Solutions Content

Written by Michael Riley on July 15, 2015

How focusing on solving problems
is a successful content strategy

"The best solutions journalism involves deep dives, critical assessments, and compelling stories about the ideas, models, policies, organizations, and people working to solve our toughest problems."

Tina Rosenberg is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter for the NY Times, and the co-founder of the Solutions Journalism movement. She presented an inspiring presentation the other day at Benjamin's Desk on her work.


What is Solutions Journalism?


There are 10 questions to ask if an article is actually offering a solution. 


1. Does the story explain the causes of a problem?
2. Does the story present an associated response to that problem?
3. Does the story get into the problem solving and how-to details?


4. Is the problem solving process central to the narrative?


5. Does the story present evidence of the results linked to the response?
6. Does the story explain the limitations of the response?
7. Does the story convey and insight or teachable lesson?
8. Does the story avoid reading like a puff piece?
9. Does the story draw on sources who have a ground-level understanding, not just 30,000 foot expertise?


10. Does the story give a greater attention to the response than to a leader/innovator/do-gooder?

If you can answer yes to each, or at least most of these questions, you should have a good Solutions Story.


What If We Apply this to Content?

Continue reading »

Traction: The Story of Gabriel Weinberg's Journey to Success with DuckDuckGo

Written by Michael Riley on October 9, 2014

How to test out marketing channels
to find the path to a "hockey stick" growth curve

Gabriel Weinberg's startup journey started back in 2000. He graduated early from MIT and funded his first real venture with the leftover tuition money. 


Gabriel's first startup was called learnection. It was an educational product to increase parental involvement in primary schools. It was a horrible failure. The main problems were poor execution and it being 10 years ahead of its time. He spent 2.5 years on it. He tried to sell it to a non-profit, and then ended up working for that non-profit instead to save up some more money. 

Continue reading »

How to Find a Startup Idea and Grow it

Written by Michael Riley on September 25, 2014

The story of how Curalate became a
successful startup out of list of ideas


Curalate is a rapidly growing startup that's raised over $10 million in venture capital and currently has 57 employees. Their amazing trajectory started out with a single idea.

Nick Shiftan and Brendan Lowry gave a talk to the PSLU Startup Bootcamp on how their team tested dozens of ideas before settling on the one they built into Curalate.

How exactly did they do it?
Continue reading »

Rick Nucci: Lessons Learned from 14 Years of Startups

Written by Michael Riley on September 17, 2014

The story of how Boomi succeeded through failure, leading to Guru


Startups have to crave feedback. The best thing you can hear is: "That idea is ridiculous, and here's the three things that will make it better."


Boomi is a startup that Rick Nucci founded in 2000, and it was acquired by Dell in 2010. And as Rick said, "Plenty of good and bad things happened along the way."


Boomi started out with a new take on an old service. They offered enterprise software integration services in a crowded market with big competitors (like Microsoft).  This lack of differentiation prevented Boomi from getting the growth they were looking for.  They ended up re-building the product and go-to-market to be a cloud company.  They described themselves as wanting to reinvent integration like Salesforce reinvented CRM. Their new cloud focus made them unique in the market, and eventually lead to strong growth and a successful exit to Dell.

Continue reading »

How to Implement a

Content Marketing Campaign

Written by Michael Riley on August 13, 2014

A step-by-step guide to executing
your content strategy

This is part 2 of the coverage of Ahavay Leitraub's talk, "Content Marketing and Content Strategy: A Peaceful Coexistence?". You can read her book The Digital Crown: Winning on the Web to go into more depth on these topics.

Part 1 can be found here.


After you have developed a plan for your external messaging, it's time to implement a content marketing campaign. 


Your internal workflow is made up of five steps that you continue to repeat: Plan, Create, Publish, Distribute, Analyze


Governance is a set of practices that make it all happen.  You have to deal with the realities of creating and publishing content in a real business environment.

How do you implement this process in a sustainable way?  There's 4 steps that will ensure success by giving you repeatable results for your content. 

Continue reading »

Actionable Steps for a Successful Content Strategy

Written by Michael Riley on August 6, 2014

How to assemble the foundation
of an online marketing campaign

Ahava Leibtag has been working in content strategy for over 15 years. She wrote the book Digital Crown: Winning on the Web to share everything she has learned. And she recently gave a talk titled "Content Marketing and Content Strategy: A Peaceful Coexistence?". This post is based on the wealth of information she presented.
You need to answer 5 questions to build a successful content strategy.

Continue reading »

BOATS: System for Rating High Quality Original Content

Written by Michael Riley on July 9, 2014

How to fully understand "The Content"

in any marketing campaign


When you publish content to the internet, it's like launching a new boat. A certain percentage sink. Some will float. And the best-built boats will sail faster and win races. 


What's the right choice for content
in a successful marketing campaign?

Over the last eight years I've run content marketing campaigns on dozens of sites for a variety of companies, like Casio. For the last few months I have been working on the Simplpost blog.  I have grown the number of unique visitors from a few dozen to thousands a month, without using any traditional SEO or advertising. The focus has only been on the content.

How do you judge the quality of original content,
and know how it will perform ahead of time?

Continue reading »

Developing a Lean Startup Worksheet

Written by Michael Riley on June 24, 2014

How can we better evaluate startups
and provide a framework for advice?

Over the last year I have been working with dozens of different startups going through the PSL Accelerator, building apps/websites for Simplpost customers and founding Philly Startup Tech. One of the themes that keeps reoccurring throughout has been startups not knowing what they should be doing next. And often the problem is they are getting way ahead of themselves in the process (especially with building tech). It's really hard to evaluate your own startup objectively. And it's also really difficult to advise a startup on their best course of action.

The problem

Lean Startup gives us a basic framework to work in, but it's not granular enough to give us a quick way to evaluate a startup's current status and set specific goals. So how can we rate a startup and generate an actionable "to do" list at the same time?

Something to help

The Lean Startup Worksheet is an idea we've been working on to help us sort through these problems. It makes it easy to separate startups into four distinct levels. And within each level there are three components to complete and validate before advancing.
Continue reading »

How to Do Inbound Marketing
the Right Way

Written by Michael Riley on June 17, 2014

Key insights learned the hard way
by creating marketing campaigns over the years


Inbound marketing consultant Dwight Miller recently gave a presentation on what he's learned through his work over the years. He breaks down the basics of inbound marketing into four simple steps:


 1. Publish content to generate visitors
 2. Track visitors through analytics 
 3. Nurture visitors until they become leads
 4. Convert leads to sales 


Before starting a marketing campaign you should understand the differences between inbound and outbound marketing.  Each one has different advantages and use cases.  Inbound marketing can be much more cost effective and get better results when properly managed.

Continue reading »

Case Study: 1 Year of Wordpress vs. Simplpost

Written by Riley on June 4, 2014
Statistics comparing one year of typical usage
with the same user on two different CMS platforms


Artist Jes Gamble was one of the first Simplpost users, and her prior use of Wordpress has given us a good opportunity to compare the use of these two platforms.  She used a Wordpress site for her professional online presence throughout 2012.  And then switched to using Simplpost for the entire year of 2013. The time she spent working on her career during these two years did not change significantly, but she did use each site very differently.  Below you will find all the statistics collected from each site during these two years. 

Both sites can currently be viewed online here:
Wordpress site
Simplpost site

Continue reading »

Startup Story: CampusESP

Written by Riley on May 13, 2014

An introduction to one of the first
PSL Accelerator startups

The PSL Accelerator started this year with an inaugural class of 11 startups.  This is the first in a series of introductions to these startups, and the founders behind them.  I sat down with Dave Becker to learn more about him and his startup CampusESP (Campus Experience for Supporters and Parents).

What is CampusESP?

CampusESP is a next generation engagement portal for parents, focused on student success.  We work with colleges to keep parents informed and involved constructively. 


Why would anyone want that?

One of the universities we are working with called it "pennies from heaven"!  Most people don’t realize how involved parents are in higher education, and colleges are struggling to keep up.
Continue reading »

How Curalate learned from failure

Written by Riley on May 7, 2014


The story of a VC backed startup's pivot,

from failing fast to hyper growth

Storably raised $750K in seed funding by riding the sharing economy wave in the wake of Airbnb's success. They had a backable team and what seemed like a good idea. Who wouldn't like to make a few extra bucks off their unused storage or parking spaces?
image: circa 2011 circa 2011
Continue reading »

The Future of SEO & Search

Written by Riley on April 22, 2014


Notes from SEER founder Wil Reynolds' talks
on where the industry is going next

Praying for things to go viral doesn't work. No one is impressed with your content.  People don't give a crap. Unless you change the content you are creating, you will lose the battle for attention.

"I HATE the word viral."
 -Wil Reynolds

Where do brilliant ideas come from? For Wil Reynolds great inspiration strikes when he's on the toilet. As an example, there was the RCS project.  The original concept came about by slowly entering search queries into Google one letter at a time.  When you slow down on hitting the enter key it gives you clear insight into what most people are looking to find via the suggested search phrases.
Continue reading »

The Future of Content

Written by Michael Riley, and updated on October 28, 2014


Recommendations from Industry Leading
Editors and Content Strategists


Five experts came together to discuss the future of content in preparation for Content Camp 2014.

Emily McManus - editor
Sara Wachter-Boettcher - A List Apart editor
Kristin Thomas - Co-director of the Artist Revenue Streams Project at the Future of Music Coalition
Rashid Zakat - Filmmaker, art director and professor at The Art Institute of Philadelphia
Laura Moorhead - Former Wired and IDEO editor, currently working on PhD at Stanford

Content strategist David Dylan Thomas moderated the discussion.

What makes content attractive?

Content has always been the driving force of the internet.  Companies like Google exist mainly to connect people to it.  Online marketing and SEO are quickly evolving to focus more on content strategy. And content is now the major driving force behind traffic growth and developing a successful online presence. But what makes high quality content stand out and reach new audiences?
Continue reading »

What Investors are Looking for in a Startup

Written by Riley on April 4, 2014


Advice from 12 angel and venture capital investors

The UC KIZ Funder's Fair yesterday at the Quorum in Philly was a great chance to see what investor groups are currently looking to fund.  Twelve representatives from local angel and venture capital companies did presentations on what they are looking to invest in.  There was a lot of good advice for startups that are looking to go this route.  Check out the details below to see what each one presented.


Angel Venture Fair

Fair is taking place Tuesday, April 29th:

How AVF Supports Entrepreneurs :
  • Any entrepreneur that applies to the AVF gets listed on our website with a link to their site.
  • They get invited to every event (except the AVF, which is just for investors) at no additional cost.
  • We feature 10 companies every month in our newsletter from the most recent batch of applicants.
  • Make introductions to investors and professional service providers.

#1 piece of advice for companies applying to Angel Venture Fair:
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you, with different skills and that aren’t afraid to challenge you.

Continue reading »

How to Build a Brand on a Bootstrapped Budget

Written by Riley on April 1, 2014


$1 Million in sales
with a $2000 marketing budget

Seun Olubodun started the Duke & Winston clothing company in 2009 with not much more than a bulldog and a rented rowhouse in Philly. He sold his car to start producing t-shirts locally, and turned his living room into a retail store open to the public. From these humble beginnings he has grown the company into an internationally recognized apparel brand that's on track to earn over a million dollars in revenue. And he's doing it all on a bootstrapped budget, without traditional marketing.
How do you get a lead designer from Tommy Hilfiger to design your logo for $200?

If Seun is anything, he's persistent.  It took some convincing, but after hounding one of the top designers in New York for months he was able to get the brand's current logo design done for an amazing deal.  But he accomplished it by doing all the research and hard work himself first.  He had to sell himself and his work to the designer to earn the help he received in polishing up his original design. So how did Seun develop products with high enough quality to garner such attention?

Continue reading »

Technical Co-Founder as a Service

Written by Riley on March 18, 2014


The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something. -Seth Godin

A chronic problem in the startup community is the lack of a technical co-founder for a project.  Multiple startup veteran James Bright (current co-founder of Collected It) just wrote a blog post on this issue that highlights the pain points.  His advice caused some heated discussion on the Philly Startup Leaders mailing list about the best ways to attract a technical co-founder.

One such opinion came from Ramesh Sambasivan, CEO of

“It may be easier for the non-technical co-founder to get started on the development of a very basic version of the product through a short-term dev project, and bring in at least one beta customer or trial order before seeking out a technical co-founder.”

So what are the steps to getting started without a technical co-founder?
Continue reading »

How to Make Ideas Viral and Products Contagious: A Talk by Jonah Berger

Written by Michael Riley
Jonah Berger gave a great talk on how to make products and ideas spread virally.  He is a professor of marketing at Wharton, and author of the NYT #1 bestselling book "Contagious: Why Things Catch on". The core ideas laid out in the book follow 6 easy to follow "STEPPS":

Social Currency




Practical Value


In the talk he told some great stories from his research and explained how to make content go viral.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on March 7, 2014
image: BitcoinPHL has about 300 members, and they have a weekly meetup
BitcoinPHL has about 300 members, and they have a weekly meetup
Bitcoin has been a hot topic lately.  And Philly happens to be a hotbed of Bitcoin related news and activity.  And it's mainly due to a local user group called BitcoinPHL.  Their goal has been to get more Philly businesses to accept Bitcoin.  And so far they have been getting a lot of press, and that's lead to a lot of traffic to their Simplpost  website
image: The group meets to discuss the latest Bitcoin news and exchange information
The group meets to discuss the latest Bitcoin news and exchange information
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on March 4, 2014
Last week I was interviewed by Joe Stangarone of mrc to get my thoughts on the most important principles of modern web development. Simplpost is a relatively new web platform, and as a result it's built on top of these more modern development principles. Here's my full unedited thoughts on the topics I believe to be important.
Mobile First:
You have to offer a superb experience on mobile devices because that's what most users are using now. Starting out the design and development process focusing first on mobile works much better than adding in mobile support later. It also helps with honing in on the key functionality of the app, and keeps things from getting overly complicated.

User Centric:
We get much better results when developing the product from the perspective of the end user. A developer's notion of how a tool will be used can be vastly different from the real world use. User testing and surveys really help streamline that process and should be used throughout the development process. You want the project yto stay on track and always be aligned with what the user is expecting.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on February 25, 2014
Simplpost specializes in making it really simple to post content online, and some of our customers need custom features to accomplish their specific goals.  So we offer custom website development options catered to those needs. Need a specific feature added to your website?  We can do that!

Got an idea for a custom website or app?

We offer technical co-founder as a service options to build your prototype or minimal viable product (MVP).  We don't want to limit your goals, so we offer custom designed packages of professional services to accomplish what you would like to get done.

Continue reading »
Written by Riley on February 11, 2014

Callie Malvik from Rasmussen College requested some insight into the the four hottest web design trends of 2014. The goal for her article is to strip down all of the technical jargon, and explain these trends in Layman's terms for beginners. Here's my full and unedited thoughts on each of these hot topics.

1. Responsive Design:
Responsive design simply means that you create one website design that looks good on any sized screen. The page elements move fluidly to expand to whatever width screen the website visitor happens to be using (wide laptop screen to narrow smartphone). And responsive design techniques allow for the ability to customize the look of any element based on the screen size the site is being viewed on.

You can check a site by increasing or decreasing the width of the browser window on a large laptop or desktop display. Responsive design is important because it addresses the huge range of Internet devices being used today, without having to design multiple versions of one website. A responsive website should look excellent no matter the screen resolution. It saves time and money in the long run, since you no longer have to maintain multiple versions of each site.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on February 5, 2014
Google has been fighting an ongoing war against SEO companies and web spammers.  Every few months Google updates their algorithm and countless websites disappear from search results.  These updates have fun names like Penguin, Hummingbird and Panda.  And they can put your website out of business if you violate any of Google's terms of service.
As a result of these updates by Google the vast majority of information online about SEO is terribly outdated.  At best most of it will be a huge waste of time, and at worst it will get your site blacklisted and ruin any future chance for organic growth. Many "experts" recommend customizing Meta Tags to increase SEO. Google has officially announced that Meta Tag keywords play no role in search ranking.  Paying for links is a great way to boost your ranking until Google blacklists your site for it.  And even Guest blogging is coming under fire, so that can cause you harm as well.
So what can you do to get the best SEO? Continue reading »
Written by Riley on January 20, 2014
Simplpost was just accepted into the first batch of the Philly Startup Leaders Accelerator.  The technology news network covered the first event of the program.  PSL President and Boomi founder Rick Nucci is the mentor that chose to work with Simplpost over the next three months.
We are excited to be participating in this accelerator, and it has been a amazing experience so far.  It's a great opportunity to learn and interact with other startup founders and experienced mentors. We have a long way to go, and PSL will definitely help Simplpost grow into an even better product for us and our customers.
Thanks to Adam Kearney and Kert Heinecke for all the work they have done in supporting the Philly tech community.

Read the full article
Written by Riley on November 18, 2013
Now you can do even more with your Simplpost site. The new features make adding any widget super easy. And now RSS feeds are automatically generated for you to help promote your site.

It just takes one click to add content from any other services you want to use. You can embed music from Soundcloud, videos from YouTube, comments through Disqus or whatever else you like. Use social media to promote your site or make your own custom widgets.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on November 13, 2013
It sucks when something you love online goes away.

There's two core principles to Simplpost:
1. Making awesome and easy to edit websites accessible to everyone
2. Keeping those sites and content online forever

Both principles are easier said than done. I have written about the first principle in the past, and I think that's the obvious purpose of Simplpost. The second principle may not be so obvious, and leads us to a few other concepts that should be understood about Simplpost.

TLDR: Sustainable pricing = keeping what you love online forever.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on September 23, 2013

We are constantly working to improve the Simplpost user interface. The goal is to make it even easier to build your own site, and make the overall user experience as pleasant as possible.

Take a look at the latest interface in action:
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on September 15, 2013
Simplpost now takes Bitcoin as a payment option. So if you prefer to pay for a website in Bitcoins, instead of using Paypal or a credit card, you can totally do that now. It's another great way to get a responsive website with hosting and support. Use whatever works best for you.

Learn more about Bitcoin here or check out the Wikipedia page for the details on what a Bitcoin is, and what it's all about.
Get started here
Written by Riley on September 10, 2013
Here's a new Simplpost design that was created by Dana. She was inspired by the minimalistic design aesthetic, and thought this was a great way to execute a modern responsive layout. The main colors chosen are alizarin and pomegranate.
It's a nice example site, and it has a flexible layout that works well for many types of sites. It was done as an alternative to the current Simplpost front page design. And you might have noticed that Dana designed some of the new updates there as well.
Take a look:
Written by Riley on August 26, 2013
Content Driven Design means you focus first on the material you are trying to show, and then place elements around it. This concept works exceptionally well for creators who want to showcase their work, and for businesses that want to promote their offerings. Unfortunately, this philosophy is often in opposition to the way many sites are made.
image: 2Design Simplpost site screenshot
2Design Simplpost site screenshot
Working with original content does take consideration, but it becomes the driving force for the rest of the design. This gives a website a unique look that cannot be copied. The product of your work is yours alone. Others can try, but they can never make it their own.

The main purpose of a website is to support the original creator. To sell what they have to offer. Other types of design philosophies attempt to squeeze in the heart of the content as the last piece.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on August 15, 2013
Responsive Design means that a website automatically adjusts to be displayed in the optimum way on any size screen. So a responsive website can look great on small smartphone and tablet LCDs, as well as large laptops and desktop monitors.

Why is responsive web design the way of the future? Currently 40% of internet browsing time is spent on mobile devices, and that percentage is growing rapidly. The old solution was to make a completely separate mobile version of a website. And these mobile sites only work properly on certain sized devices. Responsive design allows you to make one website that works great on every size device out there now, and it also works on any future devices. Responsive design is future proof.
image: How the same content can look great on any size screen
How the same content can look great on any size screen
Responsive design saves you time and money in the long run, while providing a much better experience for all your site visitors. The only downside is all the technical details that have to be implemented in the code of a website to make it responsive. Fortunately, there are many solutions out there to these technical issues.
Continue reading »
Written by Riley on August 2, 2013
Today was the first chance I had to do a real world performance comparison of the same website in Simplpost vs. Wordpress. I was in the process of moving one of my old Wordpress sites over to Simplpost. It was a pretty easy transition, and at the end of the process I had both versions of the site online at once. So it was easy to do a side-by-side comparison the load times.

Thanks to the nifty Pingdom site testing tool it was easy to test each site's performance. And what were the results?
image: Wordpress version of site on standard shared hosting
Wordpress version of site on standard shared hosting
The Wordpress site results were pretty typical. It took a few seconds for the page to load.
image: Simplpost version of site hosted on Amazon Cloudfront
Simplpost version of site hosted on Amazon Cloudfront
The load time for the Simplpost version was a blazingly fast 305ms. That's milliseconds! Compare that to the Wordpress version load time of 5.37 seconds. That's more than a 1500% improvement.

Continue reading »

Use Amazon Cloudfront to have the fastest website ever

Written by Riley on July 1, 2013
Simplpost just added support for Amazon Cloudfront, so now you can have the fastest website ever with just the push of a button.

Amazon Cloudfront is a content delivery network (CDN) that uses a network of servers around the world to cache copies of your site close to viewers. It offers super low latency and can make your site one of the fastest in the world.

All you have to do is hit the Amazon Cloudfront button in your Simplpost account settings.
Make any kind of website you want. It's no problem to create all-in-one websites for small businesses, artists, organizations, personal sites and other projects with Simplpost. The flexible design allows intuitive creation of photo galleries, online stores, simple blogs and other information resources.
Random images can be fun, and add color
You can make a site as basic or intricate as you want. The user interface is very simple, but the sites you build are only limited by imagination. Create whatever you want with any kind of organization.
All sites made with Simplpost look great on mobile devices automatically, and can utilize cloud hosting for super fast loading no matter the traffic. Nothing else does this all things so simply.

Simplpost now supports Markdown syntax. You can use this simple programming language to format any pages created with this CMS now.

You can check out this simple guide to using Markdown. Take a look at all of the examples to see the formatting options available, and how to use them.


Simplpost is a totally new take on building and managing websites. It's a unique combination of a site designer, content management system, web host and static site generator. This project started out as a total redesign of how a CMS functions. And now it continues to grow organically.

Try it with an open mind, and have fun. Make a website using your phone. Create and manage your website without a mouse. Keep it small and simple, or build it out as deep as you want. And focus on the content instead of settings and complications.

Making a simple and fun way to post content online is the goal.
A new idea has to start somewhere
Riley started coding Simplpost when his girlfriend Jes needed a new website for her portfolio. She had been blogging with Wordpress for a while, but that really didn't work for showing off her work in a creative and easy to use way. She didn't want to learn how to code her own site, and being a poor artist, it didn't make sense to pay a bunch of money for a custom site.

Simplpost was built from the ground up to give full control of the site design and content to a single user regardless of their technical skills. There are no cookie cutter themes, but you can build your own custom design in no time.

There's no need to worry about all the technical bits, just focus on the content. And have fun with your website.

Try it yourself or see some examples.

image: is brand new and growing. Check back often to see what's going on, and interact as you see fit. Go ahead, and play around with building your own creation. We eat our own dog food, or this site eats itself, or something like that. But basically this site was created with its own CMS code, and can spawn many children.