I recently came across this article by Kerry Jones of Fractl and I thought it was worth mentioning.
Tangential Content Earns More Links and Social Shares in Boring Industries [New Research]
It talks about content in a more expansive way and explores the idea that brands can have fun with content, be more interesting (especially in boring niches) and also attract a wider audience. This audience may not be exactly on target for them, but this kind of filler content is not meant to drive highly qualified leads; it is meant to "reach a wide audience and gain top-of-funnel awareness".
Honestly, I find that a lot of companies that focus on creating "engagement" with their base are already doing this to some extent. They are responding to social questions, posting fun ideas about their product, and "up-leveling" the conversation. While they may not be creating content that is as well researched as the examples in this article, they are branching out nonetheless.
No Mention of Relevancy
The problem is that a lot of times it is really undisciplined and can seem chaotic from a relevancy point of view. Without some solid keyword research as guardrails, the tangential topics start to sprawl out and the company doesn't gain any new search rankings in their core markets.
And that's my main difference with this article--it never mentions the importance of keyword research (actually, the word "keyword" is only mentioned once in the comments). It is very possible to explore tangential topics while keeping relevancy in mind. This is key because most companies want more high value search engine traffic. While the tangential content may be looser and attract a wider audience, if that audience 100% bounce, then the value is diminished.
Where Are The KPIs?
Additionally, from an analytics point of view, it doesn't mention ranking trends, search traffic impact, referring site traffic impact, bounce rates, or onsite engagement evaluations. These are the things that I would want to know as they impact valuable KPIs for marketing performance.
So, in summary, a really great article. It truly is inspiring to think about loosening up and branching out in fun and interesting ways. But "tangential" shouldn't become "untethered" if you are interested in impacting KPIs.