The content king is dead — long live the king
by Steve Miller. The concept “content is king” originated in an essay by Bill Gates in 1996. In it, he describes the future of the internet as a marketplace for content. Great content helps build trust with your customers. If it’s is engaging, educational, and valuable, then they will think the same things about your business. But why isn’t content working like we’re told it would? Could it be that the “content king” is dead?
Content evolved as a strategy to counter consumers ignoring online advertising — so-called “banner blindness”. The data in favour of it is compelling:
- Content marketing provides conversion rates about size times higher than other digital marketing methods (ABG Essentials)
- After reading recommendations on a blog, 61% of online consumers in the US then decided to make a purchase (Content Marketing Institute)
- According to 74% of companies surveyed, content marketing has increased their marketing leads, both in quantity and quality (Curata)
- HubSpot reports that inbound marketers are able to double the average site conversion rate (from 6 to 12%), in part due to their content marketing efforts
And yet businesses will tell you that their content programmes just aren’t delivering the results they expected, despite shifting sizeable budgets into them.
Time to re-evaluate?
Perhaps it’s time to reassess the oversimplistic dictum that “content is king” and consider how to get more out of your content initiatives:
1. Be honest about your content premise
The problem is that content is tacitly understood to be the licence to move forward with the pitch. You give with the hope that the prospect will stick around and finally buy something. But, after 20 years, consumers know it — and they might hate you for it if you don’t offer any value. A commercial context doesn’t necessarily diminish the value of strong content, provided you educate, entertain and enthral. Most intelligent consumers understand the trade and engage when you’re honest and interesting.
2. Be tougher on your content quality
Quality content is elusive. Content is meant to inform, educate, entertain and offer utility. It’s more about consumers than it’s about you. It’s incumbent on you to identify your client-cohorts discretely and educate them subtly: tell them what to look out for; give them valuable tips on how to achieve success; demonstrate how you’ve helped others in their shoes; open their eyes to new possibilities. Only then have you earned the right to offer yourself as a solution.
3. Respect the context
With millions of content pieces being created every day, “content is king, but context is god” says revered blogger, Gary Vaynerchuck. He’s right. We have to show respect for the interaction between the platform and the audience. A mom might be looking to buy something on Pinterest, but maybe she’s more interested in sharing her life on Facebook — getting our content and our sales pitch mixed up for those two interactions is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
4. Hustle like hell
Even this isn’t enough to ensure the success of your content strategy.
The truth is that digital is the most “through-the-line” media ever. The creative idea and how it’s put out there are inextricably bound. Too many clients and more ‘traditional’ agencies have been seduced into believing that the budget can now be spent on making pretty things without a plan to get it out there. This is conceptually, ethically and pragmatically flawed. Without it, you’re just winking in the dark, no matter your content quality.
5. Rethink your budgets and your partners
We’ve been bamboozled into thinking of content as a cheap medium. This is simply untrue. For efficacy, you need to put money behind it — maybe even more than in the past — because your options have grown exponentially. It’s no longer a choice between media channels with the best reach and frequency; it’s a choice between channels with different purposes that deliver different results at different times in the content journey. Understanding this rich and complex landscape is perhaps the new content-frontier, and where the right digital creative specialist makes the biggest difference.
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So, is the content king dead? Perhaps. But maybe the king just needs new ideas and new disciplines. The king may be dead, but long live the king.
Steve Miller is head of strategy at DUKE.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.