Content, the second coming

I nearly called this post Content 2.0, but decided we’re all a little bit jaded with the 2.0 label these days.

Nevertheless the concept stands: content is making a comeback.

‘But I thought it never went away’ you might say, and in many ways you’d be right. But in the past few years the spotlight has been on radical new technologies, such as social media and microblogging, and shiny new platforms, like smartphones and tablet computers. Content skulked off into the wings and bided its time.

But over the past 12 months the word is slipping out that content is back on the agenda. Smart marketers have switched on to the fact that quality, targeted content attracts visitors from search engines, gets shared on social networks and establishes authority. This approach to marketing even has its very own new buzzword: content marketing.

With this second coming of content there is a whole lot more that needs to be learned. In the past ten years the rules have changed, and an effective content strategy needs to factor in all the shiny new things mentioned above, namely optimising for search engines, social media and mobile delivery.

Not only that but the competitive landscape is harder than ever. As more and more businesses are becoming media companies, there’s more competition for the top spots in Google and more content jostling for the customer’s attention.

The growth in the quantity of content isn’t slowing down either, quite the reverse. PR companies are circumventing traditional media and publishing direct. A new wave of media companies like Demand Media and AOL’s are applying ruthlessly efficient algorithms to create ideas for content and then streamlining the content production process using a giant pool of low-cost freelancers. Demand Media found that their algorithm-generated content produced  4.9 times more revenue than the ideas that professional editorial people came up with (guess what happened to those editorial people).

It’s clear that in the age of the second coming of content, a mixture of new and old skills is required if you want your business to thrive. Knowing your audience, and providing them with high quality content that meets their needs, is more important than ever. But creators also need to maximise the opportunities provided by search and social media, and take on board more innovations that are doubtless coming our way in the near future.

It’s a challenging but exciting time to be in the content business.