Is content truly king?

Last week the ABC announced cost cutting measures across its business units, mirroring earlier measures by global media counterparts. In recent times well trained journalists have moved into other fields in order to keep employed – public relations, copywriting, marketing. As cuts continue to be made in journalism worldwide, does content really matter in today’s business world?

Last month I wrote about engagement. Engagement comes from inspiring an emotional connection – often by words full of storytelling, by visually attractive presentation, by interactive approaches like event question and answer time or online polls, by dynamic multimedia content. The recurring theme here is content. Content suggests the ideas of a container of something, of substance, of richness. An empty container – well that’s not very enticing. It doesn’t inspire you to want to look inside … at nothing.

With the focus, though, in recent times on digital and ever increasing quantities of information, I worry that the value of content might be lost to some. I was speaking recently to a boutique business editor who commented about his transition from early days in journalism and that the majority of his energy now is on editing which he enjoys. Is this sense of curating, structuring and finessing language dying out – due to budget cuts, shortening leadtimes, writing roles morphing into full content positions? The value an editor brings is difficult to quantify but not hard to appreciate. As Mark Twain said, “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” This is as true now as it was in Twain’s day – and in mediums from printed books to websites to social media to videos. Have you been to a friend’s celebration with a slideshow and wondered if a little more energy placed on the selection of images and adding of music or commentary might have brought it to life for all the guests? Or stopped reading an article part way through as, while there was lots of information, the way it was presented made it difficult to understand, didn’t seem relevant to you or, worse, was just plain boring.

At the same time as the ABC announced some specifics about how they would achieve the budget cuts, they also communicated that increased investments would be made in digital. The digital era is definitely upon us. For organisations who have already ventured into the digital world, is a content strategy really necessary for the website? What about for YouTube. Or for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram? Isn’t it just about reaching as many folk as possible and gathering their contact details? YouTube experiences more than one hundred hours of video uploaded each minute and had one trillion YouTube views in 2013. Some videos, though, only have a few views and others have millions. Engaging content including the topic of the video, the imagery, the voices and the ‘storyline’ (as relevant to a piece of fiction as to a corporate video) is a big contributor to which videos are highly referred and receive huge viewing numbers.

Today’s marketer feels the pressure to create more and more content, to customise it for different audiences, to always be current and to embrace the newest mediums. Some organisations just parcel up the content in multiple ways, presenting it each time as new. Others lower the focus on quality, whether that means using stock photos, adding copywriting to the marketing role or running out of time or resources for proofing or editing. Still others ignore the opportunities for rich multimedia.

The rise of social – which some experts say should be called by its original name of networking not media – reminds how important content truly is. Gone are the days where broadcast marketing is in. Marketing now is about one to one relationships. It’s about understanding and connecting with your audiences. Innovative and confident marketers encourage interaction, some celebrating and showcasing user-generated or co-curated content. Examples range from public votes for new products to what dance should be reprised by the final contenders in Dancing with the Stars. Other examples are speedy customer service solutions communicated in public forums like social media.

People have so much choice now. They can choose which mediums to use. What products and services to buy. How to spend their leisure time. What television programs to watch. What devices to use. Which opinion leaders to listen to. What organisations to follow. Which political parties to support. How to educate their children. What health care to choose. How to invest their superannuation funds. Engaging content will play a big part in whether your organisation is even considered in the conversation. And yes, while we’re talking about choice, I believe content is king more so today than ever before.

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