It’s the CONTENT, Stupid! (And the Community.)

Cracked iPhone 3G By Kyle Saric

“Not only has social media failed to challenge mass media it is helping to amplify its reach. Several studies have shown that the vast majority of media shared through social networks is links to big media, sources such as New York Times, CNN, etc.”

“SaturdayPost: McLuhan’s Relevance In Today’s Media Mess Age…,” Tom Foremski

Whether it’s Flipboard, Netflix, iBooks, Google+ or whatever tomorrow’s new shiny might be, without quality content, they’re all simply empty shells; solutions looking for a problem to solve.

Flipboard’s latest move, partnering with Conde Nast on an advertising initiative, is intriguing on a couple of levels, not the least of which is the underlying admission that content is still king, and those who create and curate it professionally still play a critical role in the digital age. And yet, as Foremski notes, despite having generated no notable revenue to-date nor creating any original content, Flipboard’s valuation is greater than the McClatchy group of publications which “generates $1.3 billion in annual revenues.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Meanwhile, other neighborhoods in the Reality Distortion Zone (aka, Tech Bubble 2.0) are making the news as Apple, after being forced to back down from its attempted extortion of publishers’ subscription fees, has moved forward with enforcing another rule that requires the elimination of “Buy” links from competing ebook apps. According to Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader, several apps have complied with the change or been pulled: “As of Sunday morning, we have Bluefire, Kobo, Borders, and Nook Kids all updated. Google Books got pulled and we’re still waiting to see what Amazon plan to do.”

[UPDATE: Amazon has complied.]

Some have speculated that this could advantage the iBooks platform as presumably lazy readers will no longer make the extra couple of clicks to get to their preferred eretailer, splintering their ebook collections in favor of one of the most limited platforms out there. This ignores the reality that the success of the Kindle and NOOK were primarily based on Amazon and Barnes & Noble offering good-enough devices to built-in customer bases of enthusiastic readers, and further cemented by their “read anywhere” approach to apps that doesn’t require purchasing one of their relatively inexpensive devices. iBooks, on the other hand, is completely siloed within the iOS platform, buried in a race for third-place scraps with Kobo and Google, both of whom offer a more consumer-friendly “read anywhere” approach to the content they sell.

There’s that word again!

“Most people never chose a side; they just chose to participate. No one joined Facebook in the hope of destroying the publishing industry.”

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?,” Paul Ford

Ford’s essay is a great read, and he makes a few thoughtful points, including this one. It’s only a zero-sum game for pundits and the new media publishers who want everyone to believe they’re doing things differently, at least until they can cash out and join the old guard at the “big media” table.

For most people, it’s simply about wanting to have a voice and connect with others like them. The Cluetrain Manifesto nailed this over a decade ago, but our cultural fascination with the new shiny demands the wheel be recreated and debated annually monthly weekly daily.

While Wall Street and technology pundits continue to devalue those who create and curate content professionally in favor of dumb pipes, content aggregators, and social media pyramid schemes, the fact is, at the end of the day, it all starts with good content. The digital business is a cork floating on the publishing stream, and without quality content, the new shiny platforms are little more than virtual bricks sinking to the bottom at varying rates of speed.

Perhaps it’s time to start treating authors and publishers with a bit more respect, as collaborators rather than chumps, partners rather than prey?

PS:  Ford’s essay also alludes to the desire for immersion, something “The Epiphanators” are only recently beginning to understand and embrace, and something the ebook pundits completely missed in the Pottermore announcement.

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2 thoughts on “It’s the CONTENT, Stupid! (And the Community.)

  1. I’m afraid the problem is scale; the digital landscape nurtures it even when it’s not warranted – i.e., there are so many digital readers, even crap content gets clicked on once.

    The internet moves so fast that by the time the correction comes (readers won’t click twice on bad content) it’s too late: the pushers of bad content have made their numbers, and they live to serve up more crap another day.

    Very like what happened on Wall Street – bad actions of a few affected millions & the correction only comes after the money has been made.

    1. Totally agree!

      Most digital startups get funded with an eye on the big acquisition or IPO down the road, so the emphasis on free/cheap content and maximum eyeballs means long-term viability and sustainability are less important. And yet, it’s “second verse, same as the first…” all over again. Ugh.

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