Content Writing & Media Roger Ebert Style

roger ebertWhen it comes to film, no critic has more authority on the art form than Roger Ebert. Ebert, who passed away on April 4, was a publishing powerhouse. According to one of his final essays, “A Leave of Presence” (pub. April 2), he typically writes 200+ reviews per year. These aren’t little 150-word synopses either. Ebert’s reviews tend to be thoughtful tours de force that offer contextual insight only possible with decades of film knowledge.

But if you have a mental picture of Ebert as a stodgy old man, breathing his own stale art-film/academic air, then you’d be wrong. Ebert embraced new technologies; he shifted with the changing tides of the publishing industry; and he worked overtime – despite enormous success – to constantly become a better critic than the one he was the year before.

Check out these three lessons marketers can learn from Roger Ebert about content generation…

#1 Publish Like a Leader

I said Ebert typically publishes more than 200 reviews per year. Well, 2012 was an exception. Last year, Ebert says he wrote “306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles.”


Roger Ebert wasn’t just a leader because he knew his stuff. He was also a leader in terms of sheer volume. Very few one-man blogs can keep up with that kind of volume – much less famous writers who have speaking engagements, television appearances, ceremonies to attend, and other obligations that no doubt filled Ebert’s schedule.

Though I haven’t come across any commentary from Ebert on how he stuck to such a rigorous schedule, I’d wager he had developed some kind of editorial calendar that worked for him. (Take some advice form Lisa Barone about setting up an editorial calendar for your blog.)

#2 Create a Media Hub

Ebert was a content generation powerhouse, his work appearing all over the web and the world in hundreds of print newspapers. However, he was especially good at harnessing this wide shot spread into his own media hub,

As Phil Rosenthal points out in the Chicago Tribune, “Ebert made the Sun-Times his partner, retaining the rights to what he produced. Not only did he realize greater financial benefits, this arrangement enabled him to control its use.”

The clean design of…

  • Clearly organizes movie reviews
  • Features Ebert’s own blog, “Roger’s Journal”
  • Has an annotated list of associated blogs
  • Includes reviews and essays from “Far-Flung” correspondents around the world
  • And contains links to social media pages, info on events, and more…

Ebert knew how to make the most of his brand, and he worked hard to ensure that everything his fans might want to know could be located in a single place. Ebert understood that this blog/hub strategy is a great way to create a personal connection with an audience.

#3 Master ONE Social Media Channel

I said earlier that Ebert embraced new technologies. Well, that’s partially true. In the summer of 2010, Ebert wrote, “I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in.”

Ebert didn’t just use Twitter; he used it exceptionally well. Good content writing isn’t just a skill to implement on your blog and in your press materials. You should leverage your content writing abilities on your social media channels, as well.

Ebert’s Twitter account provided a constant stream of witty, lively commentary on politics, science, and – of course – film. (To see Ebert’s eight rules for using Twitter, check out this piece from Shea Bennett.)

The “Ebert takeaway” here isn’t that you need to use Twitter, but that you should choose one social media channel and master it totally. No matter what channel you use, be sure to check out 7 Things Your Social Media Should Do Every Day. And, if you’re looking for inspiration, just go peruse some of the tweets Ebert collected.

What lessons can you pick out from Roger Ebert’s career? How has his prolific writing and commentary touched you?

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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