THE BLOG
10/26/2011 10:59 am ET | Updated Dec 25, 2011

Con Games: The Golden Age of Content Is Now

Ink-stained wretches will find this hard to believe, but we the people have moved full-bore into the golden age of content. Despite the nosedive of print products everywhere, the actual market for content has never been better. Writers and editors who found their skill-sets archaic are about to find out nothing could be further from the truth.

Content really is king, regardless of format, and the people who can produce it a high level will remain supremely valuable, regardless of their age or religious preferences.

Print, at this point, is a belief system--but in reality, the world of modern print, say the last 75 years at least, has been severely limited by the means of production. A ridiculously small group of people got to write, edit, and produce content when there were three television networks and a gaggle of monopoly newspapers astride their local markets. To break into a national magazine was murder. In 1980, I remember sitting in the office of Inside Sports magazine, edited by John Walsh, now at ESPN, for four hours trying to break down the door. No luck: I never saw the man. To get a column in a newspaper at that time was pretty near impossible unless you were willing to pay your dues and wait your turn -- and get lucky.

I was a newspaper editor here in Aspen, Colorado, in 2003, just before the great newspaper meltdown and the greater digital explosion. Think of it as pre-blog, pre-Facebook. Dozens and dozens of people would get in contact because they wanted to write about just about everything. I did my best to open the door, but there was not enough demand (or room) to meet the supply. Most of those people left frustrated a newspaper had no place for them to put down a sleeping bag or a blanket. When I started Aspen Post I found 80 people willing to blog -- not to mention everyone who wanted to comment.

Fast-forward to, like, now. Worst case people go to Blogger.com or Tumblr and put up their own blog about anything/everything they want. Or they become a blogger on a local paper or site. Or they incessantly comment on the online version of a local newspaper. The lid is off and people are writing and blogging and posting photos and video as never before on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and everywhere else.

Sure, the transition has been tough--but not impossible. Consider the blog (of course) of one of the most important executives in the content business, John Paton, chief executive officer of Digital First Media Inc., a roll-up of many, many newspapers.

"Since implementing our Digital First strategy in mid-2010," he blogs, "our Digital audience has doubled to more than 12.3 million uniques and our entire audience has grown from 14.9 million monthly customers on all platforms to nearly 21 million customers.

"That's more customers for what we have to offer. A lot more.

"In Q2 of this year, 10 of JRC's 18 dailies are up year over year in advertising or within 2 percent of last year's ad revenues because of digital advertising growth. JRC newspaper digital revenue grew more than 81 percent year over year in Q2. That's against an industry average of less than 10 percent.

"Digital dimes can replace Print dollars."

There's even more to the golden age of content. Tablet computing is a paradigm shift in portability, mobility, multimedia, design, and display. Mobile platforms of all kinds will get better and better. The golden age of content is coupled with the golden age of new platforms and wireless delivery. The online world may kill off most of print, but it is already replacing papyrus with something better and more interesting. Look at iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix: amazing stuff at our fingertips for a relative pittance.

Again: content is king.

Perhaps the final element content-wise is the way that it's already transforming corporations. Companies like Chevron are advertising for "managing editor, digital," for that person who gets readin' and writin' but can translate those editing skills into a social world. Hope springs for the optimized ink-stained wretch who has become Tweetable.

I never thought I'd live to see it happen--or to see it happen so fast. If you're in the content business today, your life will only get better. Take it from me: I know what it's like to die and go to heaven.