Original content has proven a big draw for video-streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO GO: HBO’s Game of Thrones alone scored the network its largest audience ever, while Netflix’s original series of Marvel’s Daredevil grabbed nearly 4.4 million viewers in its first 11 days.
Related: The Secret to Amazing Blog Content
The newest debate among the industry, however, revolves not around the creation of original content, but how to release it to maximize viewership. The big players are divided between two camps: The first camp is Netflix and Amazon Prime, which release original content in series or clusters of episodes (a model championed by Netflix and later adopted by Amazon).
The second camp? HBO GO and Hulu, which release original content weekly, to mimic traditional television schedules.
Both strategies have their strong points: Weekly releases increase return rates at the expense of initial viewership, while all-at-once releases foster binge-watching but cut into these series' shelf life.
There's a lesson here for entrepreneurs. When they create their companies’ first pieces of content, their decisions about content frequency and distribution are crucial. Should entrepreneurs unleash their content all at once, or choose the piecemeal route instead?
Let’s consider three alternate scenarios illustrating the various content-release strategies entrepreneurs can utilize to maximize brand awareness and audience engagement:
1. Don’t rush to release.
Starting a company blog is one of the best marketing moves an entrepreneur can make. But the first few posts are crucial to establishing a reader base and brand awareness, so be sure to define your target audience and craft your content to impress before it goes live.
HBO is a great teacher here: The network has long relied on unique, controversial content to fuel its viewership growth. Even as other networks have stepped up their own original content, HBO’s name remains synonymous with quality.
Remember, you’re not competing solely with other entrepreneurs’ content: You’re competing with social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for readers’ time and attention. To engage your audience, you must ensure that your content provides value, so ask fellow entrepreneurs to review it before you release it.
2. Start with a content dump.
After you’ve defined your target audience and messaging, don’t fuss with a “pilot project” to test the waters. Start with a strong influx of content to give your audience enough content to get hooked on. For entrepreneurs, this means creating a small cluster of content and launching the pieces together.
Amazon’s hybrid video release strategy is a good example. When an Amazon Original show debuts, the streaming service provides viewers with enough content to foment a viewing addiction, after which fans can be counted on to eagerly await further episodes.
This “get the audience hooked” tactic is also the foundation of Netflix’s success. A company survey showed that 76 percent of viewers queried admitted to binge-watching their favorite shows; many stated that watching shows this way made those series more enjoyable.
3. Sustain readership with metered releases.
Netflix may have mastered the art of hooking new viewers, but its user behavior suggests that the streaming platform isn’t so great at maintaining them.
By analyzing viewership among more than 100 million consumers, we discovered that the viewership of Netflix Originals declines by a factor of 25 times between a show’s first three days on the air and its two-month mark. In contrast, HBO GO’s viewership peaks reliably on days when new episodes air, boosting traffic to 1.6 times its weekly average. This suggests that a metered approach can foster return visits.
Entrepreneurs should take note and use a metered content strategy after they establish a readership base. A steady stream of content allows entrepreneurs to keep content quality high, cash in on SEO benefits and social referrals and promote regular visits to the company site.
To maximize a metered strategy, entrepreneurs should consider the type of content they’re releasing. White papers, for example, should be released only once or twice per quarter to ensure content quality and reader adoption. Other forms of content, such as blog posts and videos, should be published as regularly as possible. According to an earlier source above, companies that publish 16 or more blog posts per month get 3.5 times more traffic and 4.5 times more leads than companies that publish up to four.
The overall message: Don’t develop your content schedule on a whim: The leading streaming platforms have already experimented with various content-release strategies, so you don't have to. Instead, take your cues from Netflix and Amazon for your initial release, then adopt the metered strategy HBO and Hulu prefer. Your readership awaits -- now go out and capture it.