Ideas & entertainment
For centuries we had books. Then papers, radio, TV. Then the web and the explosion in "content."
The concept of "content" as a "thing" still seems odd. It used to be that the exchange of ideas; the process of education; and pure entertainment were the goals, and the medium (i.e. whether folio or stage production) was simply a function of convenience and format of delivery.
Then we entered this weird warp where content itself is the destination. What a strange journey.....
Valuable content and breadth of contribution
Many lament that content today often has no educational or entertainment value, and frequently introduces no ideas of merit. And many point out that "valuable" or "remarkable" content which is properly promoted and distributed is particularly impactful against the background of noise.
The real impact seems to be at an intersection: of content which provides professional and business value and a universe of widely distributed thinkers, writers and publishing platforms.
Attempts to aggregate content as a business model have struggled. Even active properties like HuffingtonPost aren't necessarily great businesses when measured by return & profitability. The failure rate of aggregations is high and editorial distortions almost invariably occur.
The barrier has been the financial model. Annual/monthly subscriptions and ad revenue have been the two basic approaches. And both encounter substantial resistance in a digital world.
The trend toward MANUFACTURING JOURNALISM™
Let's assume you've started to build a body of epic content (maybe that's the new buzzword for quality) and distribute and promote it properly as John Jantsch (@DuctTape) suggests in his article here.
And then let's assume that you're moving beyond simple incremental improvement in content marketing by transitioning toward a MANUFACTURING JOURNALISM™ model.
At that point your content will deliver results ranging from vanilla to extraordinary:
- establish authority
- create leads
- help to nurture and close deals
- engage customers
- build industry gravity
- make you and your team sought after industry experts
- create data and insights which you'll likely be able to monetize beyond simple revenue growth
- provide platform opportunities beyond traditional websites
Toward the end of that list are some possibilities that would require some flexible thinking from CFOs accustomed to traditional manufacturing revenue models. But they still tend to feature content as a tool to achieve another result (even when that result is as far from manufactured products as a body of data and insights which you could convert into a major asset potentially intriguing to a strategic acquirer.)
But what would happen if your content was good enough that in fact the content itself, or the opportunity to interact with it, became a revenue source?
Micropayments and a new content business model
I predict that eventually content will be valued the old fashioned way - paid for. But not the speculative investment represented by a subscription. That's too burdened with uncertainty these days. "Will I have time? Will it help? Is it searchable? Can I read it off line?" and more.
People will pay to recognize value, or perhaps in small amounts to unlock longer content when the abstract appears to align with their interests.
But instead of some site specific, cumbersome account with yet another password and username, what about an option that would allow them to distribute micro payments from a single consolidated account.
Have you heard of ChangeTip? I think it's a fascinating model which will evolve from recognizing artistic achievement with small contributions to monetizing business value.
What if companies gave their engineers, for instance, a monthly expense account on changetip.com
How will it all shake out? Don't know.
Will ChangeTip be the vehicle? Don't know.
What about micro payments with digital currency? Could be.
What I think is clear, though, is that the nature of content creation, distribution, promotion and marketing is changing.
Companies should be well down the path of evolving from standard industrial marketing to a MANUFACTURING JOURNALISM™ model. But they can't stop there. Company leadership, with the help of appropriate consultants, should be constantly challenging and experimenting.
That's the only way to remain agile and alert enough to avoid irrelevance and capture nascent opportunities.
When will Google start to factor this in relevance?
Now let's get really carried away.....
What if social sharing (which we know often doesn't necessarily even indicate someone fully read or even skimmed an article) became less important, and the micro payments generated by a piece of content became a major ranking factor.
Crazy? Maybe. But the Holy Grail of search is relevance of results - is there a better yardstick than what people will pay for?
If the whole content marketing shtick is feeling stale to you, you're not alone. It's hard to achieve ever greater degrees of success without substantially adapting to changing conditions. The days of 3 blogs/week are over.
So instead of doubling down, or giving up on your content approach to industrial marketing, maybe we should chat. As a strategy and management consultant that understands revenue growth levers, I often explore unique approaches with clients that they've neither thought of nor had any other "marketing agency" suggest.