The Content Marketing Secret Movie Studios Know

Today I’m going to let you in on a little content secret: all you have to do is find a successful topic and it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

But first, let me back up. I’ve seen a number of companies that will make an ebook and then break it up into blog posts to publish. That’s like a movie studio publicly releasing a movie and then test screening it in front of a live audience.

And movie studios don’t do that, because it doesn’t make any sense. It’s too expensive of a bet when the content topic is unproven.

Instead movie studios seek to find an already existing popular content topic and still test screen it ahead of time. When it’s released and is a hit, they repackage it as many creative ways as they can.

And it works! Sequels have become more and more reliable as “bankers” over time, and deliver a far greater return on investment than movies as a whole. For example, Toy Story was a whopping success earning $191.8 million in its first domestic run, making it the top grossing film of 1995. Years later, in 2019, Toy Story 4 did similarly well, earning $1.073 billion.

Reusing your popular topic as many ways as possible holds true in TV too. Scooby-Doo has over the years been the subject of at least 19 TV series (on CBS, ABC, the WB, Cartoon Network, and Boomerang); more than 40 animated films; and two live-action movies in the early 2000s, the first of which grossed $275 million worldwide.

So how can you create an ebook that’s sure to be a hit?

1. Test many topics as quickly and cheaply as possible.

First you have to find the hit topic, which is the hardest part because the odds are low: 20% of your content is going to deliver nearly all of your results. So you have to have a lot of at bats. What you need to do is find the fastest way to test screen new content topics.

I recommend using blog posts to solve for this: basically a darts approach. You throw a handful and see which get closest to the target. Whichever get the most traffic and interaction you can then repackage into all sorts of other content forms.

2. Milk it by putting a new spin on it.

Release follow up posts with different angles on the topic. For example, if you sell video games and a blog post about Fortnite becomes your highest trafficked post, you can feel good about seeing similarly high traffic by releasing follow ups such as: 5 Fortnite Secrets You Need to Know, Top Playmaking Tips for Fortnite, and The Best Fortnite Skins. Basically take the topic that went well and put as many different angles on it as you can.

You’ll notice that magazines do this all the time. Check out the many issues of Weddings that hit on flowers:

The new angles you take on your popular content can include:

  • tips about the topic
  • expert opinions or Q&As
  • a tutorial
  • trends about the topic
  • the latest news about it
  • how beginners can get involved
  • pro tricks for experts
  • its history or a related timeline
  • answers to frequently asked questions
  • a new technique

3. Repackage your best posts into your blockbuster ebook.

Make your hit posts into a downloadable ebook. Keep in mind there’s a reason Cliff Notes exist: not everyone wants to read a 40-page ebook. So consider releasing a condensed version that’s a quick one-pager or checklist, too.

And repackaging doesn’t always have to happen in the same medium. Many great Disney movies were inspired by existing popular stories: Aladdin was inspired by “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” from One Thousand and One Nights a collection of Middle Eastern folk stories; and Beauty and the Beast was inspired by a French fairytale La Belle et la Bete. So turn your successful posts into a webinar, short video clips, and do a podcast reading.

Create the best content marketing

Now you know the secret to the most downloaded ebooks: they’re inspired by your most popular blog posts. Go forth and create your minimum viable content product! Up next, learn how to create the best marketing offers.

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.