Content is the new advertising

Somewhere on the road to the New Economy®, content got commodified. For years we’ve been told that content rules and content is king, which basically means the only reason anyone will pay attention is if you give them interesting or compelling content.

Unfortunately, content got co-opted when business tried to harness it to the profit motive. Most businesses see content as a means to an end: traditional advertising continues to shrivel up as social media supplants it for audience attention. That means business has had to use content production as a way to recapture the eyeballs it lost in the long, slow decline of traditional advertising.

This doesn’t mean business has suddenly and magically embraced authenticity and journalistic rigour. In most cases it simply means business has jammed content production into the hole in its marketing strategy recently vacated by traditional advertising. It’s easier than ever to create content: you can now get HootSuite to automatically deliver content recommendations for you to tweet out each morning without any need to think about it or write a word yourself. Any number of content farms are at your disposal to efficiently and methodically crank out content like liverwurst squeezing out of a grinder. Want to go upscale? Just hire a freelancer, to give it that personal touch.

Unfortunately, this reduces content and turns it into advertising 2.0: a dependable, predictable attention generator for your product or service.

This means the written word itself has become a commodity: it’s increasingly predictable, programmed and unremarkable, a business tool instead of one for self-expression and the exchange of ideas. It doesn’t have to be this way, especially since commodified content doesn’t serve business any better than commodified advertising or PR. Outstanding, original, funny, idiosyncratic or just plain weird content is what captures people’s attention.

The rest is just a commodity, and commodities have low margins, high competition and undifferentiated product. Who wants that?

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