The phrase “Content is king” may be an old cliché, but the essential truth of the sentiment is as relevant as it ever was. Content enjoys its elevated status for several reasons. The first is that content is customer-centred not self-centred—it doesn’t prevent you from pursuing your online goals through interruption. Rather than hijacking your attention, it persuades and attracts instead. This simple distinction is the basis of content marketing.
Another reason content occupies its throne is because our media has diverged from historically monolithic sources. Instead of a limited set of trusted media outlets that were openly partisan but generally fair, we now have a democratised media in which any individual with a phone can build a platform and be a broadcaster—by blogging, vlogging or podcasting. In the past, you would choose your news sources depending on your tribe, and if you were smart, check the opposition’s sources for the countervailing arguments. Now these monoliths are haemorrhaging audience and market share as we consumers learn to tailor our own media worlds from the voices we want to hear no matter the credibility of the source. This has led to the increasing overlap of politics, culture, entertainment and commerce as a myriad of voices compete for attention. Everything from sneakers to sports is political now, and for better or worse, seemingly everyone's opinion is readily available.
The entirety of social media across the many platforms is basically content, with advertising media dependant on it and a form of content itself. This converging relationship between paid ad media, owned media such as blogs or podcasts and earned media is messy and ever-changing. It has given rise to a new breed of marketer wielding a mix of owned and paid media; so called native advertising. And that’s why a clear and practical content strategy is as important as ever.
Traditional digital advertising is finding it harder to hit the mark as more of us opt into ad blockers and VPNs to address problems of privacy and ad fraud. The gauntlet has been thrown down to marketers to find innovative ways of reaching people that engenders joy rather than rage.
The increasing dominance of social media technology, mobile and digital, challenges traditional marketing tactics in a self-romanticising advertising industry, which remains costly even as it becomes less effective. The fundamental shift is the ability of customers to access numerous sources of media as they go through a purchase decision process. You might see a compelling ad, but you’re less likely than ever to follow that single ad source to purchase. Consumers see the benefit in researching purchase decisions within their own networks, so the challenge is to provide relevant content throughout that process.
Content creation is a vibrant and creative culture that reuses and repurposes itself continuously depending on the needs of platform, audience and context. The old rules are breaking down. We’re even seeing brands leverage the talent and creativity of their employees as content creators. Brands are recognising more than ever the power of supporting their employees in being the voices of the brand. The openness to remix, repurpose and refine content again and again in direct and real-time response to the needs of all layers of the mix are the hallmarks of great contextual campaigns.
The luxury of planning marketing initiatives with plenty of lead time is disappearing. Marketing in real-time challenges organisations to offer relevance as events in the real world unfold. Content that rises to these challenges can reap the benefits of relevance, timeliness and gaining the coveted ‘front of mind’ spot in audience attention.
We’re fast approaching the point at which everything will be content. From Internet of Things appliances to wearables such as watches or clothing, to retail destinations and transport, to the multitude of digital products we rely on, all involve content. The challenge for us creators is to rapidly deliver content tailored to the way people interact with daily life—the microinterations, the where, when and why of every moment of the day as digital and "irl" collide. Content is moving beyond marketing and is taking its place as the way we interact with the world around us. Long live the king.