The Right Ratio to Spread Your Content or Idea: Tim Ferriss’s 80/20 Rule

During a recent conversation with Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Workweek, 4 Hour Body) and Chase Jarvis (Professional Photographer) the two got into discussions on numerous interesting areas around how they structure their life, work and everything else that may have helped make them “successful” in their worlds.  At one point specifically, Tim mentioned how he focuses the amount of time he spends between creating content vs. marketing it.

You can view the full conversation here: (Conversation with Pro Photographer Chase Jarvis: Creating a Life of Creativity, Income, and Sweaty Palms), or participate in the conversation on Twitter with #cjlive.

Tim says he believes that the right ratio for his work is to focus 80% of the time on making great content, which if you’ve ever read or watched his stuff you’ll probably agree, and 20% of the time on the promotion.

He backs up his argument with the principle that in today’s digital world, great content gets spread. Therefore, you don’t need as much effort on marketing that content in the traditional way.  Of course, one could argue that that’s always been the case – that great stories spread without any marketing.

However, with the proliferation of tools and methods that there are to create and distribute content, and therefore an explosion in the actual amount of content being created, it’s a great ratio to keep in mind to begin to understand how and why some breaks through and some doesn’t.  There’s probably a number of examples where bad content got through because of a good marketing campaign, but the amount of resources, money and time spent marketing that content could be better spent on the content itself.   After all, the marketing of it will go away, but the content will live on forever.

The only thing Tim didn’t mention outright is a more in-depth analysis of the 20% of marketing time.  I still have some questions like:

  1. Does he only have to spend 20% because he outsources (which he is famous for outsourcing work) another large percentage of it?
  2. To what degree did he have to increase that percentage when he was first starting out – because I’d assume that he can do more with his 20% and fame now than a new person can
  3.  is there a lifecycle to it where for the time period you’re creating the content it’s 99% about creating good content and then, once the content’s created it’s about 99% marketing that content
All in all though a great ratio and thought for the digital age – that ideas that are great spread and win on their own and that the traditional old model of marketing “the content doesn’t matter as much if you spend an enourmous amount interrupting me” doesn’t mean as much in today’s world.
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