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The Content Republic

Content Republic

I wrote this piece for the most recent issue [number 19] of the always wonderful Contagious Magazine.

[It's good - they kindly sent me a copy - and has a scary clown on the cover.]

It kind of grew out of my annoyance of people, including myself, saying Content is King too much, as thought it explained stuff:

Since the earliest days of what we used to call the information superhighway, a refrain has echoed across industries. A mantra, a koan, an aphorism of our age, that guides development and business models, that shows us all how to proceed, chanted regularly, religiously, by traditional media companies especially, and increasingly by technology companies.

Sing it with me:

‘Content is King!’

[Alliterative aphorisms are the second best kind, after those that (almost) rhyme.]

It's mostly about the fact that there are lots of business models that can support and monetise content, not just the two obvious ones [pay for it, or get ads around it].

In fact, I think what we mostly pay for is a way to make content more useful to us, either via storage medium, or timing, or context.

You can read The Content Republic here, and do let me know what you think, but the theme runs throughout the issue so get that for the full effect.

[This has been an unsolicited endorsement.]

I actually wrote it before Murdoch came out with his recidivist statements about charging for content online:

"The inchoate days of the internet will soon be over," Murdoch pronounced, citing an "epochal" debate in the industry. Having flirted with the idea of turning the Wall Street Journal website free before realising he had bought one of the world's few newspaper sites that makes money, Murdoch has come down in favour of online charging.

Now, whilst I love the fact he uses the word inchoate, he appears to have decided that the only business models that brand new exciting world of digital content can support are ones he already understands, which seems a little, well, shortsighted.

I think there will probably be room for lots of different models [like at a catwalk show] and that we don't probably know what they all are yet, but that there is probably something in making content more useful for people.

Most people can't really be bothered to steal stuff, if it's easier not to, within certain price elasticities, I imagine. In fact, I reckon there will be room for free, ad supported and paid for versions of the same content to mutually co-exist, based on context.

Of course, for advertising, one of the things to think about is that the internet is a great disintermediator, which means if we want we can connect consumers to brands without using the aggregated attention of paid for media.

But, as the media industry will tell you, it's a petrifying business where no one knows what is going to work and you have to invest in ten things in the hope that one will work.

But then, maybe that's not a bad model for us either.