Something fascinating has happened in the advertising industry over the past few years. Many advertisers have stopped acting like companies trying to sell you stuff, and started acting more and more like publishers – creators of content and entertainment designed to appeal to their target audience.

For example:

– YouTube enables commercials to stretch from 30-second pitches to 5-minute narratives (a la BMW Films)
– Rich technology allows advertisers to move past product information and into interactive environments
– Platform agnostic, advertisers are moving their content into mobile and even video games

Why the shift? Advertisers are in the attention game. Ad clutter has skyrocketed with the adoption of interactive media, and attention is harder and harder to come by. So smart advertisers changed the game. Instead of trying to squeeze ads in between the compelling content consumers are consuming, they started creating the compelling content themselves.

Take a look at your recent emails. Which are they, the ads or the content?

Do your emails say, “We interrupt your inbox with a brief message from our sponsor?” Or are yours the messages your subscribers are looking for, relegating others to “interrupter” status?

If you want to capture more subscriber attention, and turn your email into the content that squeezes the competing messages out, try these tips:

Be selfless. I know we send emails in order to drive a certain action – to register for a conference or download a whitepaper or sign up for a webinar. And it’s true that all of these products are a service to your subscribers. But is there a way for the email to be valuable on its own, independent of the action you want your subscribers to take? For example, if you’re promoting a webinar, instead of “Register Here” being the leading message, try leading with one of the key findings the webinar will present. Your email then serves as a proof-of-concept for the webinar, and has delivered value to your subscribers. Don’t worry about “giving away the shop”. Prospective attendees are trying to determine if the event is worth their time – you’ve just given them proof that it is.

Think like a blogger. There are about 130 million blogs out there, give or take ten million. Imagine trying to compete for attention where ten million prospective rivals amounts to a rounding error. Still, some bloggers manage to do pretty well. The best ones have the same secret: produce content they are uniquely qualified for, and vigilantly protect this focus. Good email marketers do the same thing. They have a unique and interesting content strategy, and take a long view to stay true to their strategy.

Preview next week’s episode. Want them to tune in again next time? Give them an idea of what they can expect. Obviously, this takes a little pre-planning, though it doesn’t amount to any extra work since you have to decide what’s in the next email eventually. But the flip side is that it will save you time later on, and will help boost your ratings.