Valuing content

About a month ago, new(ish) Time Inc. CEO Jack Griffin was in Chicago to address the American Magazine Conference. This year’s theme: “Ignite Your Imagination”.

According to Folio:, Griffin called upon publishers to embrace five “principles of success”. These included:

  • providing consumers with quality content;
  • continuing to deliver “exceptional value” to advertising and marketing partners;
  • developing new revenue streams that value content;
  • continuing to explore new technology; and
  • accepting “change in our industry as a constant and build capabilities to respond rapidly and effectively, and where appropriate, work together to solve common problems.”

Here’s my problem: these “principles of success” stop well short of what would make them true.

Take the first one: “providing consumers with quality content”. Implicit in this statement is the phrase “… that we control”. Print, web sites and (now the rage) apps limit access and lower the chances that content will be found and consumed.

Look at the inroads made by content farms like Demand Media, Associated Content and Seed. I’m no fan of these firms, but plenty of agencies and advertisers are.

Here, “quality” means “traffic”. As for “exceptional value”, consider the perspective of Initiative’s chief strategy office, Eric Bader: “It’s not up to me to determine the morality of paying someone so little (to write for a content farm)”.

Publishers should not throw in the towel and try to make content on the cheap; that’s exactly the wrong strategy. But they should reverse their publishing paradigms and build a credible reader-focused context around the content they offer.

Tagged, discoverable, relevant, reusable content has inherently higher value for readers, publishers and advertisers, but it also has to be accessible. Griffin is right to call upon publishers to “build capabilities”, but we need to be more specific.

Lose the container metaphor. Change workflow.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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