Long live King Content7/16/2014
Of all the innovations and gifts Bill Gates gave the world of technology, the one that has crossed over more than any other is the idea that “Content is King.” Written as part of an open essay in 1996, Gates’ proclamed that in order to succeed in the burgeoning online consumer space, websites and services needed to provide original and alluring content. This “Moses on the Mount” decree is as true today as it was 20 years ago.
I hate this phrase. “Content is King” has become the war cry of editors, news directors, and basically every content supervisor the world, and half of them have no clue what it means. To these people, it’s a way of saying, “Do your job,” or “What have you done for me lately?” But for a more accurate understanding, one needs to look no farther than the battle for online eyeballs.
Every online media giant wants your attention. Netflix wants your subscription dollars; Google, YouTube, Hulu, Yahoo want your advertising attention; and Microsoft, Apple and Amazon want your customer loyalty. This never-ending battle royale is not quite nefarious, just a situation that can only be described as a tale as old as time.
Long before the Internet, television, or even radio, content was king in the newspaper world. The public has always been hungry for distraction, and newspapers gave it to them sometimes twice a day. What happened to newspapers has been recreated in every other medium. Newspaper barron’s fervent need for attention gave way to “yellow journalism” or salacious, half-truth gossip that practically demanded readers’ attention until the market was saturated with content.
Every media platform thereafter followed a similar path of racing to the most depraved and sensationalist material. It’s the reason HBO has a violence and nudity requirement in all of its shows. Media producers want your attention, they want your money, and they’ll do anything to get it.
After web media, smartphone applications are following the same trend of feeding the content-starved beast. While I can’t predict the next media delivery service, I’m sure content will reign there as well. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.