Content is still king but it does not reign alone
Dec 23, 2011
Content quality and effective marketing become vital as global competition challenges the notion that content alone guarantees success. The evolving landscape demands attention to audience preferences, search optimization, pricing, and social media integration.
“…to be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium”.
Let's take a brief detour: Reading the transcript of the historical article that birthed the phrase "content is king" in the digital realm, it's clear that Bill Gates wasn't just referring to media like text, photos, or films. He also included other forms of content, like software codes. A lot of what Gates prophesied 15 years ago has proven true, even as media moguls continue to challenge this reality. However, Gates may have overestimated the ability of certain companies to profit substantially from producing traditional content, following the 20th-century media production model where a few colossal corporations reaped huge profits from their monopolies. Now, the production of text, audio, and video has millions of rivals, and everything has changed.
Since scarcity has virtually ended, broadcasters can no longer rely on producing inferior content and assuming your limited options. This situation is brilliantly portrayed in the Black Mirror episode, "15 Million Merits." For content producers, the easy path is over. Competition is now global, and all niches, regardless of style, have virtually limitless potential to produce content at minimal, if not zero, cost. This has led to a misconception that content no longer matters and anything will suffice. This is not the case. Quality content is still preferred over poor content. However, in a competition between mediocre content on an excellent platform and superior content on a subpar platform, the mediocre content wins.
Aside from content quality, media companies now need to concentrate on how they market it. This doesn't just mean creating captivating marketing strategies, but also improving the product itself. What best suits the needs or desires of a specific audience? How can you optimize your content for search engines so those seeking what you offer can easily find it? How can you enhance the suggestion algorithms of a digital video delivery tool? How can you interpret the context of an image in a search system? Even more so, how can you develop tools that allow easy and quick access to content at a low price to deter piracy? This pricing conversation was hinted at in Gates' article 15 years ago, but some still attempt to sell content for $20 that is available for free elsewhere.
The notion that content is unimportant has been accepted as absolute truth, even while acknowledging that content quality alone doesn't guarantee its success. However, the production and curation of content remain crucial components of the equation.
For those in the business of selling others' content, there has never been a better time due to the vast number of opportunities available. The perception that content is no longer valuable stems from the fact that a well-oiled machine can sell even the most inferior products. However, more would be sold if the content matched the audience's preferences. Media companies hoping to survive will need to downsize and act as intermediaries in the production carried out by other players. Those with aspirations of monopolizing the market will likely fail or will need to expend significant resources to maintain similar profit levels of previous times.
One thing is certain: as Jeff Jarvis stated in his 2005 post, even if your content is fantastic, you will only make substantial profits if you have an "insane amount of luck". The path to profitability now includes several factors: content quality, improving suggestion and delivery systems (which are essentially another form of content), appropriate pricing, and integration of social media, which will increasingly become the main platforms where offers are either accepted or rejected by the market. Content is still king, but it no longer reigns alone. Similar to the evolution of a political system, the king has had to lose some of his rings to keep his fingers.