Commentary

I Changed My Mind -- Content Is No Longer King

Yesterday I was invited to a "C-Level dinner" with folks from great companies such as Facebook, JetBlue and even Dunkin Donuts. Usually those encounters entail conversations you don't want to have, with people you don't really want to meet about things you don't really care about.

This was actually a great event, great conversation and incredible people.

One thing, though, caught my attention. Someone said the very well-known line: "Content is king." I've said it once or twice in the past. We all did.

It's time to come clean. I've changed my mind. Aside from a very specific type, content is no longer a king. Here's why.

There are two types of content in the world:

1. Closest to being a king. The type you can't do without. For me it could be "Curb Your Enthusiasm" or "Mad Men." I can't get an alternative, I can't relate to conversations about it if I hadn't seen it -- so I have to watch it, beginning to end. This content is usually extremely expensive to produce; as an example, an episode of "ER" that cost ~$2 million to produce. For this type of content, people will pay on iTunes, will subscribe to Netflix and will go to the theatre to buy tickets. In general, people would literally pay to consume that "near-king content." However, the reason I don't think it's a full-fledged king: What is a king without a proper kingdom? In a world where Youtube generates 3 billion video views every single day, Blip.TV streams a third of a billion views per month, and the king of premium content, Hulu, streams only a few hundreds per month -- does it matter if their "content is king"? I'm not convinced. Convince me.

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2. Content that is not a king, but discoverable in the wild. This is the rest of the world: the news item you can find on many different sites; the how-to video you can see on hundreds of sites; the funny video you're not really attached to but find fun to watch and would share on Facebook or Twitter. It's literally the Web, the world, "the new kingdom."

True, you would not pay a dime to see a little girl kicking a ball on the pavement, but (some) advertisers will end up paying a lot of money, I think, if that video gets 100 million streams. Why? It's scalable. This type of content could get massive scale, if it were to be discovered. Still this is the undiscovered kingdom nobody wants to talk about, since it's not as appealing as Donald Draper.

In my mind, the world is becoming heavily loaded with information and it's becoming near impossible to discover content. I'm convinced the challenge is not finding the best content per se, but making sure that the content that climbs to the top, and the majority of adaption, gets discovered.

Discoverability. That's the new king.

In the new world, the world of billions of streams per day coming from all around the web from syndication, distribution, etc., "Mad Men" is not a king, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is not a king, but videos that get discovered by mass audience are kings.

Discovery is the new kingdom. Long live the (discovery) king !

14 comments about "I Changed My Mind -- Content Is No Longer King ".
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  1. David Murdico from Supercool Creative, June 8, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.

    Thanks for coming clean, Adam. I think you're right.

  2. David Strauss from WatchMojo.com, June 8, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.

    Sounds more like a game of "King of the Hill"

  3. Rick Monihan from None, June 8, 2011 at 1:02 p.m.

    I get it, but I think the original intent of "Content is King" was based on the fact that having the pipeline is worthless unless you have something to push through it.

    In other words, developing the ability to deliver picture and sound over the air was meaningful, but had little value until there was something to push over it. Eventually, what was pushed became more important than the delivery vehicle.
    Today, the reason the phrase remains relevant is because: does it matter if you get your "Curb Your Enthusiam" via Cable, Broadcast, or Digital? The fact is - no, it doesn't. The delivery method is meaningless to you, as long as you get what you want (although if the phrase "what I want WHEN I want is utilized, then the delivery vehicle may not matter - but some have massive limitations).

    Once you've defined the "Content Market" in this fashion, I agree 100% with your statement. There is "good content" and "eh content". But being able to find the content is a more meaningful thing than the content itself if the ability to find it creates an oasis of viewership and engagement.

  4. David Jensen from TGC Media, LLC, June 8, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.

    Great thoughts...however I still believe there has to be something there when people arrive..meaning good content...

  5. Stephen Rowe, June 8, 2011 at 2:06 p.m.

    Discover ability is in fact the key to the gate to get into the palace, but if the King is not there, the people will leave and not be back.

  6. Jill Kennedy from Manka Bros., June 8, 2011 at 2:08 p.m.

    Content is still content - but only BIG content. Nothing works without content. Turn on a television without content or a computer. A little girl kicking a ball is content.

    http://mankabros.com/blogs/chairman/2011/06/08/content-is-still-king-but-only-big-content/

  7. Adam Singolda from Taboola, June 8, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.

    Hi all, and thanks for the comments, I think all of them makes sense.

    1. I don't argue that premium content is more monetizable than other types of content, especially compared to UGC.

    2. My main point about "scale" versus" "quality" (i.e -- the real king) was that --in the internet -- to just break-even on an episode of ER costing $2M to produce, with $12 CPM and 70% sell through -- a Hulu.com (ad based model) would need 250,000,000 streams just on that episode. This is before they make any potential profit, share with content owners, ...

    3. As a reference, Youtube that have 3B views daily, listed that their top video since the company started has 500M streams (http://goo.gl/wqCR)

    4. That flips the equation and I wanted to address it in my post. While all of us are in the same situation -- looking for the best piece of content, i'm not sure we're looking in the right direction. If an amazing online content has even 10M video views in aggregate, and advertisers would be willing to spend high CPM, let's call it $30 on 100% sell through (a case that doesn't exist in the real-worls) -- we're looking into $300k total. That's nice money, but will not sustain this industry or will provide enough scale so that advertisers will start pouring real money into online video (similar to TV). Our goal should be to get even one single advertiser to spend $100M on an online video campaign. Like they do on TV. The only way (physically/technically) to do that is by scale.

    5. The only vehicle I see to make this a profitable business for all entities in the chain (advertisers, producers, publishers..) is "discovery" which has a chance to match content with scale.

    I hope this makes sense. My 2 cents

  8. Bruce Goldstein from UNIVERSAL, June 9, 2011 at 8:56 a.m.

    Content like all songs in Itunes has an audience. I am told that not one song in Itumes HAS NOT sold. So the "long tail" lives. Content is about distribution and life cyle management. Just like feature films that begin in theaters have a life-cycle from release date to TV to internet to .99 cent rental--there is a value--how you manage and monetize is the key

  9. Bruce May from Bizperity, June 9, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.

    You are mixing up long form and short form content. Television (long form) can support up to 20 minutes of commercials per hour so television shows can produce anywhere from $400 to $1,000 in revenue per thousand viewers per hour (not $10). Television and other long form content could never work otherwise. Hulu’s ad model is a long form content model. If the online ad networks ever create an interstitial ad insertion system then the rest of us could produce long form content and distribute it over broadband in which case we would be using the same television (or radio) model that networks have been using (successfully for nearly a century counting radio). If you look at social media and how even small companies are reaching customers by creating their own content then you don’t need large audiences at all. Between these two models (long form content and social content), you have a whole host of new media strategies in play right now. Digital media is providing a rich playground for those who are smart enough to figure out how to use it to fulfill their own business or media goals.

  10. Rick Monihan from None, June 9, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.

    I believe Adam is utilizing the old "Seinfeld" conundrum. Why will people watch? "Because it's on TV"
    "Not yet it isn't"

    When TV was the only gateway, there was some small sector of population (and perhaps even producers) who felt that people watched BECAUSE it was on TV. How many lousy shows made it to a prime time lineup? Plenty (Fay? anyone remember that gem?)

    But with the advent of multiple resources for viewing, content isn't just content. It's good content and questionable content. What's important, from the standpoint of viewing, is how easily is it found?

    If "The Office" was ONLY on a site that never advertised, or made people aware of its existence, it would not be easily discoverable. (ok, unlikely this would ever happen with a hit show...but making a point) This would diminish the value of the online content.
    But in the age of viral behavior, if I receive an email from my cousin saying "take a look at this video of when I fell into the shark tank and wrestled it", I can click the link, view it, and either share it with others via email or tell them about it. If I tell them and they want to view it, how easily it is found is what will determine its value.

    South Park dissected this in a rather humorous way, at one point, with many viral videos sitting around waiting for their "virtual dollars".

  11. Yasmin Bendror from yMarketingMatters, June 9, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.

    Adam, I love your blog, thanks for the poke and making us re-think. I still think content IS king!! Here's the thing: the better, more valuable the content is, the more *DISCOVERABLE* it becomes! People will share it more, pass it on, making it available on tons of online outlets. Do you agree?

  12. Adam Singolda from Taboola, June 9, 2011 at 8:18 p.m.

    Yasmin, YES i agree !

  13. Warren Cohen from VH1, June 9, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.

    Don't forget the Hulu content has already gotten views elsewhere (traditional delivery.) Wonder how many "views" ER has received if you add up first run, syndication, DVD, DVR and international - maybe 250 million is not so unrealistic! Seems advertisers (esp brand advertisers) still want scale not on the platform level (youtube) but the property/network level (ER or NBC), esp. since many of youtube's views can't be advertised against (given current madison avenue/corporate america mentality). Thoughtful post!

  14. Adam Singolda from Taboola, June 10, 2011 at 9:16 p.m.

    Thanks Warren !

    Agree we're not there just yet re: madison avenue advertisers being eager to put their name against any content. (having a preference for better content).

    I still think there is no money in online-video w/o scale, and it doesn't have to be uber UGC -- meaning even high quality production such as Next New Networks, Watch-Mojo, Revision3, etc need scale. We all do.

    That's great content, but how do you get it in front of tens of millions of users and attract top advertisers.

    Scale... (Discovery / Distribution).

    Hope this makes sense. 2 cents.

    Thanks again ! appreciate the comment.

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