Why Content is NOT King

Content is KingIn his March 1996 essay, Bill Gates declared, “Content is king!” As marketers and bloggers, we’ve been fed this golden rule day in and day out. However, the changing dynamics of the web coupled with the evolution of social media makes me believe that content is NO LONGER the king. There’s no denying the importance of content but in my opinion, it’s no longer the #1 defining factor in determining your fate in today’s digital world.

Of course, critics would say that I’m daring to defy conventional wisdom and that’s not something I should be undertaking. However, I strongly believe that the rules of the game have changed in today’s attention driven economy. Here’s why.

Audience is the King!

It’s really about the audience nowadays. As a content provider (blogger, marketer or otherwise), you can make your best effort to serve quality content to your audience. However, it entirely depends on them on what content they choose. Of course, quality content has a better chance of appealing to the audience.

Unfortunate as it is, I know of several blogs and marketers who produced stellar content but lost their way simply because they didn’t pay enough attention to their audience.

Content is the Servant!

Your audience chooses what content they pay attention to, only if it serves their needs. In that sense, ‘content is a servant’ that earns the ‘wage of attention’ from the consumers of a particular content. In other words, the better a piece of content, the better the wage of attention the audience is willing to pay.

Social Media – The Kingmaker!

I have no doubt that social media has completely transformed the content production and consumption industries. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, social media has given a new definition to the way content is produced and consumed in today’s digital economy.

Social media is a great way to get eyeballs for your blog or marketing campaigns. It’s not just about what you are promoting – how you do it is equally vital.

Attention Economy

I truly believe that we’re living in the attention economy. If you manage to grab your audience’s attention, that’s half the battle won. While content is important, it’s often the way you present your content which determines whether it strikes a chord with your audience.

In my opinion, Twitter is a classic case study of how social media has redefined the rules of content. Assuming that you are following around 1,000 people on Twitter, it’s almost impossible to read all tweets from the people whom you are following. Therefore, you need to make a choice and that’s often decided by the tweets that gain your attention.

All in all, the bottom line is this – Content is important but it’s no longer the king! Do you agree with that statement? Please leave a comment to share your views on this subject.

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  1. Chris St Cartmail

    I understand your point, and agree that bloggers are creating content i.e. something packaged, rather than delivering information that the audience wants. But social media and SEO are barren without content. So rather than ‘Customer is King’ (blah – it’s a given!) or ‘Content is King’, the digital marketer’s mantra should be ‘Content in Context is King’.

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      Thanks Chris on your take on the issue. Depending on the context, content is king. The point of the post is the fact that the ultimate decision of which content is consumed lies with the content consumers.

  2. Ephraimgopin

    Douglas- VERY interesting article!
    1 thing I’d point out- towards the end you wrote “Therefore, you need to make a choice and that’s often decided by the tweets that gain your attention.”
    at least for me (following almost 1100 people), the CONTENT of those tweets sometimes is king- if you’re scrolling, sometimes the way someone phrases the tweet grabs your attention. not saying always but at least on Twitter, content is…queen? 🙂

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      A great headline is king in the kingdom of Twitter where attention is scarce 😉 Totally agree with that.

  3. Matthew Zaffina

    First of all you can go round and round with a debate on how audiences are created. Whether that be from your content alone or the sharing of your content through social media channels.  This is a chicken and egg argument. 

    Also Blogging is a form of Social Media.  A blog is not solely putting up written content, it involves sharing the content and INTERACTING with an audience.  I do give you credit for sharing your own content often, but I must point out that you tend to lack on interaction at least on the twitter front.  

    I do like how you are challenging a pretty much accepted internet phenomenon coined by arguably the most famous man of our era.  I enjoy your blog, yet one critique would be sometimes the lack of depth especially in free thought articles like this one.  I would enjoy reading the occasional 2K post
    to give your readers a better understanding of your expertise.

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      Mathew and Vanessa, points well taken 😉 With “occasional” as the keyword, I should start braking the norm here. Thanks guys for the feedback.

  4. Vanessa Sanctorum

    Completely agree with Matthew Zaffina! It is a bit light to make your point
    even if enjoyed reading the post

  5. Tim Milburn

    Michael Hyatt just recently released a book entitled, Platform. One of his lines is “Content is King. Platform is Queen.” In most cases, the Queen may be the one ruling the kingdom from behind the scenes. Both content and the platform from which one offers that content is important. I like how you defined content as the “servant that earns the wage of attention.” Perhaps it’s the ability to be heard and noticed that is King (which requires both content and platform).

    Thanks for giving me good food for thought here. 

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      My pleasure Tim! Platform is a great and very interesting book, by a great guy. I highly recommend Platform if you’re looking for a framework to take your personal brand and/or business to the next level.

  6. Frank Woodman Jr

    Your points are well made and I would for the most part agree. For today the old quote coined by Marshall McLuhan 
    “The medium is the message” should now read “The Social Medium is the message.” For contact and relationship have replaced raw content as the most important part of business success. Now if you aren’t reaching out and staying in constant contact with your customers and clients someone else is. It’s the realization that while many of us are still struggling to really understand how to use social media in our businesses we must no mater what use it and use it often or lose out to those that do that drives the growth of social media. 

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      You’re very right about using social media. However, we shouldn’t use it out of fear that we’re going to loose out on its benefits without a conversion strategy in place. 

      It’s like going to a dinner party with this guy that likes to talk. Talk he does – on and on, and he does it with everybody. But, his conversation never leads to a conclusion. It never takes long before you begin to ask yourself, “what was that all about?” That’s how our engagement on the social web could be if we don’t have a strategy in place. 

      To successfully use social media for whatever purpose, we must “start with the end in mind”, if I may, take liberty at quoting Steven Covey here.

  7. Mark Fidelman

    But Douglas, doesn’t content need to attract the audience first? 

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      The headline does. Just like the copy of a resume would; the boss ultimately makes the decision. Notwithstanding, content is crucial to the success of the digital ecosystem.

  8. Joe

    You’ve just presented a thoughtful and reasoned argument on why content IS king.

  9. Durlov Baruah

    whichever way you look at it, content is still the king. King here does not mean “role”. It simply means “greatest importance”. Even if content is the servant, content is still the king (of greatest importance). Audience cannot decide the content, they would only choose. They would choose the best content. So content is the king.
    If the audience is discerning, content is of even greater significance. If you consider the millions of media options, and therefore the diminishing attention of the audience, content and its presentation become even more important.
    Content is the bigger king today. You article is just an intelligent wordplay.

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      I’m glad you mentioned the power to choose lies with the audience. That means, they dictate the content they “pay” attention to, and the content they usually pay attention to, are those that “serve” their needs.

      1. Durlov Baruah

        See, you are missing the point here. Of course, nobody would buy a skirt, when all they need is a pair of jeans. So, audience will ‘pay’ attention to content that ‘serves’ their needs. However,like there are millions of Jeans brands, there are multiple content sources that will serve their needs. The best content will be chosen the most. Content rules. Moreover, as an advertiser, or a marketer, we are responsible for the brand promise, which is actually the other name of brand content. So for any brand custodian, content is the king. To create relevant content is hygiene. Creating the best relevant content would win you the game.

  10. Larry Kunz

    Yes! Yes! Yes! In fact, I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time. The audience is king, and content is its servant. Without an audience, content is, to quote the Apostle Paul, a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

  11. Ramon Moor

    Great post and some interesting points are made in the comments. In a consumer/buyer-based economy it seems true that audience is more important than content. Simply because content is just one way to attract, interest and keep attention of an audience. Obviously I do admit it’s an important one…

    However, audiences are also influenced by other factors; many of which not rational. Would you prefer having an enormously engaged audience that loves your mediocre content, or writing great content for a disgruntled audience?

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      Ramon, it’s very important that we speak with our heart and not our head with our content. When you speak from the heart and belief, some may not agree with your points, your thought leadership is defined by it. The need to compromise for engagement is tempting, I’d rather be know for my believes and ideologies than passive expressions, all for the need of engagement.

      Engagement is good, a tribe of dedicated audience is better!

  12. Fer O'Neil

    I have started thinking this as well. I began to put this to words earlier this year when I wrote a research paper about technical communications and how some see content as part of a process that must be regulated. As you point out, I don’t think this takes the audience into consideration. Here is an excerpt from my paper:

    … For as I have described above, these processes value technology for technology’s sake, process over people, standards over audience, and put into a current context as “content existing for its own sake.” Content does not exist in a vacuum; it exists for people and for their sole benefit. Content is King? No, people are Kings and they are not ruled by content, standards or processes.  This idea and the people who espouse it, view technical communications as stuck in a discourse that values ends over means, stemming from the traditional definition of technical communications from the 17th century. 

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      I love the snippet of your paper @twitter-330167690:disqus . I’d love to see the full version. It baffles me how people hear sound bytes and never really take time to analyze the evolving implications.

      1. Fer O'Neil

         One day when I’m prepared to defend it! I presented it at a technical communication and rhetoric conference this year and I plan to develop it into my master’s thesis. I would love to share it when it is out of the draft stage and ready for prime time. Once again, great post.

  13. Jim Gold

    There ain’t no king, or queen for that matter. It’s not audience. It’s not content. Nor engagement, nor  conversation. This ‘who’s the top dog?’  is just a semantic game  to get pseudo-digital-intellectuals arguing .. blah de blah blah.. with each other and to keep up blog rankings (why am I even posting?). Everyone knows it.

  14. Nadine Hack

    What I like about this is that interaction and engagement is now primary because of the nature of social media and that is only going to continue to grow. There is something very exciting about the dynamic nature of social networking (stop crying those of you who decry it as senseless)! 

    But what I don’t like about this is that sometimes the most inane things are most shared rather than people engaging in substantive give and take on critical issues.  Of course, I realize there are platforms for that and those are the places where I try to engage the most. 

    It’s also how I choose who to follow Twitter (@nadinehack) and why I’ve opted for quality over quantity in followers by sharing and/or RT what’s meaningful to me. 

  15. Reg Charie

    Actually, relevance is King.
    Presentation is Queen and content is the national treasury.

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      I like that @twitter-15240572:disqus 🙂

  16. Kallcroft

    Hmmm . . . thought provoking post! I had no idea who originated the “content is king” mindset. I think you’re right of course, but I also know that marketing in this manner (twitter, facebook, pinterest) is the war for attention as people are bombarded with information. Too little and they don’t get to know you; too much and they tune you out. It’s how to strike a balance with your audience that matters. Many thanks for posting!

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      Thanks @eb93509ac51176b0eea42aec36a4d63c:disqus for your take on finding a balance! Just like in anything in life, especially with information, without balance you’ll find yourself drowning your audience and that’s obviously not healthy for your audience.

  17. Salvatore Capolupo

    I think that the most important problem is related to lack of critical thinking by too much people, so content is NOT more the king and – only in this sense – social takes all the rest…so it will be increasingly difficult to make good content marketing.

  18. AllamonlinPia Kreisman

    I do agree on this! “Content is important but it’s no longer the King!” I believe this is because of the advent of the younger generation to be active on social media. There number sometimes outweigh the much older population in a way that they spend more time online. There generation is also a great target for numerous amount of deals and promotions. They are also the best target. However, I still believe that for those who are actively involved online, content will never be out of style. A piece is still about the meat and not the coating. 

  19. turfgrrl

    Without content we have nothing to talk about. Yes audience is important, but it does start with content.

  20. Schinski

    Content is still king.  You just have to listen and understand (read:analyze) what your audience is interested.  Content still wins, it;s just changed how you get there.  It’s not simply what you think but what you think about things your audience cares about.

  21. Michał Gąsior

    Well i tend to disagree. The thing is we face three kings reign in modern marketing. Those kings are: content, audience and timing. They rule at the same time and are equally important. I’d link to my recent article about this but it’s in Polish 🙂

  22. Nelson Ta

    Great article Douglas.  The headline sucked me in right away and had me ready to refute your argument before reading it.  However, you make excellent points here.  People are going to attract attention simply by creating good content.  There’s a whole science that goes with it now.  To go along with that, the competition is rough.  Everyone is producing content.  It’s a rat race.  

  23. Richard Hill

    Interesting that the old acronym AIDA always seems to be relevant and that there is a distinction between presentation and content that seems to be missing from much of this discussion.

    The other thing I notice is how often you hang on to stuff you should trash just in case….scurries off to my inbox to delete some more stuff.

    Thought provoking, Douglas though my gut tells me you are sliding round the issue rather than driving a stake through its heart

  24. Cyrille Simard

    Chicken and Egg argument again. Catchy title but your argument keeps stating that content is important !

    Its obvious that audience is key. The Internet wasn’t built for cows, dogs or elephants. It was built for human beings. Everything turns around humans using technology for information and communication purposes. Nothing new there.

    That being said, content is the central element that makes all this discussion relevant at the end of the day.

    “Content is king” is a only a way of saying that interactions between human beings uses content and that if you want to succeed in the Web environment, you have to focus on quality and relevant content. Period.

  25. Lornajane Altura

    This destroys the common rule of SEO 🙂

  26. Nina

    I think you have a point here. In the end of the day, marketers do not segment market niches for the sake of it. The audience nowadays has so many choices of different media that unless you are able to get their attention you can have the best content in the world but still won’t get far.

  27. Dmitry M

    Audience is king if you operate a forum or an aggregate site that can choose what kind of content it presents. Otherwise content is still king. If I operate a niche site I don’t have the option of switching topics.

    “I know of several blogs and marketers who produced stellar content but
    lost their way simply because they didn’t pay enough attention to their

    This just reinforces the point that content is king. Your example illustrates that those bloggers failed to provide good content that readers would be interested in.

    By content we don’t mean any kind of content. We refer to content that is rich and informative.

  28. kp456

    I like the term the “attention economy”, it always has been, but now with the internet to a greater extent.

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