Content Isn’t Just King; It’s Lifeblood

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By Aaron Motsinger

For years, all of us in the communications sphere have heard or uttered the adage “Content is king.” My colleague Matt Isaacs discussed content from a contributed editorial, corporate thought leadership perspective a few months back, and that certainly remains an important part of the conversation and the marketing mix.

What I’d like to do is zoom out to the 10,000-foot view and examine how content is helping businesses not just communicate and market themselves, but grow and even survive. We’re undoubtedly in content’s golden age, but “Content is king” has become an understatement. Content is a lifeblood in many business contexts.

Consider Verizon’s recent acquisition of Yahoo. Although an absolute bargain compared to Yahoo’s valuation a decade ago, $4.8 billion is still a hefty chunk o’ change to shell out. While roughly half the reason for that deal is Yahoo’s advertising tech, the other half is driven by Yahoo’s content assets. Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Tech, Yahoo Sports – those content sites draw millions of monthly unique visitors. (A monthly average of about 18 million for Yahoo Finance alone, according to Compete.com.) You may recall how Verizon made some blockbuster hires of Katie Couric and David Pogue to draw even more viewers and readers to that video and written content. And those core sites don’t even account for the acquired content assets of Tumblr and Flickr.

In an industry where margins for data plans and mobile devices have become razor thin, Verizon and its competitors are looking to content as both a revenue stream and way to verticalize their businesses. That was a significant contributor to the impetus behind Verizon’s $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL last year, as Verizon now owns properties like TechCrunch, Engadget and HuffPo. As Verizon’s own Marni Walden put it, they’re looking to “create the ‘Viacom of tomorrow.’” It’s the reason why Verizon is pushing its Go90 mobile app so hard. (Don’t know what that is? You aren’t the only one.) Content is what fuels T-Mobile’s Binge On program, which allows customers to stream HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon Video, ESPN, YouTube and a host of other content apps without chewing up their monthly data. Mobile giants recognize the value of content to consumers and are making it the key to diversifying their businesses as well as the crown jewel in their pitches to draw new users to their networks.

Oh, and speaking of Netflix and Amazon, how about their recent initiatives to build in-house studios that produce or procure (you guessed it) original content, from “Making a Murderer” and “House of Cards” to “The Man in the High Castle” and “Transparent.” This isn’t just ragtag, low production value content. It’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning. Without their original series, there’s a decent likelihood that Netflix would have sputtered out by this point. And who would’ve ever expected Amazon to get into the crowded content creation game? (If you raise your hand, you’re lying.) You can watch Jeff Bezos explain why video content is so advantageous to his company’s future in this clip from a recent interview with Walt Mossberg.

Serving as a third proof point of content as lifeblood for a business, Twitter is going all-in on it. We’re not just talking about the user-generated stuff on Vine, Periscope, etc. We’re talking about massive deals signed for livestreams of NFL, MLB and NHL games, Premier League soccer highlights, original sports talk programming, Bloomberg shows and select CBS News events. If you look at recent earnings numbers and pundit musings, it goes without saying that those high-dollar bets are going to make or break Twitter as an enduring business and independent company.

So how does this all tie back to #brands, like those we work with? Well, consider how critically important content is to the likes of Verizon, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and others on a competitive survival level. Add to that how much money they’re investing in content and then pile on how much ruckus that’s creating across all the same channels we employ as marketing and comms professionals. Frankly, clients’ content – whether video, written or another medium – is going to have to be pretty damn good to compete for “airtime” and eyeballs. Brands not relying on content to keep their businesses afloat don’t get a break on quality of what they produce just because their end goal is thought leadership or web traffic rather than competitive survival. Know what you’re up against, understand that content is lifeblood for some, and go about your content strategy and creation accordingly.

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