Creating a Marketable Information Product

Creating a Marketable Information Product

By Deana Molinari

“In the information age, you don’t teach philosophy as they did after feudalism. You perform it. If Aristotle were alive today he’d have a talk show.” Timothy Leary


Craftsmen market products made with hand tools while information makers create products from words and pictures. Products that teach, solve problems, describe processes, share experiences and even call for action. Creating an information product follows similar development procedures as any other creation.  One can follow directions or “wing” it. Mind maps allow creators to do both at the same time.  A map visualizes brainstorming, planning, content development and even evaluation processes.

Imagine a visual aid of your best thoughts. A mind map records the creator’s ideas and can then be posted on a wall to inspire. Information creators often keep notebooks that capture thoughts. The mind map abbreviates a notebook so that the product development happens before our eyes.

As the product comes together, the map conceptually outlines and stores the information. One can even evaluate the product by comparing between the map to the product. The map acts like stepping stones over writing blocks. The writer can use the concepts like stepping stones over a fast moving thought stream. The sub concepts keep writers on track to completing a thought before moving to the next concept. Since the map is not hierarchal, it can be reworked at any time.

The mind map diagram deconstructs most projects whether they are hand made or brain crafted. There are other ways of structuring products. Most project managers have heard of outlines. This tool works well for linear thinkers. The plan is placed in a vertically indented outline of concepts and sub concepts.  The mind map works well with dynamic projects and those that do not require linear thinking.

Online writers brainstorm and record their thoughts in groups. The main purpose or concept is placed in the middle of the page. Other thoughts are distilled into main or sub concepts that are placed somewhere in the white space. The concepts can then be linked by lines to development tasks until the project may resemble a tree or a sky with clouds.

When writers post the map in a visible place, the brain keeps working on the project. Intuition and expert advice adds or subtracts concepts. The map then begins to serve other purposes. Writers can watch the jumble of concepts sort into a linear or web structure.  The map serves as a checklist, a to-do list, a priority list, a calendar, or even a nagging whip that keep the product moving toward completion.

The map is a dynamic object. Little clouds of concepts can be added or subtracted whenever the writer wishes. Mapping software allows writers to color the concepts or attach documents. Adding a legend defining symbols and colors permits writers to add dates, names, deadlines, prioritization and organization. The map can change looks and purposes throughout the planning and development process.


As the map grows in complexity, self-assessment becomes more frequent. Assessment of knowledge, experience, resources, potential consultants, and goals provides sophisticated planning.  Planners form questions for each concept or sometimes put the assessment process in its own concept structure. Once answers are identified, more plans are created. The project is now ready to meet the writer’s or the customer’s needs.

Assessment can steady the author’s progress. For example, writers can assess values and biases as well as needs and knowledge with questions like:

  1. Why does the world need my document? How does the product development fit with my goals?
  2. Do I know enough? Where can I find the unknown …?
  3. How do customers work through the process now? How will this article improve their processes and outcomes?
  4. Does this project need pizazz? What sort?
  5. How can I ease the reader’s learning burden?

Part of the development process is to decide which speaking role to take. Writer’s usually choose a role offering the most writing variety. This choice calls for cultural, personal, and preference assessments. An author can assume a God-like viewpoint by claiming expertise. Perhaps a panel of experts could describe the topic better than a narrator. The list goes on to explore emotional roles like friend, parent, self as explorer, and self as bumbler, etc. There really is no limit to role choices. The main goal guiding choice is to clearly describe the content. The choice is added to the map to remind the writer to remain in the role throughout the development process.

The map guides authors traversing the research process. During research, concepts are expanded or contracted. Tasks and resources sprout from subtopics. The visualized product can change character or transition into new purposes with different meanings than the original view.

One warning is offered now. Although the map can grow, be careful to restrict the size of the final product. Determine the number of words before the research and development process begins. “Project creep” is a nasty issue.

Writers are like housing contractors. Once a blueprint is selected, owners are fond of saying, “Just one more thing. Can we add this little thing? It will not cost much.” Writers find themselves repeating, “One more sentence. Just one more idea will add so much value.” The truth is one phrase leads to another sentence and then to paragraphs. Soon the project is too large to fits the original requirement. Exercise self-discipline. Cut your fabulous prose and save for another project.

“Research” is a general word pertaining to a study of literature. The term can also mean scientific exploration. Every article requires research. The guidelines for literature review include:

  • Finding articles and books written in the last 5-7 years.
  • Including ideas from different theorists
  • Ensuring quality content.


Librarians call referenced articles written in the last 5 years “current”. Writers need current references. The exception is when the author writes history.  Technologies allow online articles to include graphics and video and to write few words. So far video talking heads have not yet replaced the written word. So add graphics only when they do not distract from the product’s purpose.


The internet promotes differing ideas about concepts. We read all sorts of claims on the daily news so authors with more time develop more thoughts about your main concept. Writers can choose to quote only authors who agree with them or provide a variety of thought. Good writing always contains competing ideas.

Published ideas are considered more credible than oral presentations, tweets, and opposing opinions. Comparing published ideas found in journals provides a genealogy of the author’s thought. Watch the news. Most features present a problem, discuss one side of the issue and finish with their own bias at the end. Online documents often reverse the presentation, quoting agreeing sources first so they have enough room and then providing a brief sample of competitive thinking.

Quality Content

Gaining a thorough understanding of concepts usually involves a lot of literature review time. The time is necessary as academics and journalists demand references. They even judge an article’s level of credibility by the references supporting the article. Of course, literature review is most often done before a writer designs a solution.

For instance, the word “stress” is defined by many professions. In order to prevent writing an information product based on an inappropriate foundation, the writer needs a philosophy and theory to match his ideas. There are biology, psychology, sociology, neurology, technology, robotic, English, engineering and even occult ideas about stress. Which one will fit the writer’s product? Only a literature review can decide.

As a professor, I read many papers about stress because my research specialty was the stress of learning.  A common student error was not reading enough background literature before writing a paper. Students would mention a theorist early in the paper as required but fail to read their research. They wrote articles based on their own opinions because they used inappropriate theories. Suppose an author is writing about the role of neurotransmitters in athletic endeavors. The theory underlying the document would need to be biological, but the most popular authors are from psychology backgrounds. Applying a social learning researcher’s work to a biological paper does not support a biological premise. In fact, the error erases the author’s credibility.

Once authors gather more information than they ever desired, they structure their product’s development. Imagine a clothes line swinging in the breeze. Authors hang similar concept notes

together in a linear fashion. By keeping all the ideas about subtopics together, examples and details are easier to insert. Here is one way to organize an information product.

  1. Begin with a description of the problem. Articles can start with an entertaining story. The beginning provides customers hints about what to expect in the article. The generalized beginning is quickly followed by the literature review and definitions of concepts. The mind map comes in handy as it offers an unstructured list of topics and subtopics. You can attach the definitions and references to the concepts so they are easy to find. By the time you finish the research development phase, structure and order miraculously appear. This beginning and middle are followed by the product’s perceived worth and a summary.
  2. Read, read, read some more before you write. Today’s online articles require more information than they did twenty years ago. References supply proof that the author knows the latest information about each concept. Without a referenced historical background, presented facts seem like “fake news” or a biased opinion.

Search engines find hidden resources for writers. Mining information requires reading more than the top 5 Google ads.  The literature gems may be on page 5 of a search engine’s output, or under another search term.

  1. Write headings for each section. Headings are easily found on mind maps as concepts. Headings highlight topics and allow readers to skim. Skimming is a new reading skill needed for the information age.
  2. Online blogs combine business, academic, entertainment, and journalism writing styles. Headings, excerpts, side bars, and graphics if designed correctly, keep interest flowing during skimming. Ads interrupt the reading flow so be cautious when inserting graphics not to look like an ad. Most blogs explore basic facts, while details are elaborated in e-books. Bloggers attempt to lighten reading using diagrams, video stories, clip art, and short paragraphs.
  3. Summarize in the last sections of the product. Use connecting strategies to highlight the summary. Stories, diagrams, tables, figures, graphics, quotes, lists can refresh the reader’s memory about why reading the information product was important.

 Editing Your Product

Editing is a different talent from writing. Emotion plays a role in creative writing and editing. A creative writer feels happy exploring the content. A grouchy writer edits well (author’s opinion). Editing requires several readings or drafts. Each reading serves different purposes.

First: Read for Yourself

The writing process is basically about the author. The first draft contains the most author’s opinions and flowery prose. The writer’s passion often takes precedence over organization, format, and length. The following drafts should look more publishable and readable for customers. Look at the mind map while reading the second time. Did you stick with the concepts and tasks listed there; or were you tempted away from your purpose by some tantalizing information tidbit? Did you take advice gleaned from the self-assessments? Did you quote and reference experts? How was the grammar? Did you evaluate your findings?

No single idea is worth more than your purpose so, “Cut It Out” and “Try again”.  Save brilliant excess prose for another project. Keep this one tight and goal oriented.

Second: Others Review

Second and third readings are for strangers to the document. Eliminate more words; then invite family or friends to contribute their thoughts. These readers are generally gentle critics knowing how touchy you can be about your work. If one of these editors returns your paper with only nice things to say, remove them from your reader’s list.

Next ask strangers, experts, and enemies to cut the document to ribbons. These people are your best helpers when motivated to be critical. Give them a list of questions to answer as they read. You don’t have to watch them scowl. Boot up the internet give them a short return deadline. Your product will read better and you will feel great knowing you eliminated all the errors the critics caught. Publishers will only read the “good stuff”.

Third: Read for the Public

Repeat after me. “I provided a reference for everyone.” Copyright infringement comes with huge consequences. It is a big deal. Make sure your quotes are all labeled and referenced. Use allowed formats like the American Psychology Association or Chicago models.

Read for color. Graphic artists provide color suggestions for branding, creating interest, uniting all the elements, emphasizing content through fonts and color. Shine the product over and over.

Apply a variety of learning strategies. Passive reading does not last long in memory. When selling to customers, each section focuses on one concept.  Keep paragraphs short. Learning time is valuable so workers have little to waste. Since learners are goal oriented, authors speak to the goals. Let learners apply principles to something of their own. They can prove their learning and feel good about themselves.

Leary said Aristotle would be a talk host today. If so, Socrates would host a quiz show if he were alive. Teachers use Socratic questions and answers, discussions, and projects. Newer learning tools include: Tutorials, interactive videos, simulation, situational testing and live chats. Did you include any of these in your product?

You are nearing the end. Examine the online document. Critique its overall content. Mull over the article’s appearance. Does the content satisfy your goals? Does it flow? Can it easily be applied? How many spots demonstrate pizazz?

Finished? Submit! Development is over, marketing begins.


Possible Activity: Critique this article. Editing teaches through repetition and examples of what not to do.


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