66 Sources of Content Inspiration, Straight from the Experts
A few months ago I posted an article that outlined some of the tools & techniques we use at Screaming Frog for coming up with content ideas. Within that post I touched upon several websites that are worth visiting when you’re in need of inspiration, and I wanted to expand on that aspect of ideation by hearing from several experts in the content marketing field.
If you work in content, it’s a good idea to build up a bank of sites, newsletters and Twitter accounts that you find insightful and check them on a daily basis. Not only does it help inspire you, it highlights topics and forms of content that are currently working well, which you can then use to inform your strategy.
A full list of all the sources mentioned below can be found at the bottom of the post.
I recommend BrainPickings.org to just about everyone I meet. It’s run by Maria Popova, who writes extensively about the creative process. It’s an absolute delight, plus as she’s been writing since 2006 there’s an extensive archive to explore, plus she sends out a weekly newsletter.
Austin Kleon is a writer who draws. He authored Steal Like an Artist, the book which finally helped me figure out my own creative process. He also sends out a weekly newsletter which I’d recommend subscribing to.
Matt Muir is an excellent human who shares a bunch of interesting stuff on twitter, plus he curates the wonderful Imperica newsletter, Web Curios which you should subscribe to – it’ll brighten up your Friday, I promise.
Newsletters aside, there are a few sites I like to browse for inspiration:
Some of our favourite examples from Hannah’s list are:
- Lovely Photo Manipulations Utilizing Stock Photography
- The NSA’s newly declassified propaganda posters are wild
- Nigerian women’s elaborate hairstyles – in pictures
- Red Devils, Black Bats & Angry Cats: The Wacky Art of Vintage Fireworks Packaging
I have also been checking out Data USA to what data might be around the topic we are looking at.
The evergreen score on Buzzsumo is great for filtering out time-sensitive news stories.
I also like to do keyword searches on the AskReddit subreddit, it’s great at identifying the top questions for a niche.
Some of our favourite examples from Danny’s list are:
BloomBerg are also doing great stuff these days.
The IIB Awards is probably the best curation at the moment.
Plus I always pay attention to what David McCandless is doing on his own site, Information is Beautiful.
In truth, a lot of things cross my path from following Volodymyr Kupriyanov. VK (as he’s known) was my colleague at Distilled, data analyst/journalist/visualisation expert, and an awesome resource if anyone needs any research or data wizardry on their projects. He’s freelance these days :)
If anyone wants to learn more about visualising data, they should read Tufte’s book and all of the Fell in Love with Data blog (I’ve read it page to page 3 times!). And follow VisualisingData (again!).
And FlowingData is also a good place for inspiring content.
I also tend to see what other agencies are doing – at awards ceremonies or in conference presentations.
The Webby’s also show lots of very cool content – maybe something to aim for one day! :)
Some of our favourite examples from Mark’s list are:
- What Music Do Americans Love the Most? 50 Detailed Fan Maps
- What #eclipse2017 looked like across the country
- All the Buildings in Manhattan
- Seven Things to Know About Climate Change
I’m a big fan of data driven content, so I like to keep an eye on Gov.uk Statistics for newly released data sets. I also like the Yougov blog as they publish regular data findings there and it’s always interesting to see what stories are then picked up further and to unpick what makes them interesting and newsworthy. You can also learn tonnes from following people who regularly create content you love. The guys at Verve Search spring to mind as immediately obvious ones. Follow them all!
But some of the very best inspiration for me comes from sitting in a room with a couple of other freelancers talking about what we’re seeing in the press and throwing ideas around over a coffee. You can’t beat people to sound off.
Some of our favourite examples from Stacey’s list are:
Creative Strategy – Frac.tl | @ryansammy
Finding endless inspiration for high-quality content ideas can be challenging. Most people assume ideation (“idea generation”) is a well that can dry up — especially when you’re stuck brainstorming campaign ideas for a boring vertical. At Fractl, we collectively curate a database of inspiration that our Creative Strategists (“project managers”) use to discover new visualization tactics and generate engaging ideas. If you’re feeling stuck, here’s a quick list of our favorite sites for content inspiration:
Kaggle – a goldmine of free datasets waiting to be turned into campaigns! I use Kaggle to get an idea of how people are taking and manipulating existing datasets. Oftentimes, Kaggle helps inspire an correlating idea, or it gives you a new way to examine a dataset you didn’t even consider.I also pay attention to the forks in projects and the competitions.
Data.world – a social media community that is a cross of Github and Kaggle, where users and organizations share their data and projects. Here, you can search keywords related to your client, or follow a specific topics like technology. I personally set up alerts on new projects and popular shares for the vertical(s) we work with the most frequently.
Tableau Gallery – get inspiration from a community of data analysts and content creators! Discover new ways to visualize data based on what catches your eye, and check out what projects people are already creating in your vertical.
Flowing Data – a site dedicated to curating the cutting edge of data visualization. Pro tip: Bookmark tags from specific publishers you’re hoping to land press from (ex. New York Times) to explore the types of data stories and visualizations that these writers are interested in covering.
Curated Content Emails – There are dozens of email lists you can subscribe to for content inspiration. Two of my favorites are Data Is Plural (archives) and Numlock news (archives), both of which curate popular stories that focus on data analysis. These email blasts are a great way to see how a wide variety of publishers are covering data stories.
Github – Saved Github searches like “visualizations” or “scrapers” are an easy way to get inspired by scrapes other data analysts are doing, and they can expose you to new data scraping techniques others are using.
The most important aspect of successful content creation is your ability to distill complex data into a format that will quickly resonate with a broad range of readers. These tools will get you started on your mission to create shareable content for your business!
Some of our favourite examples from Ryan’s list are:
- Street network orientation in major cities
- All the results from FIFA World Cups
- Bangalore’s Bus Routes
Here’s a few sites that the team and I regularly visit:
- TeleGraphs (this is great for trending data)
- Creative Bloq
- Daily Infographic
- Entrepreneur Infographics
- BBC Infographics
- PR Examples (this is great for seeing how PR agencies are leveraging online assets)
- Matador Network Infographics
- The Guardian Datablog
A few Reddit threads:
And Twitter profiles:
Some of our favourite examples from Shannon’s list are:
- How Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City broke the Premier League record
- Habitable Planets – Could we make them?
- Most popular girl name by state from 1960-2012
- Three rebrands stores for the thing in Russia
Our team find inspiration in a number of places, and like to take in information in a number of ways.
One of our senior consultants told me she listens to the Stuff You Should Know podcast from howstuffworks.com. That podcast is really interesting because it just covers so much, and you get loads of niche information you wouldn’t find anywhere else!
Our design team obviously look for more visual sources of inspiration, and regularly look at look at Muzli, Dribbble and Behance for design. When it comes to web design, one of our visual designers recommends Awwwards.
We also all share news stories and interesting campaigns constantly, which helps give us loads of relevant inspiration for reactive ideas. In every niche we work on we share weekly news updates, but aside from that we have a huge culture of sharing which really helps inspire everyone. We use a tool called raindrop to collate visual inspiration for all teams.
Some of our favourite examples from Rebecca’s list are:
- Narwhals: Unicorns of the Sea
- 99 design inspiration accounts to follow on Instagram
- The History of Connection
- Emojis: A New Language?
Sources of Inspiration Mentioned
- Flowing Data
- Telegraph Data
- The Guardian Data
- Visualising Data
- Information Is Beautiful
- Fell in Love with Data
- Tableau Gallery
Awards & Galleries
- Matt_Muir – Chief Writer at Imperica
- NYTGraphics – The New York Times Graphics Department
- V_kupriyanov – Freelance researcher and data analyst
- Telegraph_Data – The home of TeleGraphs – a hub of data journalism from The Telegraph
- Ashley_J_Kirk – Senior data journalist at The Telegraph
- Ollie – Senior writer fivethirtyeight
- DataDhrumil – Database Journalist
- Creative Bloq
- The Inspiration Grid
- Shutterstock Blog
- Canva Blog
- Best Infographics
- Bored Panda
- Daily Infographics
- PR Examples
- Matador Network
- Dangerous Minds
- Fast Company
- This Is Colossal
- Chart Porn
- I Love Charts