The Case Against Content Worship

Via the Media Briefing, this thought-provoking if rambling takedown of publishers’ unwarranted faith in content:

“Once upon a time content in this industry was the reworked press releases that kept the advertising apart on the printed page. It was never valuable and it isn’t now. What is valuable is a deep understanding of what users need in order to better accomplish their work – and a determination to build technology and content into contexts that make improvements that people will pay for and where they will deposit their own content as well.”

The author, David Worlock, is rightly appalled that at a recent conference of publishers, the halls rang with the refrain that great content is the key to surviving the digital transition.

I don’t think Worlock would claim, any more than I would, that excellent content has no value. But what he does say, I think, is that content is not the end of successful publishing, but a means to it. As he puts it, the “new publishing” consists in ”understanding how users work and supplying . . . content in the right context and with the right interface.”

If you think content is king, you should ask yourself the question Jeff Jarvis posed last year: Is the greater value to be found in content itself, or in “the relationships and data it can spawn”?

Think carefully. Your survival may depend upon the answer.