Has Content Been Dethroned?
May 15, 2012
Back in 1996, Bill Gates published an article in which he famously asserted that “content is king.” This has been the Golden Rule of the Internet ever since. As a content creator, I myself have strongly agreed with and lived by this rule. I have passionately made the case countless times that all brands need interesting, shareable, well-written content.
But last week I attended the Word of Mouth Crash Course, a one-day marketing conference in Austin, Texas. At that conference, Spike Jones said something very interesting that has had me pondering ever since. He said that content is no longer king–relationships are. The funny thing is that I wasn’t even in Spike’s breakout session; I was in the one next door. But I read the hashtagged tweets of several other conference attendees who were in Spike’s room, and that’s all it took to set me off. I’ve actually been on this track for some time myself, considering what real engagement is and how to build genuine relationships in a world that is on one hand more connected than ever before while at the same time suffering from an odd lack of authenticity that is difficult to pin down. I’m not the only one grappling with this. There are tons of books, articles, blogs, presentations, and marketing guides out there steeped with the ubiquitous buzzwords of “authenticity,” “vulnerability,” “relationship-building,” “interactivity,” and “connection.” But despite a seemingly pervasive awareness of the need for real relationship-building in our communications, few individuals or brands are carrying it off, and fewer still seem to be genuinely taking actions that lead to relationships.
In education, there’s been a sustained movement to get away from the “sage on the stage” mentality in order to engage learners more actively and meaningfully in their own learning. The “new” paradigm (there have been evangelists of the new paradigm for decades, making little discernible progress) is the educator in the role of the “guide on the side.” This type of thinking, which forces the holder of knowledge to become a facilitator of innovation and creative problem-solving rather than the imparter of wisdom and tester of comprehension, has proven difficult for those who have long controlled the valuable currency of information to relinquish. The same is true in the world of business and marketing. Those who seek to create ever more content without giving their audiences a voice and the ability to contribute meaningfully risk falling behind in the new interactive marketplace. Which is more likely to move individuals or organizations to action and change? Content or relationships? As a long-time content creator, I’m loathe to admit it, but I believe it’s the latter. We’ve collectively created more content now than any single human being could ever consume in a lifetime. Anyone can find out virtually anything in moments. We seem to be poised to move beyond the currency of information and into a world built on relationship capital.
So what do you think? Has content been dethroned?
Are relationships the new “king”?
(Image credit: Flickr user zoonabar)