June 8th, 2012 by Lloyd Gofton
After catching up on my reading following the Jubilee break in the UK, I was alerted to this excellent piece on Paid Content, titled: Forget about â€˜content management’-and focus on â€˜audience development’ by Ben Elowitz co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint.
The title pretty much says all you need to know about the subject matter. Elowitz has nailed the failing content management approach of too many media organisations with an insightful look at the over reliance on content itself, with little regard for the audience.
This is real â€˜Stock and flow‘ stuff (the economic model that works equally well for media).
I used a direct quote from the piece as the title to my post: “Content is just a means to an end. The end – and media’s greatest asset – is audience”, and to expand, Elowitz went on to reflect on the common mistake that too many media companies have repeated: “Advertisers don’t pay to reach content – they pay to reach audience. And building an audience that will earn you advertising is only partly about content. In truth, just as much hinges on distribution. If your delightful content can’t find and catch the attention of your audience, the value of your content drops to zero. If a tree falls in a forest…
“Media companies over the last 10 years have invested in an enormously expensive card catalogue, while spending only pennies to bring people into the library. The big opportunity with digital media is not to organise your content closet or have efficient workflow – it’s about driving demand and building an audience using digital channels and all of the rich data that comes with them. That’s the way to use systems to multiply the top line, not just streamline the expense line.”
The idea that if we simply focus on developing great content then the rest will just happen, is simply wrong. The build it and they will come approach is long since dead, and if you’re not focused on your audience (or flow) your content may well be the best, but no one will know about it.
In my opinion this situation has only been worsened by the legacy thinking from media organisations that has seen so many struggle to prosper in the digital age. The problems that large publishers have experienced in making a digital model relevant are well documented, or as Elowitz says: “it’s because these intricately designed systems have been based on one big misunderstanding: that a media company’s most valuable asset is content.” but this way of thinking has developed into a deeper problem in the psyche of content managers/developers.
In the past content lived or died on the strength of its quality. The channel was always there, you picked up a magazine, or a newspaper and there was the content, but now the channel isn’t clear. Many don’t understand the channel, or which channel to use or where to even start looking.
The content is lost in the channel. The channel is often lost in the channel. The channel has become value and conversation and sharing, but you need to be able to find the content to share it and grab attention as well as hold it.
These are very different focuses to content development alone, this is digital distribution. This means a change in thinking is necessary. Traditionally we may have resorted to building our own channel, but the focus should centre on being useful to existing communities to become part of the flow of conversation. We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re getting on-board with the existing revolution.
So what can be done to rectify the situation? Well, Elowitz offers five steps that every content manager should follow, which you can read in full in the article, and I strongly recommend you do:
1. Manage across the many channels of distribution.
2. Adjust the focus from audience to individual.
3. Use abundant user data to know what works.
4. Make your systems look forward, not back.
5. Fully socialise your distribution.