Why great content is like a pie

by Tom Albrighton 3 March 2010 Copywriting, Digital and social

Today, I had a Twitter conversation about the fact that there is no mass-market pie based on fish (pastry encased, not mash-topped), prompted by the trending topic British Pie Week.

Since those pie-related exchanges seemed to bring me several new followers, I wondered if I’d been taking the wrong route with my po-faced, closely argued posts about the finer points of copywriting technique. So, instead, here are a few reflections on content and pies – and why they’ve got more in common than you thought…

  • Eat your heart out, Saatchi & Saatchi

    Eat your heart out, Saatchi & Saatchi

    Home-made is better. Mass-produced pies, as bought from service stations at midnight after the pub, do admittedly fill a hole. But there’s no lasting satisfaction and scant reason to return. Similarly, ‘me too’ mediocre content won’t motivate users to return, or remember where they read it. But tasty, hand-cooked wares that they can only get from your kitchen will keep them coming back for more.

  • You get what you pay for. At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, content is like any other purchase where quality and cost are inextricably linked. Such as pies. So if you want to offer steak and shallot rather than beef ‘n’ onion, you’re going to have to flash some cash.
  • Filling = satisfaction. Ever bitten into a pie that was 20% pastry, 10% filling and 70% air? It’s deeply disappointing – an affront to your sense of anticipation. A bit like following a link to a contentious headline, only to find a rather thin, unfulfilling article that doesn’t really rise to its title. At the risk of a hideously mixed metaphor, don’t let the crust of your content write a cheque that the filling can’t cash.
  • Get your hot pies here. Like pies, content tastes best when it’s fresh out of the oven. And that means timely updates on relevant topics. Whether you’re an individual or a 1000-person firm, you need to find a way to turn current interest into relevant content quickly and effectively. It’s the only way to capitalise on buzzes and memes. (Do people still say ‘meme’?)
  • Containers add value. If you’ve ever tried to eat a Pukka Pie from the chip shop, you’ll know that the foil container is the only thing standing between your enjoyment and the tragic sight of a mutilated pie on the pavement. Similarly, the right format and presentation does wonders for any content, improving usability and legibility and motivating readers to keep on munching to the very last bite.
  • Textural variety. The crisp, flaky pastry. The moist, tasty filling. A great pie is all about contrast. And great content is no different. The most memorable articles combine dry, factual detail with juicy entertainment, providing the perfect blend of nutrition and taste. 
  • Consumption occasion appropriateness. The aforementioned Pukka Pies have clearly been designed by supercomputers to offer the optimum balance of cost and stodge when combined with a regular portion of chips. In the same way, your content should be tailored to the needs of your audience at the time they will encounter it. There’s always an optimum length, and provided you’ve given sufficient detail (see ‘filling = satisfaction’ above) no-one will complain that your content is too short. 

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