‘Shocking and appalling’ content marketing lessons from the Daily Mail…

… that will deliver BRANGELINA levels of clicks

September 23, 2016

You may not agree with its political views; you may think that 17 stories in a single day on the Brangelina divorce might be a tad over the top; you may question whether ‘smug and pouting’ Star Baker Candice really deserves a full-blown media take-down for smiling when her pastries are praised on The Great British Bake-Off. But I’m here to tell you that none of that matters! As a content marketer, I call on you to bow before the sheer, unadulterated, irresistible content ninja that is the Daily Mail online.

The Daily Mail was the guilty content marketing pleasure in my morning routine long before I moved over to the UK. It’s not just the content on there (I could actually do with a bit less Kardashian with my coffee); it’s the thrill of being expertly manipulated by a master in the art of content marketing psychology. I can see what they’re doing – but that doesn’t stop me clicking on the headlines every time.

Here are the five reasons why I read the Daily Mail most mornings – to be shocked, scared, outraged, and challenged to apply the same masterful principles of content marketing strategy and execution:

Because one headline is never enough

The day after it was announced Angelina Jolie was filing for divorce from Brad Pitt, you could find 17 separate headlines inspired by the split (that’s right – I counted them) on the Daily Mail site. We had the main story about battle lines being drawn between the two camps, of course, but also the low-down on a ‘flirty’ instragram picture of Brad Pitt with Selena Gomez (actually they were sitting a foot apart on a couch), four separate stories on the causes of Angelina’s supposed jealousy over French actress Marion Cotillard, quick recaps of Brad and Angelina’s turbulent love lives, the predictable Jennifer Aniston angle – and a whole lot more.

Why construct 17 different headlines when most of this stuff could have been incorporated into one? Because each headline represents a different opportunity to rank on Google, a different reason to keep clicking and consuming content – and therefore a different opportunity to extract value from the same core content asset (in this case Brad and Angelina’s split). This was the Mona Lisa or Sistine Chapel of Turkey Slicing. The Mail knows when it’s got a Big Rock on its hands – and boy does it know how to use it.

Because visuals don’t just say more than words – they rank higher

Every one of those headlines featured at least one image… or a video… or an entire photo gallery with sequenced captions that gave you another way to navigate the story. In fact, you will never, I repeat never, find a story on the Daily Mail homepage that doesn't have at least one image attached to it. These visuals are usually, by any objective definition, rubbish: ancient snaps taken at private parties, really old file photos, mobile phone video footage so grainy that you can barely register whether it shows human beings or not, video of George Clooney’s reaction to the Brangelina split that’s so short it’s basically a gif. It doesn’t matter, because the photo editing and matching of image to headline is genius. The Mail knows that visual content makes its stories hugely more attractive – to both Google algorithms and human beings. And its photo desk is superb at putting an unpromising group of snaps together in a sequence that tells a compelling story – and creates something far more than the sum of its pixelated parts.

Because remarkable headlines are works of art in themselves

I tried my best to replicate the unique style of a Daily Mail headline for this post – but I’ve got to be honest, I’m not yet in their league. Daily Mail headlines straddle the line between click bait and David Ogilvy copywriting genius like a colossus. They are never short of epic – and they stand out from most online newspaper headlines like a career-prime Muhammad Ali in Average Joe’s gym.

What makes Daily Mail headlines so hard to resist? Here’s a short list:

  • They’re not scared of their own length – at a time when we’re constantly told to shorten everything to a single punch, Daily Mail headlines are proof that you can keep people’s attention if your ideas are compelling enough
  • Everything matters – by which I mean that every story on the page gets the same epic, breathless headline treatment whether we’re talking Hollywood scandals, threats to world peace, the environmental apocalypse that is stray cats, or your chances of owning a collector’s edition £5 note
  • They leave you in no doubt as to why you have to read the piece – you know exactly what experience you are going to get from Daily Mail content by the time you click through to it
  • They are loaded with emotion – in fact they go so far as to tell you exactly what emotion you should be ready to feel when you read the story; in doing so it reminds you that the Daily Mail knows how you feel – and you’re 100% right to feel that way!
  • They use all the creative tools that simple type has to offer – never is a capitalised word or a set of single quotation marks so meaningful as in a Daily Mail headline; it’s all part of a code of innuendo binding the Mail to its readers in mutual, nudge-nudge understanding – and the ability to communicate on many different levels at once

Because readers need more than news

It’s not just in content execution that the Daily Mail sets a standard. Its mix of content is exceptional as well – catering to every imaginable functional and emotional need that its readers might have. Sure you need to know about race riots in America, the war against ISIS and the state of British politics; you want slice after slice of celeb titillation; but you also need to know how to pick a divorce lawyer (in case your marriage goes the same way as Brad and Angelina’s), how to avoid being caught out by copycat beauty products, how to get a £900 coat for just £90 and how to avoid superbugs in your roast chicken.

Because consistency is the key to content marketing domination

The Daily Mail strategy for content domination works so well because it’s applied so consistently. Those 17 Brangelina stories weren’t a one-off – The Great British Bake-off reliably generates three or four a day and so do most of the other major stories that the Mail covers. In fact, it’s so consistently good at turning single stories into ongoing sequenced narratives that it effectively creates its own memes. Photo galleries and videos aren’t restricted to Hollywood celebs – they’ll illustrate everything from race riots to domestic disputes about dogs. The reason that someone like me keeps coming back to the Daily Mail website is because I know exactly what I’ll get every time – the Mail has created an owned content experience that’s second-to-none.

How can you apply Daily Mail-style content ninja-ness to B2B content marketing? We’ve got plenty of ideas to get you started in the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.