Sorry, ‘content is king’ has no clothes

Scott Karp, in a typically insightful post, lobs a grenade disguised as a statement-in-the-form-of-a-question at the end of the post. He writes, “Does media have anything to do with content anymore, or is it all about aggregating people’s attention by any means? Was media ever really about content?”

When it comes to media companies and the executives who run them, the three words “content is king” is the comfort blanket they cling to as they attempt to fall asleep at night. While Scott is saying (in the form of asking) something that appears obvious to the world, he’s doing something akin to yanking their sleeping aid out of their arms and scream, “It’s just a dumb piece of cloth. Get over it.”

Of course, Scott is correct. Content is not king. I’m sorry. Frankly, I could make a strong argument it never was. Frankly, I could make an even stronger argument that the word “content” is stupid when used as a metaphor for writing, reporting, film-making, song-writing — however, Doc Searls has done that so profoundly, I’ll skip that one. (Also, the last time I did that rant, a wise reader of this blog asked me what I was going to rename the Table of Contents in our magazines.)

The ability to attract an audience is king. The ability to create a foundation (a platform, a brand, a community, or whatever you want to call it) that attracts readers and visitors and users who are enticed into creating with you, an entire (since I’m using buzzwords) ecosystem to which they all belong to, add to and gain identity from, is king.

But don’t fret, traditional media companies. Some of you are great at this. For instance, business-to-business media companies who have created conferences, tradeshows, databases, publications, websites, etc., that serve as a part of the eco-system that holds together their market. That’s king. Associations who have loyal members who attend conventions and read magazines about other members and participate with each other online — that’s king.

Audience (in the form of readers, watchers, users, listeners, members, contributors) is king. A “media business” better be about making them happy, healthy, wealthy and wise — any way possible. We (and I’m speaking as an audience member, not a media creator) are quite fickle when it comes to the “content” we “consume” — but we always are loyal to those things we think bring us happiness, health, wealth and wisdom. We “belong” to those things we believe belong to us. That’s king.