likely to respond to interactive content: research from US research company DemandGen found that only 31% of respondents said they had seen interactive presentations in the last 12 months. At the same time, 45% gave them four out of five in terms of value.

Additionally, a 2014 survey by Demand Metric found that interactive content surpasses static articles in conversions. This includes in informing the buyer about a product or its benefits, and differentiating from competitor brands.

Within journalism, there is a growing focus on the use of interactive content to illustrate facts or data. This could be graphics that can be altered by user input, or, for example, a money-saving calculator running alongside an article on heating bills.

Many of these graphics use relatively easy-to-learn web languages such as D3.js, which has been adopted by the New York Times among others. They tend to be run in the web browser and can be used with your HTML files.

Interesting examples include Buzzfeed’s article showing the gender gap in cycling in New York (see below). In it, the user is able to hover over different regions of the city to view specific data for that area.

Fundamentally though, as helpful as this is, it should not be seen as a replacement for an actual article. In other words, interactive content works best as a side dish. And the main course is definitely still a well-written piece of quality content.

Five examples of interactive content

New York Times map showing the distribution of army surplus material. Filters include aircraft, armoured vehicles and grenade launchers.

Buzzfeed feature using D3 to show the gender gap in cycling in New York

The New York Times breaks down spending in the 2013 US budget.

Time looks at popular baby names in 2014. Using your current name it estimates what you would be called if you were born today.

Interactive map produced by Channel 4 during the run-up to the Olympic featuring people who carried the Olympic flame.

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