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Content Is King No Longer

Posted: Updated:

2010-06-24-curationking2.jpg

"Content is King" -- no longer. Today, the world has changed. "Curation Is King." Ok, I hear all the content-makers sharpening their knives to take me on.

I'm ready.

First, why content is dead:

Content used to be the high quality media that came out of the very pointed end of the funnel. Articles in the New York Times. Movies from Miramax. Thursday night comedy from NBC. Books published by Simon and Schuster. Creative folks wrote pitches, treatments, sample chapters, pilots, but only the best of the best got published.

Then, the web came along and blew that up. Kaboom! Now content has gone from being scarce to being ubiquitous. Bloggers make content. Flickr photographers make content. Facebook posts are content. Tumblr publishers make content. Content isn't king because it isn't scarce. It's everywhere, it's overwhelming, and it's gone from quality to noise.

Which isn't to say that this is a bad thing -- it's actually very very good. It's freedom. It's public discourse. It's new communities that were previously silenced by their inability to access broadcast distribution outlets now getting to have their chance in the spotlight.

As someone said to me a few weeks back: "Andy Warhol was wrong. We're not going to be famous for 15 minutes. We're each going to be famous for 15 People." Indeed.

So let's look at the relative explosion in content and why this trend is only going to continue to grow massively:

Devices: Everything makes media now. Cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, iPads, web cams, as well as location aware software like Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and a zillion others. The combination of where we are, what we like, what we're doing and what we're saying all creates micro-media. Content is being exuded out of our digital pores.

Bandwidth: 3G is here, 4G is around the corner. Wifi is slowly but surely being pushed out and shared, though it's currently strangled by passwords and firewalls. But just watching the 'check in' phenomena of Foursquare is a clue about how quickly content creation is becoming an everyday part of what we do.

Sociology: People like sharing. They like sharing bite size info about what they're doing, where they are, who they're with, what they're buying. They massive influx of consumer created crowd content shifts content from scarcity to abundance, and then to an overwhelming fire-hose of undifferentiated data.

So, what institutions does this 'Content Tsunami' put under pressure?

Publishing: In a world where everyone makes content, publishing is no longer able to lay claim to being the 'best' maker of quality content in their field. In fact, content creation is costly and painful though this may be, may not result in measurably better content than content curation. Mixing creation and curation is essential for survival. Check out Huffington Post for a mix of created, curated, and crowd-sourced content.

Experts: It used to be that there were a handful of folks who where thought of as experts in their field. So the folks who owned the publishing platforms got to determine who was an 'expert' and build their brand. Now, that's upside-down. Social media superstars are able to create visibility though leadership and personal brand value with ubiquity of voice. The new Expert is the leader with the most twitter followers, not the person on the speed-dial from CNN.

Advertising: We're standing at the end of an era. "Mass Media," the ability to reach large segments of the population with a single message is essentially over. For advertisers, the need to find content in context, and to have that context be appropriate for their message and their brand is critical. So, curation replaces creation as the coin of the realm for advertiser-safe environments. No longer can advertisers simply default to big destination sites. The audience is too diffuse and the need to filter and organize quality crowd-created content is too critical.

Search: Search was a critical solution to bringing audience to the web. But today the vectors that you can "search" on don't reflect what audiences need to know to find what matters to them. Search provides the name, date, and other algorithmically chosen variables. But what makes an article right for Huffington Post, but wrong for News Max? The voice of the content and the context, which require human curation and crowd collaboration.

We've arrived in a world where everyone is a content creator. And quality content is determined by context. Finding, sorting, endorsing, sharing -- it's the beginning of a new chapter. And not since Gutenberg have we seen such a significant change in who's able to use the tools of content creation to engage in a public dialog.

The emergence of a new king -- a curation king, reflects the rise of the new aggregation economy. It is an exciting time to be in content, and the best is yet to come.

Read more: at SIA

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