“Great Content Markets Itself”

God, this makes me mad.

So, there is this massive selection bias that happens amongst some influencers on the web where they feel that good content will be found on its own. Why do they feel this? The same reason rich people think they deserve their wealth, of course; if they’re on top, they feel that they deserve to be on top– it can’t possibly be accidental!

“I’m up here because my sneaking suspicions are right– I really am amazing just like I always believed!”

But there’s another side to this equation: If some content is not discovered by itself, does that mean it’s not worthy of being discovered? Further, does it mean that all popular web content is worthy of being popular?

Does that seem right to you?

Or is it more likely that some great things are discovered, and others remain in obscurity for other reasons?

Let’s consider the famous JK Wedding Dance video. After all, it just started going viral again this week, so something about this video must be just that great.

I think we can agree that there are probably 50 other videos on Youtube right now that are just as funny as that one. But many of those videos haven’t made it; only the JK wedding dance video did.

What made this one different?

All other things being equal, the only differences between one funny wedding video being found and going viral, and another being forgotten are two things: LUCK and MARKETING.


Luck is the result of preparation and, well, happenstance I guess. It happens when you prepare for it. If you have someone come to you about a book deal, you may have gotten “lucky” because you were born with a natural ability to write well, or because you’re good at networking and you “prepared” by developing a huge network and you know the right people, say.

But luck isn’t really what we want to talk about here– I just want to include it as a very real, important condition that causes success, to make the argument that it isn’t just the cream that rises to the top, that isn’t always about merit.


Marketing is the opposite of luck. It is planned success, deliberately created through strategy and analysis. Obviously it can work– otherwise we wouldn’t have all these systems in place that do their best to ensure a movie, single, or other piece of content gets heard.

Some people feel that some forms of marketing are snake oil and deceptive— they feel you should just let your great content market itself, and “let the rest follow” by telling other people.

Of course, many of these same people know all the web’s A-list influencers, have been on the web forever, or have many other advantages that compound their success.

To them I could ask: “What if you are just starting out, know no one, and weren’t there at the beginning? Do you deserve to be unknown and undiscovered?”

If great content just gets discovered naturally, when does that discovery happen? If your great content hasn’t been discovered yet, does that mean it isn’t worthy, it isn’t good enough? Or do you just have to wait for the right time? If so, how long?

So there’s this guy who keeps praying to win the lottery. He keeps praying every day: “God, please let me win the lottery,” and he does this for years, but he just never wins it. He keeps praying, but one day he gets impatient, and just as he’s about to give up, he’s like “Screw this, I’m done,” and suddenly he hears a booming voice that says: “Listen guy, I’m doing my best, but will you please just buy yourself a bloody ticket!!!”

Those that are successful often feel that they naturally rose to the top due to the naturally meritocratic nature of the web. They want to believe this because it allows them to feel that they deserve to be on top. In reality, they often don’t– sometimes, they’re just on top accidentally. Trust me, I know some of them.

My point is that it’s flawed thinking to believe that your content will naturally rise up. If you wait, you are that guy praying to win the lottery– ie, you’re deluding yourself.

Once you’ve created your great content, please do smart things to market it— go out there and meet people, figure out the systems that will help you get seen, do whatever it takes, please.

Don’t wait to be discovered. Don’t trust what other people tell you. They are not in your position. Only you are.

Only you can judge.





7 responses to ““Great Content Markets Itself””

  1. Tom Rau Avatar

    I’ve just been reading Chris Brogan’s blog and he is on about the same topic. What is the reason for success?
    It makes sense to read both blog posts as they really are on about the same thing. In the end success will not come to you by chance. It’s a result of hard and enduring work. Opportunities will open up but you have to create this opportunities yourself by going out there and networking and promoting yourself.


  2. Emma-Louise Avatar

    Hi Julien,

    Enjoyed this post a LOT. Found you through your interactive Facebook page which many of my contacts seemed to be following. You put effort into that page and it showed. So here I am at your blog AND I recently bought your book. So, you walk your talk!

    Anyhow, this post applies to so many areas. All those people slaving away in their jobs – waiting to be noticed and promoted while Billy – who chats to the boss and lets everyone know his successes – breezes up the career ladder.

    All those artists and artisans who do amazing work – but no-one knows about it except their community and perhaps visitors.

    Etc etc. It would be much fairer to live in a meritocracy. But I guess it could get boring too – no surprises. AND we’d have to stop complaining how unfair life is and get off one’s ass…

  3. Jason of Kim & Jason Avatar

    Rock on, Julien. You are right on when you say that some people feel the need to show that they deserve to be on top. Balancing advice from the people who’ve been there while realizing there are a million ways to get there is a tricky line to walk. But it doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t put the work in. One of my favorite quotes is from the ubiquitous Gary Vaynerchuk who said, “Content is King, but marketing is Queen and the Queen rules the household.”

  4. Just sayin Avatar
    Just sayin

    Just a quick observation, the video didn’t go viral again. It was featured on a broadcast, highly rated show.

  5. Susan Payton Avatar

    First let me say I just finished Trust Agents, and it is by far the best book I’ve read since New Rules of Marketing & PR (possibly better). Rock on.

    This is a great post. The question is out there (I think Chris brought it up at IZEAFest): if you’re the next Chris Brogan, Aaron Brazell, Brian Clark, do you get the chance that they did? Is the market too saturated to add a new expert to the mix?

    The answer remains to be seen, but I believe with a bit of luck AND marketing, the answer will be yes.

  6. Tamsen McMahon Avatar

    What’s amazing to me about all of this is that those who are successful in this arena right now–the ones who got there from something other than happenstance–TELL you how to be successful. And the advice works.

    Plenty of folks say you make your own luck. I don’t agree. Luck happens–both bad and good. The difference comes in our ability to recognize opportunity (even in the midst of challenge), and more importantly, to recognize how best to take advantage of it.

    What you *do* make is your own access. Call it marketing, call it chutzpah, call it narcissistic self-promotion…but at some point, you have to tell people (or show them) what you need, what you want, and how you want to be treated.

    Actions always tell. If you don’t do what you need to do to get what you want, it’s hard to conclude anything other than that you want something else more.

  7. seanrox Avatar

    Thanks for deep-linking to this post from’s today’s ‘Douche’ article…

    peace, love & barbecue,

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