Content Is -- And Always Will Be -- King

In these trying times of revenue scarcity for digital media there is a growing fear that this might be the end for such entities and perhaps even journalism itself. Will subscriptions be the only way to survive in the future for writers and editors and will Google answer everyone’s search queries with AI produced answers? 

This tired trope is fundamentally wrong on many levels. Consumers turn on a screen for numerous reasons but at their core they all come down to content. That content can be scripted entertainment, it can be insightful commentary, it can be news or great works of fact or fiction, and it can be a funny video of somebody’s kid dancing in their backyard. But it is content…and the human interaction that is inherent with it. 

In one way or another, this has been true since humans first got together in the center of their villages. The technology of how this content was delivered has certainly changed and will continue to morph at ever increasing speeds. And the impact that the technology has on how that content is displayed and consumed will change as well. But at the end of the day we want to be informed, entertained, inspired, and taught. And, we want to be connected to one another. This will not change - it is what has driven the media business in all its iterations to this point and will spur it on into the future. 

Content is indeed king - though there are moments when the king takes a break, usually in the early stages of a major technology shift, like the smartphone. Or in the near future, AI. But even if content takes a break in the next chapter in the story of media, it may not be as dreary as some would have you believe - Google search, AI, and other factors will change the landscape but won’t dethrone the king. 

Google, or search as a whole, will not obliterate connections to content sources by channeling AI-produced content directly on their platform. To do so would destroy their core business model. In many ways this is one of the core reasons Google settled with the Canadian news industry around news content. But in addition to the material financial issues is the even more basic idea that consumers want to know where the answers are coming from. Is this specific take on the news from Fox News or MSNBC? Does this content showcase deep reporting and/or expert analysis from a variety of different sectors or is it simply regurgitated from pieces published several hours to several months ago? At the end of the day, media brands have huge value largely because of the inherent promise that those brands carry. And it is this promise that is core to dealing with the complex issues of our current world. Consumer information needs around topics like the US economy, the war in Eastern Europe or the unfolding misery in the Middle East will require more insight, real reporting, and most of all, a level of trust around the source of this reporting. 

It is clear that search providers would be hard pressed to make full AI answers or AI-generated content the focus of their outcomes. AI is here and will only continue to expand in terms of its power and uses whether in search or beyond. It will be a long time, if ever, that AI generated content will command the same trust as human produced content. 

There are still more issues that arise around this discussion. Our younger generations are getting their news from social platforms. Do readers consume content differently on mobile devices than tablet or desktop? Are there fundamental generational changes afoot? Of course there are but like has happened over the last 200 to 300 years, in the end, humans still want to be connected to one another, be informed, and be entertained. That will never change. 

Without a doubt we are in the ebb cycle of the ebb and flow continuum. But as has been the case in the past, the media business will pivot, will morph, will find new best practices and it will…endure.

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