#32: a different kind of content “impact”

content impact

Welcome to contentfolks—a fortnightly newsletter with short lessons & ideas about content that makes a difference, sparks action, and truly serves its audience. Thank you for being here!

Hey 👋

The last few days of December are traditionally a time for reflection & gift-giving—and in that spirit, I have a small gift for you: two exercises that will help you reflect on your work, look at it in new ways, and maybe even tweak a few things next year.

I hope you’re ready… 😉

Impact on the business vs. impact on space and time

Usually, we measure content in terms of how it impacts a business: how much traffic it drives, how many sign-ups it brings, how significantly it affects the bottom line.
If I asked how your content performed this year, you could probably give me a semi-accurate numerical answer off the top of your head.

But would you be able to answer just as quickly if I asked a different question—if I asked, that is: how has your content impacted the planet and the people who live on it in 2021?

🌳 A practical example, #1 🌳

Whenever someone does something online, a small amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted. I don’t know how small that amount is, but at some point I read about the cumulative impact of online ads and it wasn’t looking good.

So I wondered: what if we measured the impact of our content marketing activities in a similar way? After digging through enough scientific papers and studies, I found this website carbon calculator that estimates how much CO2 is produced whenever someone visits a web page. If you accept some approximation, this is how contentfolks performed in 2021:

contentfolks carbon

I was sort of floored to realise this humble newsletter has produced the equivalent emissions of making myself a daily cup of tea for the next decade and as much carbon as two trees absorb in a year (!).

And then I thought of how I used to run a blog at Hotjar with 200k organic readers per month. After plugging those numbers into the calculator, I was catapulted into a full-fledged forest of 101 trees that work all year round just to absorb the CO2 generated by our content.
That’s a scary amount of impact I didn’t know I could have.

Exercise #1 → use the calculator to find out your CO2 footprint. Did the result make you wonder if you should start offsetting your work?

🕒 A practical exercise, #2 🕒

For this exercise, we’re measuring the impact of your work on people’s time.

Take your yearly readership, multiply it by an average reading time, and you’ll get the number of humanity-days spent on your content this year.
For example: contentfolks had 25 issues x 2,000 readers/issue x 3 mins average reading time = 150,000 minutes, or 2,500 hours, or 104 humanity-days (!) went into reading this newsletter.

For a variation on the exercise, think about the time you can save humanity with to your work. At Hotjar, we aimed to publish content so thorough and clear that our audience wouldn’t need to Google anything after reading it: if this simple editorial decision saved our readers just 10 extra seconds each, then 200,000 organic readers x 10 seconds x 12 months = we saved humanity 270+ days of unnecessary googling per year. Now that’s the kind of impact I like to talk about!

Exercise #2 → calculate how much humanity-time your content used or saved this year. Did the result inspire you to make an extra effort to publish clear and helpful content from now on?

I hope you enjoyed these small experimental gifts 🎁 and learned something new about the work you do every day.

So let me leave you with a final question. Forget about business goals, metrics, and KPIs: now that you know the other kinds of impact your content can have, what are you going to do differently next year?