Get the Full Picture: How to Calculate the True Cost of Content

Get the Full Picture: How to Calculate the True Cost of Content

Has your executive leadership ever tasked you with calculating the ROI of the content your team produces? This exercise is no small feat and most would probably take a shortcut and just report on the basic costs of initial content creation.

But when you sit down and think about the entire content lifecycle, there are additional operations, technology and governance costs that should be factored in. To get an accurate account of costs, it’s helpful to understand the concept of “cost of ownership”, which is most often used for estimating the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining pieces of equipment. Here’s more on how you can leverage a cost-of-ownership model for calculating the true costs of content.

According to Stephen J. Bigelow, TechTarget’s senior technology editor, the total cost of ownership (TCO) “is an estimation of the expenses associated with purchasing, deploying, using, and retiring a product or piece of equipment.”

In other words, an asset’s total cost across its lifespan.

In today’s digital universe, content is one of a company’s most valuable assets. While most content operations teams include the cost of creating and publishing a piece of content in their ROI calculations, many of them stop there.

Think about what goes into a piece of content — let’s say, a blog post. The total cost of ownership will include both the tangible costs you incur over the content’s lifecycle. However, it will also incorporate all the intangible costs — for which you should assign a monetary value.

Planning and scheduling: It’s not just your creative teams’ time that costs you money. Your content planning teams’ time, as well as the partial cost of the content platform on which your developing content will live, per piece of content, all factor into the post’s total cost.

Creating the content: Your creative teams’ time, of course, will be a major component of the cost at this phase of the content lifecycle. However, teams might need to buy other assets, such as images and infographics, in the content. Additionally, if they want to include copyrighted material, you’ll need to include any fees they incur in obtaining permission.

Editing, compliance, and legal approvals: While your company’s compliance and legal teams might not be under your marketing team’s umbrella, their time does factor into each approved project’s cost. Be sure to include it in your cost of ownership calculations.

Classifying the content for storage on your content platform or digital asset management system: Creating the metadata that makes it easy to retrieve your content later might not be the sexiest aspect of content marketing, but it certainly is an essential part of your teams’ work. So, include the time it takes to do this routine task in your cost calculations.

Publishing the content: Although the cost per post might be minimal, you’ll need to include the content’s share of the yearly cost of purchasing and maintaining the website where you’ll publish it. For printed materials, ebooks, or white papers, extra expenses, such as hiring designers or printers’ fees, might need to be factored into the total publishing cost. Additionally, if you copyright your work, add that cost in, too. And, don’t forget the fees you pay your email automation provider.

Analyzing your content’s effectiveness: If your content analytics software integrates with other analytics platforms, such as sales (and it should), you’ll need to factor in the time your teams take to assess your content’s performance. You’ll also need to factor in the costs of the other analytics platforms you’ll use to decide whether to keep the content as is or revise it.

Auditing your content: Ideally, you should conduct a comprehensive content audit at least once a year to assess your content’s performance in the long term, as well as if it needs any updates. Be sure to add in the cost of the audit per piece.

Revising outdated or poorly performing pieces: Doubtless, your content audits will turn up some pieces that are either past their prime or not performing up to par. Be sure to include the cost of revisions in your calculations.

Then, after you’ve added up all these costs — both obvious and not-so-obvious — you have the total cost of ownership of your company’s content. Learning about the “hidden” costs involved in content production allows you to see areas where you can trim back wasteful processes and put more of your budget into more productive ones.

Cost is only one-half of the content ROI equation. Now, let’s look at the whole picture — your content ROI.

We’ve advocated fervently and often for the central role of owned content in your overall content strategy. Posting on social media, for instance, without linking it to the complete piece of content on your website, misses an opportunity to convince your audience that your company website is their source of choice for information about your industry.

Similarly, digital ads or guest posts that fail to link back to your website for more details fall short of their potential. Turning new audience members into regular subscribers and, eventually, customers should be the goal of every piece of content you publish — anywhere. For that reason, owned content should be your primary source of marketing revenue.

Like the cost of your owned content, content marketing revenue can also have “hidden” sources. While it’s easy to track a sale that comes in as a response to a call to action in a blog post, product description, or white paper, most sales result from a multi-touch marketing approach.

For example, a customer might discover your brand while searching for information on solving a problem. They might read a blog post or two, sign up for your email list, and then read your newsletters for years before they make a purchase.

But what were the driving factors for their decision? Their last action might be reading through the ebook you just sent them, but was that the determining event?

A multi-source revenue attribution tool, such as Salesforce or DemandJump, can solve that problem. These platforms have dashboards that indicate the most effective marketing activities at each stage of your prospects’ customer journeys.

Once you’ve calculated the costs that your content ownership incurs and the revenue it yields, subtract your cost of content ownership from the revenue. Divide that number by the cost of ownership and express the result as a percentage.

That’s your owned content’s ROI — and it’s a powerful tool to help you make decisions about your path toward a leaner, cash-generating content strategy.

One other tool you can’t do without is a central content repository with robust metadata capabilities. And, if it also offers customized analytics that can easily integrate with your company’s other analytics platforms, you have all the ingredients to make the most of your owned content.

DivvyHQ’s leading-edge content marketing platform has all that and much more. Discover how it can simplify your content marketing operations with a free 14-day trial. Start your free trial today!

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