Jun 14, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

One of the more effective ways to engage customers in a conversation is with regular, engaging content. But maintaining the consistency of quality content is one of the biggest challenges that content creators face. How do you maintain interest once you exhaust your “long tail” list of content ideas?

What I want to do in this post is share a list of resources that may help to develop new content ideas. Some people use the word “newsjacking” to describe content inspired from another resource, but I think it’s more helpful to think of this practice as extending distribution (not to say that you couldn’t offer a unique spin on things).

For example, I subscribe to the Wordfence distribution list, which shares plug-in security vulnerabilities when they come up. When I shared this resource in the comments of a post, another reader shared that the information that Wordfence shared wasn’t discovered by the Wordfence folks but by a programmer on an industry-specific forum. While the comment on attribution may be accurate, I would never have known the information unless I read it in the Wordfence email.

What is special about these tools is that they’re all quite flexible to the needs of any vertical or niche, but also that they serve two purposes: both to generate content ideas and to help you stay up-to-date in your industry. I continue to learn a lot of industry and platform-specific knowledge from these tools. So I hope you find one or two (or more) helpful for you:

1. Google Alerts


A lot was made a few years back about Google Alerts downgrading the level of their service. Though it is no longer a comprehensive media monitoring tool, Google Alerts still can provide topical content alerts based upon search criteria that you set.

For instance, I have Google Alerts for many of the major social media platforms and the word “new.” “New Facebook” alerts me to new features on the platform, usually from highly reputable sources (I mention this because new Facebook features tend to incite a lot of interest).

If you haven’t used Google Alerts in awhile and have a few topics that are high-interest to your customers, you may consider experimenting with keywords to see if its results give you ideas for topical content. If you’re a dedicated Bing user, Bing Interests will return keyword-relevant content to you, but only within the Microsoft network (not to email).


2. Talkwalker Alerts

One of the most talked about free alternatives to Google Alerts is Talkwalker Alerts, which essentially serves the same function to return content results of a keyword search. Where Talkwalker Alerts differs from Google Alerts is that the results are often from less reputable sources than Google Alerts. I don’t mean to say that as a bad thing, for example Google Alerts might return a Mashable link to a keyword search and a Talkwalker Alert might return a blog post. There are some settings to play with for Talkwalker Alerts, but my experience has been that it draws from difference sources.




IFTTT (if-this-then-that) is an amazing resource for connecting many disparate products and apps. It’s not surprising that you can mine a lot of content ideas by setting up a few “recipes.” Some of the possibilities would be to get emails of trending Twitter topics (as seen above) or to get a daily or weekly digest of posts from industry-specific blogs using the Feed channel (this parses RSS feeds for consumption). There are even a selection of major social and news sites that you can search and aggregate within IFTTT (one that pops out as a huge content idea generator is Reddit).

4. Zapier

Zapier more or less can perform the same “connection” functions as IFTTT, with similar reliability (in my experience, anyhow). In contrast to IFTTT, Zapier is also a freemium app with limited free “zaps.” That said, one feature that Zapier offers and IFTTT doesn’t is the capability to see geolocated, keyword-specific Tweets. So, if your content is regional it gives you some flexibility to sort by geolocation.

5. Email Subscriptions


One way to generate content ideas is by subscribing to industry-specific/trade newsletters and even competitor newsletters. While it might seem a bit counterintuitive to actively mine your competition for content ideas, from a distribution perspective it makes sense.

There may be interesting content or ideas that your customers can’t get anywhere else that you can provide (as Wordfence does). It has the added benefit of letting you know how your competition is communicating with and marketing to its customers.

6. Newspapers and Their Derivatives

If you think that print journalism is dead, I’ll share that I learned about a specific tech tool this weekend not from a Google Alerts or from an RSS feed, but from The New York Times.

Depending upon your niche there may be a lot of great ideas in print journalism – and as I found this weekend, topicality is not exclusive to online. I read The New York Times on Kindle which has hundreds of newspapers, magazines and blogs that you can subscribe to and consume on your Kindle.

If you’re an audiobook-aficionado you should listen to Reese Witherspoon’s reading of “Go Tell a Watchman.” On a scale of one to five, I give the book a two and Reese Witherspoon’s performance a six. Where was I going with this…oh yes! If you subscribe to Audible you can set up the audio version of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times for free.

Of course, you can always get the print version of the newspaper too…which is much more useful for Silly Putty enthusiasts than a tablet is.

7. Podcasts


My wife is a huge podcast fan and has had really great experiences gleaning information and insights from industry-specific podcasts. I find podcasts very time-consuming, so when I listen, I speed them up using the Overcast player.

Of course Apple has an extensive library of topic-sorted podcasts, but there are plenty of other podcast resources as well.

8. Blogs

Like podcasts, blogs can be a rich source of topical, content-specific material. And there are a lot of them.

You can sort through them manually, or (as I prefer) you can set-up IFTTT to send you a daily or weekly digest of your favorites. There are plenty of good RSS readers that you can use to read an aggregation of blogs and newsfeeds as well.

9. Twitter Trending Topics

Despite having less than 30 percent of the users that Facebook has, Twitter’s trending topics are harbinger for real-time trends. Real-time content isn’t pertinent to all communication and marketing professionals, but when done well has the potential to generate a lot of attention. Like Google Trends (mentioned below), trends can be searched by (wide) geolocation and by the entire community.

And along with many of the other changes that Twitter is implementing, trending topics has been improved quite a bit from its inception.

MARCH TS_Real Time Influence_FINAL_Twitter- Lead Gen

10. Google Trends

Like Twitter, Google Trends is a real-time discovery tool for what is topical by geolocation and in the world. While social conversation fuels Twitter, search queries fuel Google Trends often with similar results. One of the neat features of Google Trends is that it gives you more of a sense of the context that people are searching for on a particular topic – so if your interest is nuanced at all this might be a good tool to consult.

Like Twitter Trending Topics, Google has improved this feature quite a bit recently.

11. Facebook “Trending”


While not as usable as Twitter or Google’s tools, Facebook’s “trending” section does give you trending topics and news on the sidebar of your newsfeed. You may have read that Facebook was accused of manipulating the results of its trending section to favor certain political viewpoints (this appears to have happened without Facebook’s knowledge on a small-scale). In any event, you can see real-time social interests in real-time on Facebook as well – not as well organized but from a bigger sample size.

12. Paid Tools

Finally, there are plenty of paid tools to help generate content ideas. There are too many to name (except perhaps for Cision), but sufficed to say that if you want industry-specific ideas for content there is probably an app for that.


Content creation is difficult. Quality content creation is even more difficult. Hopefully this posts helps you to revisit or to try some of these tools to make this process easier.

Images via Pixabay: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.