Yes, I have also said it in recent years that content is king. But there is nothing true about it. Because the mountains and mountains of content that we produce together all demand the scarce attention of our customers. Even that customer is not king – he is a dictator. And just as people – not always voluntarily – go down on their knees for a dictator, companies are forced to respond to their customers.
The online world is about giving your attention, and content is only a means to an end. Manage your site not through content (input) but on based on outcome.
What is content and who crowned it?
Content is usually used as a common word for text, and in a broader sense also for image and video, in an online environment. I think that’s quite a narrow definition because I believe content is about meaning, about relationships, about people, but this aside. In this article, I will start from the generally accepted definition of content: online text, image and video.
Content = marketing
The longer we examine it, the more content is associated with marketing.
“Content marketing is a marketing technique that B2C and B2B organizations create and publish content to enter into and maintain relationships with both existing and potential customers.”
And content is also just the basis for communication.
Content = input
Many websites and intranets are (still) managed based on the amount of content, the number of page views. But… A visit to your website is often just one of the steps that a customer takes to go through his (purchase or other) process. That means that you can not view your website in isolation. You have to focus on the entire customer process, on the entire customer journey – and oversee all channels.
Content = demanding attention
A lot of content requires attention in the so-called call-to-action area. ‘Take a look at our successful project’, ‘Don’t you think our offer is great?’ or ‘You miss the train if you do not purchase this service’. Just think of the carousels with product offerings on thousands of sites. Content is indeed a form of marketing, a type of advertising.
While the web has turned this world upside down, as a business you are no longer at the helm. As an advertiser, you shoot with hail. The internet has reversed the model. A search at Google or a tweet about a product or service, has become the ad. The (potential) customer is the advertiser. And as a business owner, you can respond to such an ‘advertisement’ and offer yourself.
Content = bullshit
On April 5, the well-known front end developer Brad Frost spoke to Creative Mornings in his hometown Pittsburg. During his talk he mentioned different numbers:
- In 2010, there were almost 130 million different books in the world. In 2012, no less than 15 million new books were published. In the US only. That is 10% of all books ever released!
- There are 4.5 million photos placed on Flickr every day, 40 million on Instagram, and a whopping 300 million on Facebook. Of the 3.8 trillion photos ever made, 380 million were made in 2012, in the US 10% of the total.
- 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube per minute. Of this, 4 million hours are watched each month.
- Almost 145 billion e-mails are sent every day, 822,240 sites are launched, 500,000 WordPress blogs posted, 40 million Tumblr posts, 500 million tweets and 4 billion updates on Facebook.
Frost then quoted Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google:
“There were 5 exabytes of information created between the dawn of civilization through 2003, but that much information is now created every two days, and the pace is increasing.”
Discussing information overload – a term that was coined in 1970 – that’s when the flood of content still had to start. This mountain of content engulfs our customers. They no longer see the forest through the trees. Content is not a king; it doesn’t hold the highest power. But who is, then?
Even your customer is not a king.
Then you would say, the customer is the king. And that is, to a certain degree, true, but not at all. Because this king thinks himself that he is Louis XIV, the Sun King, an enlightened despot. And with that, your client has something of a dictator’s trait, where you as an organization have to dance to his flutes.
Online is about giving attention…
What do people who live under a dictator do, voluntarily or not? Usually the most successful are those who want to please the dictator. If he asks for something, make sure that it is arranged. If the dictator / customer asks a question – think again of a search or tweet; an advertisement – the people / organization goes to work to ensure that the dictator is served.
Both in the narrow (text) and the broad (meaning) definition of content, content remains a means to achieve a goal. Both from a customer perspective – ‘I want to apply for a passport’ – and from an organizational perspective – ‘We want to sell a subscription’. That is why I mention once again that one basic rule applies to managing your site: do not manage the input (content), but the results (outcome).
Manage the outcome on the web, not the input
Of course, there are reasons for all sorts of larger and smaller ‘barriers’ to facilitating the customer process that make them difficult or impossible to remove. Legislation and regulations, legacy IT systems, you name it. I do not want to trivialize that either. But I want to point to the basic attitude of organizations. It is not the organizational process that is leading, but the customer process. If you keep track of that and adjust the management of your site accordingly, as Gerry McGovern says, you can not focus on input from the organizational process, but on the outcome of the customer process.
Hail the customer, hail the King!
My conviction is that people can, and want, to conduct their business online! But only if it suits them quickly and without too much effort.