Content Is Dead

Content is good. More content is better. Appropriate content, in the right place at the right time, is king and queen, prince and princess all rolled into one.

No. Not any more.

The trouble with content is that nearly everyone agrees it’s a good thing. That means little disagreement, almost no debate, and the onset of complacency.

The result? We just keep adding more and more content — because it’s always a good thing — and our sites become bloated, flabby and boring.

To illustrate the point I’ll eventually get around to making, let’s invent Content-Is-Us.com. In fact, lets say we created it 12 months ago.

We’re in the content wholesale business. Whatever you want, we got it. I’ve got a whole warehouse full of desperate, hungry writers here. And they’re ready to write anything for food.

For the first six months, from January to June ’98, we made money hand over fist. Lots of web sites out there were sucking fumes, looking for some extra heft and substance. We wholesaled content on golf, antique books, travel, pet care and took special pride in our biggest clients — the online marketing and advertising industry. Those guys just love bulk content.

But as we approached the second half of the year, one or two of our savvier clients started asking for “content in context” and “personalized content.” Was that ever a pain in the butt! We had to start hiring one or two writers who actually wanted cash money. Fortunately, most of our clients were happy to stick with their usual bulk orders. Hey, content is good, and the more the better.

But right now, here at Content-Is- Us.com, we’re looking forward to the new year with a little trepidation. It’s beginning to look like there might be a limit to the amount of bland content we can push out there. It seems that a few million visitors out there can tell the difference between our highly profitable line of “bulk content” and our new, but much less profitable “quality content” line.

Worse still, I’ve just invested in some market research on the subject, and I don’t like what I’m seeing. It would appear that after the first quarter of ’99, “relevant content” is going to be yesterday’s news. By the end of the second quarter, “personalized content” will be taken for granted (and that stuff is really expensive). And you know what everyone is going to be demanding by the third quarter? You really wanna know?

According to my sources, people will want to read stuff that is well-written, interesting, provocative, maybe humorous — even opinionated. And how on earth are we going to make a profit providing stuff like that?

However, all is not lost. Because while our smarter clients will want only the best, that still leaves 75 percent of web sites to whom we can provide our core service – “bland bulk.”

Am I being facetious?

Sure, I’m always being facetious. But there’s a big slab of truth here. For too long, we’ve just followed the mantra that all content is good. Not so.

Providing a mountain of information and news isn’t going to cut it for much longer. From hereon in, people will be filtering out the “bulk content” and switching their allegiances to sites that offer quality, insight and opinion.

This isn’t about technology. It isn’t about one-on-one marketing. It isn’t about “addressing the needs and desires of your audience.” It’s about competing for visitors by creating quality information written in such a manner that it’s a pleasure to read.

And it’s gonna cost you.

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