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Content Isn't King

Bill Gates famously wrote in a 1996 essay that "content is king" - what people want on the Internet (and in broadcasting) is "deep and extremely up-to-date information". The higher the volume and quality of your content, the more subscribers you will attract. That's a pretty simple formula and it can be applied to almost any business. For instance, the greater the variety of goods on the supermarket's shelves, the more customers they are likely to get.
Sounds great, but it's only true to a point. There comes a time when quantity and quality no longer play as vital a role in consumer choices as perhaps they once did. Take, for example, mobile phone apps. As of October 30 2012, both Apple and Android have 700,000 apps. Microsoft is catching up. But who really cares what the numbers are? Once they reach critical mass, another thousand means little. And apps (or their equivalents) on one platform are available on the others. Put another way, more doesn't necessarily mean better.

Perhaps the "content is king" mantra means that consumers value quality above all else. No it doesn't. If it did, there would be no market for cheap Chinese imports. In fact, consumers may view a quality offering with less favor than a volume offering - high quality means high cost; high volume means low cost. Inferior merchandise often does well at the checkouts because consumers are lead to believe it is somehow better than the quality stuff.

So if content isn't king, what is? Why is your product better than your competitor's? What drives customers to your door? What is the secret to product differentiation? The answer might surprise you: nothing.

Nothing is king. And by nothing I mean vapor. And by vapor I mean marketing because marketing is an invaluable intangible - words, sounds and images cleverly combined to convince consumers to buy. The hype, the message and the concept contrived by the marketing department is what sells the product; content and substance is secondary.

Make no mistake, everything is marketing - not just in business, but in all aspects of life. No matter whether what you are selling is fantastic or terrible, the perception you create of your product, service or self is what makes people want it. So, in effect, you win if you can fool most of the people most of the time.

That's all I have to say about the 2012 US presidential election.

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  1. Nicely written punch line.

  2. Great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

    1. Thanks! I hope you become a regular visitor :-)

  3. Pretty nice post. I just came across your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really liked reading your posts.


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