Is Content Really King?

Graphic credit : Chess Piece by Rubber Dragon

I, along with 120,000 others, have been following digital marketing consultant Jeff Bullas on Twitter. Yesterday (Sunday) my attention was caught by one of his (several, simultaneous) tweets: “Content is King … not Social Media”.  This statement particularly resonated with me as I had recently watched a podcast featuring media and technology commentator Douglas Rushkoff in which he challenged the claim “Content is King” with the counterclaim “Contact is King”.

The context of Rushkoff’s statement / podcast was his book “Program or Be Programmed : Ten Commands for a Digital Age”. These command(ment)s (see table below) are Rushkoff’s internet engagement guidelines that, if followed, will enable any internet user to fully exploit the natural ‘biases’ of the internet and ensure that the liberating promise of the internet is available to all, not just to the programming elite.

Bias                 Command
1        Time                 Do not be “Always On”
2        Place                 Live in Person
3        Choice               You can Always Choose ‘None of the Above’
4        Complexity       You Are Never Completely Right
5         Scale                 One Size Does NOT Fit All
6         Identity            Be Yourself
7         Social                 Don’t Sell Your Friends
8         Fact                   Tell the Truth
9         Openness          Share, Don’t Steal
10       Purpose            Program or Be Programmed

So, who is right?  Is ‘Content’ (Bullas) or ‘Contact’ (Rushkoff) King of the online world?Rushkoff’s assertion that ‘Contact’ rather than ‘Content’ is King is in support of his Command 7 and the recognition that even the best content needs to get plugged into networks of interested contacts if it is to achieve the exposure it deserves.

At first glance, Bullas’s credentials for his claim appear stronger as he cites the “Internet Activity Index” (IAI) released by the Online Publishers Association which revealed the following five key shifts in internet usage between 2003 and the date of the IAI study:

  1. Internet users continue to spend a majority of their “time” with Content sites, up from 34 percent of total time spent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2009, a 24 percent increase
  2. Emergence of Community (it wasn’t measured in 2003 as it wasn’t statistically significant enough and not on the radar)
  3. Content is still king; the content rich sites continue to be a place where consumers spend the majority of their online time and provide an environment for brand marketers to reach and engage with consumers despite the emergence of  community sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace
  4. Community sites are reducing the share of online time by communications sites due to community sites ability to offer the same activities such as email and instant messaging more efficiently
  5. Time spent with Search doubled
    (See table of results at end of blog)

It was reading the above key shifts that I started to feel conned by Bullas’s tweet. When I spotted his tweet and clicked the link through to his blog post, I assumed that I would be reading the latest insights into internet activity trends. After all, his post was headlined “New Study Reveals: Content is King…Not Social Media.”  It wasn’t until I was half way through the article that I discovered that the (undated) post was an old one being recycled via Twitter and the ‘New Study’ it cited dated from September 2009.

Over three years ago.

Three years in internet evolutionary terms is a lifetime and definitely makes the table of “time spent in each internet activity category” pretty worthless in terms of current internet activity insights.

Obviously for an effective online presence, you need both good content and a broad network of contacts. However, this experience demonstrated to me that if you don’t treat your network of contacts with respect, they will switch off and your content will become worth less.

(I am currently still following Jeff Bullas on Twitter but will be less tempted to follow his links in future.)

Category 2003 Avg Time*
(hours: minutes)
2009 Avg Time
(hours: minutes)
Change in Time
Content (news, information and entertainment) 3:42 6:58 +88%
Communications (email, IM, Skype#) 5:20 4:54 -8%
Commerce (e.g. eBay and Amazon plus the high street’s online stores) 2:07 2:40 +26%
Community (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn) N/A 3:01 N/A
Search (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Bing) 0:27 0:57 +111%

# There was no specific mention of Skype-type sites in the summary of the study and I couldn’t find the actual report on the OPA site so I’ve assumed that Skype that was launched in 2003 would have been an additional element in the 2009 Communication sites numbers. I wondered whether Skype’s usage might have exploded post the 2009 study.  I needed to dig quite hard to find their numbers as all the chatter is about its performance since being bought by Microsoft in May 2011 however, after some digging, I found Jean Mercier’s blogspot. Mercier is a management consultant and Skype user since 2003 who has tracked Skype’s growth since its start-up.  Every detail of Skype’s evolutionary history can be found in which tells me that, at the time of the study, Skype had between 17-18 million registered users, compared with 45 million users in October 2012.  Throughout its history, Skype’s growth curve has been steady but not spectacular but Microsoft plans to change that.


About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Corporate Communications, Future trends, Social media, Success factors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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