Saturday, August 21, 2010

Content is not king

For the last at least couple of years, there have been two sayings that I've heard ad nauseam. The first is that one about Wall Street and Main Street -- that's a topic for an entirely different post. But the one that is relevant for this blog is "Content is King." In a time when the internet is making everything seem kind of fluffy and "of the ether," content has been our anchor. How do you make a blog really good? Good content. How do you become a thought leader? You provide good content. Content is to Social Media users like blanket was to Linus. So I am going to lay this news on you gently.

I don't think content is king anymore. Ideas are King.

What's the Difference?

Let me define my terms. To me, content is the meat on the bones of a blog, a white paper, a Twitter update, or a talk. It is something you can point to and say, "Here is my content." An idea may be verbalized via content, but sometimes an idea is something more mushy like a concept or the beginning of a concept or idea that isn't fully formed yet. An idea is a thought that has some direction and knows what it wants to be when it grows up.

What's with the Coup d'etat?

As I was signing out of Twitter last night, I saw a post from Ray W. Johnson. For those of you who don't know (because I didn't), Ray W. Johnson has made a name for himself over the last year via twice-weekly YouTube shows that review viral YouTube videos. He's funny. He's authentic. He provides a lot of content. He's become a success, in fact. Would connecting with this fellow do any good for me or other marketers or companies? Probably not.

Now look at some of the thought leaders that I have mentioned here a million trillion times (or even some of the ones I have only mentioned 999,999 times). They also generate a ton of content. They also have done well for themselves. But what do I gain by associating with them and learning from them? Ideas, my friend.

Content is important. It's how you verbalize what's going on with you or your company. But now, with technology and social networking the way it is, anyone, truthfully, can generate "content." If you don't think you are a good writer or blogger or vlogger or Twitterer, you can find people who will do those things for you for a small fee. Content is no longer the mysterious wonder that it used to be. In fact, even if you want to just wing it as a writer, you can do alright for yourself if you know a little about keywords and if you know how to play the game.

But what makes content really visible and unique? The idea behind it. Ray's content may not be stellar or useful, but his idea -- his concept -- that's what makes him really stand out. What makes certain blogs and websites common resources for people in the marketing biz? Ideas. New ideas, ideas about how to do things, sharing ideas.

Ideas in the wind

I had a very interesting exchange this morning with Cindy Bagwell Chrysler and Glenn Le Santo, 2 Facebookers who also hang on Chris Brogan's FB page. Essentially, we talked about how to share ideas. Both Cindy and Glenn feel that if you are a person who has tons of ideas, some of which you are not using, you should voluntarily give unto others the ideas that are kind of waxing and waning in your brain. As Glenn said, ideas do have a time stamp on them. Is it better to let the idea just die, or is it better to give it to someone who can run with it right now?

I entered the conversation from a bit of a different point of view. I am all for sharing ideas. I wouldn't know a lot of what I know if people more experienced and smarter than me hadn't been willing to share ideas. I've also given a lot of ideas to other people and I think the ideas have served them well.

However, I have also seen numerous scenarios where ideas are simply not valued. A lot of the thought leaders are experiencing this and I have witnessed it at times. They share tons of ideas. Then someone comes and says something like, "Can you give me an idea for..." or "Can I have your book for free?" At that point, if the thought leader says no, people seem to get kind of ... itchy. A lot of people seem to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to ideas. That's a big problem.

Farnsworth vs. RCA

What I worry about is scenarios like that which resulted in us all receiving the invention of television. Philo Farnsworth filed the patent for what eventually became television technology. Immediately, RCA said, "Wait, that was our idea!" RCA then made improvements to Farnsworth's invention, claiming it as yet another patent. Farnsworth said, "Wait, that was my idea!" The debate still rages on.

Because we are not being reminded that ideas rather than content are king, we are not valuing our ideas enough. When David Meerman Scott talks about losing control, he is not necessarily talking about letting your creativity or your genius or your ideas run wild. He is talking about your content getting out there, finding a job, and starting a family. Your ideas are what make you and your company who you are. They are what will define the paths you take or don't take. They will be behind your new service, your new product.

If we are careless with our ideas in this day and age, there's no telling who could take ownership of them. Proving that you had the idea first and did not intend on "giving" it to other people will be extremely difficult if you are giving your ideas away, essentially, on Facebook, Twitter, and your blog. On the other side of the coin, if we solely depend on "idea people" for our ideas, we will be doomed once that faucet gets turned off.

That's why Ideas are king

The thing that a lot of people will never be able to fake is ideas. A lot of musicians say, "Ugh, the Beatles...all of their songs are so simplistic. Rarely do they stray from a single chord progression." People say, "Ugh, these Social Media experts. They say completely obvious things in different ways and get applauded for it." The thing that makes these kinds of folks different is that they have ideas on how to use things in different ways. Just like many musicians can play a C chord, many of us can understand right from wrong, sharing, and other basic principles. But not all of us can create music like the Beatles did. Not all of us can apply basic principles from other facets of life and make them work for business. Ideas are what separate us. Ideas are pieces of our soul that go off and plant themselves into something new.

Do you really want to part from that just because you can't get to everything NOW NOW NOW? I don't know. I enjoy helping people. I enjoy sharing. But to give all of my ideas away now rather than saving them for a rainy day? That makes *me* kind of itchy.

What do you think? Tell me what your belief is. Do you agree with Glenn and Cindy or do you see things more like me, or are you in a totally different park?

1st Image by Fabrizio Ginesi.
2nd Image by Milan Jurek.
3rd Image by Julia Freeman-Woolpert.


glenn said...

Content not King? I'm a content producer so I'll take a little more convincing! Ideas lead to content, and content devoid of good ideas is just a waste of time. Perhaps ideas are the Queen and so content can rest easy because it is still King.

Adrian Hoppel said...

I get what you are saying, and to a large extent agree. But I think I use the phrase "content is king" is reference getting your blog, website, or idea known to the world. Without ideas, which are a framework, a platform, to deliver the content in a new a fresh way, then information (content) is just like the Yellow Pages. It is the idea that shapes content into something palatable. But, without content, your idea is like a pole stuck in a cornfield in Nebraska; no one will know it's there except for you. So, in that regard, I still say content is king - but you better have a great idea.

Paul Konrardy said...

Another brain-stirrer, Margorie.

The best ideas usually do have a collaborative genome - at least ideas that are implemented and sustained. However, it's difficult for me to embrace the belief that "a person who has tons of ideas...should voluntarily give unto others" without a bit more context. For example, a collaborative environment would naturally be a "safe place" to engage in idea sharing & give-and-take. On the other hand, in the marketplace throwing out ideas like a commodity seems more ego-based than generous.

Separately, the Content is King topic has indeed become the "gotta use keywords" of the current environment. The basic logic for Content is King remains firmly in place - content is hugely important. However (and probably in slight contrast to your thoughts regarding ideas) context is truly the ruler of the moment because it makes content relevant to me (the consumer). Contextual focus makes everything else flow: what you say, how you say it and most importantly - where you say it.

Thanks for another good exchange.

Real Life Mad Man said...

Boy, looks like we are creating a full house.

As I mentioned to Glenn on Facebook, I would suggest that a content provider still would want to discern content for content's sake versus content with a really strong idea behind it. I also agree that content is the vessel that helps get an idea out, but would we still need content if we could promote our ideas in other ways? Is talking to people or "the elevator pitch" content creation?

As for context, that's an entirely different thing again. Perhaps an idea AND the content only make sense in certain places or contexts as Paul suggests. I agree that you all need three -- I just think the idea is what can most separate you from others.

Thanks, all, for popping by and offering such great thoughts!

Cindy C. said...

Okay, when we were discussing this on fb, I wasn't even thinking of an idea in relation to generating content. I had in mind more of an invention idea whose time is NOW...but I don't have the wherewithal to pursue it, so hand the idea off to someone who does.
So...maybe I'm straddling the fence a little more now. Though I have passed off an idea for content, too, in the past, I might be more reluctant to do that than the other.

dannybuntu said...

"Perhaps ideas are the Queen and so content can rest easy because it is still king."

I agree. Content is the ice cream, Ideas are the flavor, the ice cream cone is the platform (ie blog), and we are the ice cream factory workers - we make em then we eat em.