And I'm not just saying that because I'm about a decade sick of the old cliché.
Content is still key, but the king's crown now belongs to Utilities (features and functionalities).
To help prove the point, here are two interesting items that were put together by one of the fastest minds I know (Mr. Russell-Foltz Smith). They're eye-openers for anyone trying to reach that rather elusive male 18-34 demo:
(Click-on graphics to enlarge.)
Eye-opening not only in terms of where the traffic's going but also in terms of where the advertising dollars are going, too.
SO, WHERE DOEST ALL THIS PUT THE FORMER KING, CONTENT?
Like I said up top, it's still key — it's just not the big Kahuna, anymore.
In almost all cases, content is still the means by which that elusive thing called "brand" is best expressed — it's the voice, the look, the tone for a media property. But while that once was enough for content to keep its crown, now on the web content is the wrapping around the new king: utilities. Content is the label, it's the billboard, it's the promo, it's the sign on the door. But it ain't the house, no more.
What percentage of the time do you think people are spending on Facebook and MySpace ingesting "content"? That's not what's driving them there, or driving them around and around the sites once they get there. They're showing up and sticking around for activities (i.e. utilities).
Social-networking is not about content, it's about activities — and those activities are the result of compelling features and functionalities.
Okay, I know what you're thinking, "What about the content sites?"
Well, think about this for a while, and then get back to me:
How much time are visitors to ESPN.com and CBS SportsLine spending reading articles, as opposed to engaging in activities and using features and functionalities, like looking up stats, participating in Fantasy Leagues, filling out NCAA bracket applications and joining and tracking their online groups/pools? (Not to mention scads of other features and functionalities that ESPN has brilliantly created and integrated into its ecosystem, to enable its audience to parse through the tsunami of information on ESPN's site, whether it's packaged and presented as "content" or simply aggregated by ESPN).
THIS LEADS US TO WHAT'S KILLING — AND, REMARKABLY, STILL BEFUDDLING — SO MANY OF THE TRADITIONAL MEDIA PROPERTIES:
There's a reason why newspapers and the major magazines are getting lapped by newer, smaller players: The big fellows value their content too highly! They don't realize that while content may be their calling card and their brand (right now), it's not their essence. At least not on the web. Not anymore.
Instead of worshiping their own content they need to be relentlessly figuring out how they can integrate it with compelling utilities and service offerings, both on their own sites and by syndicating their content in a branded manner through widgets, gadgets, trinkets and toys that can be shared.
THE CONTENT WORLD WAS A WORLD OF GATE-KEEPERS. TODAY IT'S A WORLD OF GUIDES:
Gate-keepers hand you content. Guides hand you a GPS and connect you to a whole community of people who are looking for the same thing you are, armed with their own navigation systems, flashlights, walkie-talkies, metal detectors, shovels, and a bunch of other cool tools that they're having fun creating along the way.
When I started at ABC News in the late 1970s there were three television networks (CNN had yet to hatch out of Ted Turner's head) — it was a world of gate-keepers, a world of the 6 o'clock news. But now it's a world of infinite streams of 24-hour news and information flooding an infinite number of platforms, including RF video panels on the roof of your taxi and flat-screens inside the cab, in your elevator and on your doorman's pda. To quote the Beatles, "It's All Too Much." Screw the gatekeepers. Gatekeepers piss me off. I need some guides!
A media company's essence should be all about being a great guide — providing services that act as reliable, fun and entertaining divining rods for its audience.
On the web it's less and less about creating ... and more and more about Aggregating ... Curating ... Annotating ... and Facilitating. Being able to create high-quality content is a big advantage, but it's not the endgame. That's why the left-side of The Curve is so much higher than the middle. And it's a big reason why the little guys are now jumping over the big guys like Jack Russell Terriers on a hunt, and in heat.
All that said, the Big Guys do have a bunch of advantages that I'll be getting to in my next post.
In the meantime, like I said earlier:
"IT'S ALL TOO MUCH"