Content is no longer king. Here are five things that are.

Who said content was king?


Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

— Bill Gates, Content is King, 1996

1996 was a long time ago.

In 1996, the first iPhone was still almost a decade away. In 1996, Mark Zuckerberg was 12. In 1996, Ask Jeeves was making waves.

In 1996, Bill Gates was probably right. It looked like content was going to be king. And, for a while, it probably was. But in 2015, things look different. In 2015, we’re drinking from a firehose of content. In 2015, supply of content has outstripped demand  –  there’s too much to read, too much to watch, too much to listen to. When supply goes up and demand goes down, the result is a drop in value. The result, in the case of content, is commoditisation.

In 2015, content is no longer king. At best, it’s a minor royal. So in the era of content as a commodity, what’s taken its place on the throne? What do users value instead?

1. UX is king.


The problem with UX (user experience) is that customers only really notice its absence. If you absolutely nail the UX of your digital product, the only people who will congratulate you are UX nerds like me. If you mess it up, though, you’ll know about it soon enough. You’ll notice the complaints. You’ll notice the attrition. You’ll notice the churn.

The result of bad UX is bad feelings: frustration, anger, boredom, confusion. Anyone who’s ever tried to learn something will recognise those feelings. To many, they define learning. As an industry, we have the chance  –  and the responsibility – to fix the user experience of learning. Yet I can count on far less than one hand the learning organisations who hire or regularly contract UX Designers (or even Instructional Designers) for their digital products, and I’d struggle to think of any who regularly employ User-centered Design (UCD) as a product development technique.

Developing UX isn’t a black art; it can be learned and applied with ease. And, in 2015, it isn’t a bonus feature. As one Product Manager recently told me: it’s basic product hygiene.

2. & 3. Access and choice are king.


No two businesses better highlight the victory of access and choice over content than Spotify and Netflix. Which is strange, because they’re both platforms for delivering content –  vast amounts of high-quality, relevant content. But it’s a mistake to think of Spotify and Netflix as content businesses; they’re content access businesses.

In the Blockbuster video era, the monetary value of a film was clear and transparent: it cost a set amount of money (around £3) to rent a film for a set amount of time, usually 24 hours. A monthly subscription to Netflix costs me £9.99 and gives me access to 4756 films (source). So is the value of a film on Netflix £9.99 divided by 4756 (0.00210050462574p)?

This is an example of faulty, content-led thinking. The value Netflix offers its 60 million subscribers is not the content itself – not specific films, that is. The value is in the easy access to so many films, with no caps on usage and a recommendation system to help you navigate the impossible amount of choice.

Netflix helps us to understand the consumer relationship with content in 2015: don’t make me pay for the specific pieces of content I need; help me access and navigate the content I want (even if I don’t know I want it yet).

In digital learning products specifically, freemium business models that charge users for access to ‘content packs’, extra exercises, tests, etc. are all examples of faulty, content-led thinking. The true value for users isn’t in unlocking extra batches of your content. The true value for users lies elsewhere: in the freedom to choose what they’re interested in, in seeing their progress, in interacting with other users, in gaining access to experts, in having their questions answered. The challenge for content providers is figuring out which of those things to focus on, and how.

4. Cost is king.

Learn a language for free. Forever.

— Home page,


Free as a business model. Five words to strike fear into the hearts of almost any commercial organisation, especially one used to making a very healthy margin from selling content. It may, however, be the only option left, now that we know that no one wants to pay for education on the internet. An open secret in EdTech is that nearly everyone is struggling to monetise their businesses, not just traditional ELT content providers. And if 10s of millions of users or $100s of millions in venture capital can’t turn you into a profitable business, then what can?

Duolingo is often cited as the shining example of successful monetisation in EdTech, but have they actually managed it? Their original business model was to make money from translations which were created as a by-product of language learning (a ‘two-sided business model’ in which the users are the product rather than the customer, much like how Google works). This has now been supplemented by a move into assessment, with the launch of the Test Center (which aims to take on the likes of TOEFL and IELTS) and a platform for schools. Their key principle remains the same – that users will never pay for language learning – but how the company will seek to successfully monetise its huge user-base remains an open question.

So where does that leave the rest of us? There is undoubtedly the potential in EdTech to grow large audiences. Thinking only about ELT for a second, with 1 billion people learning English how could there not be? It’s also telling that the largest MOOC of all time – run by FutureLearn and with over 400,000 sign ups – was on an ELT topic (Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Test). The key seems to be to offer all of the learning content for free and to monetise elsewhere. One useful thought experiment is to think about what language learners will happily pay lots of money for: classes and exams. With that in mind, it’s inevitable that we’ll see other publishers follow Pearson’s moves into the assessment and PLS markets soon enough.

5. Data is king.


When did the word data change connotation? At some point, we stopped associating it with information and started associating it with my information. It might have been Facebook, it might have been Edward Snowden, but at some point data – its use or misuse, its ready availability, its value – became a hot topic.

Big data refers to sets of data larger, more varied and more complex than we could ever have imagined capturing. On 27 August 2015, for example, 1 billion people logged into Facebook. That’s a lot of data. Big data evangelists argue that, with that amount of information, the accuracy and quality of analysis we can carry out might be transformational. Naysayers wonder just what those data nerds are really up to.

What does big data mean for learning? Well, for a start, it’s the first time we’ve ever really had data to look at. It’s hard to extract user stats from a print book, and so much publisher-led research around the use of learning content has therefore tended to be qualitative – focus groups, surveys, etc. We’ve had sales figures to look at, but sales figures don’t really tell you anything about how engaging or effective your content is; they tell you how good your sales force is. In the era of LMSs and apps, publishers should be drowning in learner data. Whether they’re yet able to analyse it and put it to use is another question. In the future competitive landscape, it’s likely that the ability to capture data and act on it (or sell it) will be a defining characteristic of successful businesses. If your organisation doesn’t already have a Director or VP of Data, now would be the time to hire one.

The post-content era

If you’re reading this as a writer, content developer or designer, you might be asking yourself what’s next.

A huge amount of what we’ve traditionally called ‘content’ in learning is actually instructional design: the pacing and variety of activities, the flow, the challenge of zeroing in on the best and most enjoyable way to help someone master a particular skill. Those elements aren’t going anywhere. In a forthcoming series of posts, we’ll be looking at the user experience and design of  digital learning in more depth, and what it might mean for those who’ve traditionally considered themselves purely content people. Stay tuned.

71 thoughts on “Content is no longer king. Here are five things that are.”

  1. Hi Nick – thanks for this interesting article. Having spent the last 9 months studying a marketing course, I can wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying and what you say echoes much of what I’ve been reading in the various books I’ve looked at. It is very much a customer-driven world and greater emphasis on choice, UX and cost are the results of this shift. Having said that, I would argue that while content may no longer be king, it is (and should be) a key consideration. Fantastic free, flexible and user-friendly approaches tend to be more successful if backed up by the quality of the content (IMO) and ultimately, from a purely marketing perspective, all of the value-added bits and pieces used to differentiate a brand are still ultimately there to push customers (and let’s face it – they are customers) towards paid-for content and products by developing brand-equity and loyalty.
    Anyway – cheers for writing this. An interesting and insightful piece.

    • Excellent article. I couldn’t agree more with your closing comments on pacing and flow. Creating good content is one thing, but timing its delivery to create maximum effect is something else entirely.

      • Many thanks for taking the time to comment, Scott.

        “Creating good content is one thing, but timing its delivery to create maximum effect is something else entirely.”

        I worked for many years as a content developer/editor for various ELT publishers, and it always struck me how timing, flow and variety in materials were the things most authors struggled with.

    • Cheers for the comment, Paul. And you’ll have to tell me more about the marketing course when I see you next (BESIG in Sitges maybe)?

      “I would argue that while content may no longer be king, it is (and should be) a key consideration.”

      I definitely wouldn’t disagree with this (and it’s a point that’s been raised by other commenters below). I suppose that what I’m seeing is a change in content’s value in relation to the other things mentioned in the article, not the loss of *all* of its value.

      More to discuss when we meet up again, no doubt!

    • While each of the five is critical, we can’t escape this sentiment of this comment. The value of CX (UX), Access, Choice, Cost and Data is diminished if they are clear, relevant and delivered in context. That’s content.

      • This continues to be a fascinating thread. I’m not convinced content is discretely separable as implied here though– “clear” and “delivered in context” sound UX-y to me, in addition to content-y. I may stretch it there to make a point, but I find UX embedded in even the most traditional discussions of traditional product. Aren’t leading, kerning and point size UX?

  2. As a “content creator” I would love to say this isn’t true. But if I look at my sales on books, it looks like it’s true. If I look at most of what I do online and with my phone, it’s services that I turn to. And Facebook gives me access to lots of content, far more than I’d read now that I no longer buy magazines, BUT I skim read half of it and have forgotten most of it by the time I click “share”. There’s almost more social-digital currency in being seen to have read something, commented on it and passed it on than I get from actually reading it. It makes me a bit sad for the things I put hours into writing. So how to transform the things I write into something people see as “king”?

  3. Nick,

    An excellent piece, and I find myself in agreement with lots of it, perhaps all of it – except the content part! But I also think Nicola (a shame indeed that being seen to like and share is more important than appreciating, per se – the amount of rubbish that is shared because it is from a friend, or *seems* to be important is astonishing) and Paul (it’s all about the content) make valid points. In fact, without content, UX is useless; without content, data is non-existent. So whilst all your points are hugely important these days, content drives pretty much all of them, as an underlying principle.


  4. Nick,

    While I agree with your digest of the five key points that are likely to be crucial to the success of a project, in the context of education in general and, in our case, ELT in particular, you have apparently overlooked the fact that content has never been king.

    No matter the popularity of various coursebooks that have been published over the last 3 or 4 decades, none of them have altered the fact that learning is primarily a social experience – a fact that is arguably even more true when a language is being learned.

    Poor content can make for a miserable learning experience, especially where the teacher is obliged by the institution to follow certain paths and complete certain aspects, but even the best content can’t improve a class in which there are issues.

    Never having really had to deal with this issue in the past, most (mainstream) producers of ELT content with have dealt with largely by ignoring it, treating it like ‘Cinderella’ (which is ironic, really, in an age of social media). The blended aspect of blended learning seems to be a good example of this (IMO), with producers often explaining that you can use the content with a blended model, but never really explaining how.

    Perhaps video-call classes using Skype and Google Hang Outs etc. will transform ELT as teachers and learners side-step both schools and publishers altogether to make direct contact across the Internets – That indeed would be interesting and represent a real revolution in teaching and learning in which ELT publishers would lose their heads – but I remain skeptical that Skype-classes will be more than a passing fad.

    Only when the conferencing technology advances to a degree that it can replicate a live 360 degree experience (i.e. a VR system where you literally feel yourself in the same room as other learners and the teacher(s)) do I think it will really challenge the social experience of the traditional classroom model.

    If by content you are only thinking of gap-fills, multiple-choice questions, cloze texts etc. etc. then I agree that UX, Access, Choice, Cost and Data will take precedence over ‘content.’

    But for ELT producers – using your example of Netflix – such an offering is equivalent to providing subscribers with 4756 films with pictures but no sound or 4756 films with sound but no pictures.

    EdTech won’t ‘crack’ the ELT market in the way they are aiming for until they first understand what it is they are actually trying to offer. Gapfills, however clever, just aren’t it.

    • Absolutely awesome comment, Nik. It’s always great to hear from you on the blog.

      “in the context of education in general and, in our case, ELT in particular, you have apparently overlooked the fact that content has never been king.”

      This is really interesting point. However, if it’s true, then how have ELT content providers (be they publishers, EdTech companies or the like) gained such a disproportionate amount of power (and money) in the industry? As one example, I’d argue that Headway has done far more to spread the gospel of International House than the CELTA has. It’s a classic ‘soft power’ play much like Hollywood represents: you use mass-market content to sell a bigger idea or aspiration. So while I totally agree that content **shouldn’t** be king in language education (for all of the reasons you mention above), some how it became that anyway.

      “EdTech won’t ‘crack’ the ELT market in the way they are aiming for until they first understand what it is they are actually trying to offer. Gapfills, however clever, just aren’t it.”

      Never a truer word spoken on the blog, Nik!

  5. Interesting article but I disagree with the title of the article more than anything. To separate content out of User Experience is a mistake from my point of view. Content Strategy has a great deal of cross over with UX to a point that they could indeed be done under the banner of a cross disciplined UX team. In short content and User Experience go hand in hand with many publishers looking to actively engage users with better content. They are both pillars to a successful service.

    Also current User interface design (an element that impacts UX) methodology is focused on removing much of the user interface cruft of the late 90’s to indeed get access and consume the content in the most efficient way. But without good content who would bother?

    • Hi Ryan,

      Great to hear from you, and thanks for the excellent points.

      In light of what you say, how do you rationalise products such as Duolingo that make such a great job of UX with such poor quality educational content? Is that not an example of good UX existing despite the quality of its content, not because of it?

      There’s a training course I give on UX and User-centered Design, and one of the activities is to carry out a UX evaluation on a few EdTech products, one of which is Duolingo. In one of those sessions a few months ago, a participant with an excellent background in second language acquisition theory remarked that she would happily continue to use Duolingo despite being absolutely convinced that it wouldn’t actually help her to master a language; she just found it fun and addictive. That comment was one of the things that made me want to write this article. So it seems that, in some cases, without good content people do still bother.

  6. Excellent article. I couldn’t agree more with your closing comments on pacing and flow. Creating good content is one thing, but timing its delivery to create maximum effect is something else entirely.

  7. Thought-provoking read Nick, as always on ELTJam! You do have great content! 😉 As a content creator I have been battling with the content v platform hierarchy for some time, where platform and delivery seem to drive more strategic decisions than the content itself. I agree with Nikw211 that content never really was King, even though I absolutely think it should be! As an aside, SEO has evolved but there was a time where you could only significantly drive traffic to content and keep your bounce rate low if you have great content.

    UX defines the experience of accessing content for sure. If people (in my ELT world – children) can’t access and easily navigate your content then regardless of how good it is you might as well put a paper bag over it and stick it in the darkest corner of your attic (although based on my past hiding of xmas presents, my own kids might actually still find it there!). I see great UX more as the king’s guardsmen who will bow down to seamlessly let you through to visit the king – rather than being the king himself!

    Love what you say about choice and cost. Although, having taken a couple of the Futurelearn MOOCs myself recently I have to say that if the content in the first place isn’t excellent then I imagine the user interaction which for me, is one of the keys to a successful MOOC, would be greatly reduced and in turn people would be less likely to sign up and hand over their cash for other services. So, while we do need to re-evaulate existing business models to successfully monetise ELT content and services, we still need to build our reputation as great content providers otherwise, who will pay for our services?!

    Finally, I recently attended a brilliant workshop on how to turn your data into revenue and I’m absolutely convinced of the huge benefits of tracking who is accessing and sharing your content. Using your data you can target customers, build relations and forge partnerships. That said I still believe you’re more likely to create those opportunities if you have great content. People are less likely to share and be associated with poor content (excluding of course the fb quizzes of the social media world!). I see data more as the king’s advisor with content as the king.

    My tuppence worth!

    • Thanks for your very thoughtful comment, Jo; it’s much appreciated (and the mention of paper bags as Christmas presents made me laugh out loud!).

      Was the data workshop you attended an in-person thing or an online thing? I’d be keen to know more.

  8. Very thought-provoking, Nick. But I have to concur with NikW ‘s point that ‘learning is primarily a social experience – a fact that is arguably even more true when a language is being learned.’

    Hence, instead of looking at content-accessing sites like Spotify and Netflix for edtech models, maybe a more appropriate model would be the kind of sites that put people in contact with other people who have a shared or mutually-reciprocal need – I’m thinking of Uber or AirBnb or, perish the thought, Ashley Madison. ‘You want to learn Swahili? I speak it. Let’s Skype. Maybe even hook up…’ OR, ‘I’ll trade you my Korean for your Portuguese’. They exist. Where’s the research?

    Apropos, a recent series of papers in The Modern Language Journal on online learning quotes White (2006) to the effect that ‘the ideal of the independent language learner (…) is becoming rapidly replaced by the ideal of the collaborative learning community where learners find support for and develop control of their learning in interactions and exchanges with peers, learners, teachers, and native speakers’.(‘Distance learning of foreign languages’, Language Teaching, 39, p.260.

    (Notice that teachers are still accorded a role, although perhaps a diminished one).

    • Thanks for the comment, Scott! And it was great to hear you mention this at the Future of ELT panel the other week.

      It got me thinking about how, with only a few exceptions, digital language-learning products tend to focus on the individual rather than the collective, promoting independence and personalisation over collaboration and communication. I wonder if it’s something to do with the self-study nature of many of the products: ‘autonomous’, ‘personalised’ and ‘adaptive’ tending to trump ‘communicative’ and ‘social’ as selling points.

  9. Spot on, Nick! I worked on an adaptive pub project in which data most definitely SHOULD have been king. But when the data came back to us in all its spreadsheet glory, nobody knew the first thing about what to do with it. And instead the traditional “research” that was done on the pilot did not include even the slightest nod to the data returned from the EdTech partner, the main reason why the project was undertaken in the first place. While it was only a small sample of about 5000 users, that data is just sitting there waiting for someone with the big data skill set to crack it wide open and exploit it.

    • I’m dumbfounded by this, Lori. I’m going to assume you’re talking about a major publisher (unless there were smaller operations working on adaptive products like this). They didn’t employ anyone who could give some ideas about what to do with the data they collected?? That “small sample” is bigger than any SLA studies that I can think of. And no-one did anything to glean any useful insights from it?? I’m staggered.

    • Hey, Lori! Great to have you commenting on the blog.

      I think I know the product you’re talking about, but I won’t say! And I wonder whether, in a publisher setting, data analysis would need to become a core skill for Commissioning Editors in the same way as writing briefs or selecting authors is. Actually, I might go and write a course on it … !

  10. “The result, in the case of content, is commoditisation.”

    This is definitely wrong. Not all content is the same, ipso facto it can’t be classed as a commodity.

    • Thanks for the bold comment, Luan; we appreciate that here at ELTjam. I assume that what you’re referring to here is fungibility? Your comment highlights the exact point I’m trying to make – that much content *is* entirely interchangeable, and therefore commoditised. The gap-fills, multiple-choice questions, cloze texts, etc. that Nik’s referred to above are excellent examples.

      • Well you want people to be candid don’t you. The point is Nick, if we take Henry Ford’s maxim that: “markets are only ever saturated with bad products”, then right at the bottom with the bog standard stuff as you mentioned, you may well see plenty of sameness. But how markets work is that as you go up the quality scale, the differentiation needs to be there and it needs to stand out to get users, and in that respect content rules. It has to, otherwise we may as well say we’ve reached the end and no one should create content ever again, which of course is absurd.

        • Thanks, Luan – great points.

          I suppose we’d have to start factoring in the other elements that contribute to differentiation at that upper end of the market – things like price, marketing and branding. I’m reminded of a story in Daniel Priestley’s book ‘Oversubscribed’ which describes the astronomically high prices that Channel is able to charge for its handbags in a Paris shop because they restrict access and create a sense of scarcity and exclusivity around them. He contrasts it with a shop down the road that sells (one could argue) perfectly good handbags but trades on cheap prices and easy access. There’s a queue snaking out of the door at Channel whereas the other shop is empty.

          In that case, is it the intrinsic quality of the product that’s differentiating the more successful product from the other, or all the other gimmicks (for want of a better word) around it?

          • I’d say in luxury goods with huge irrational consumption like that, quality is not the main driver and the intrinsic value lies in the immediate and perceived desirability of the wearer. But in more prudent markets like educational media, quality and content has to be the main driver over price and gimmicks.

  11. Great, thought-provoking article!

    From our perspective as educators, points 2 and 3 of choice and access can be bundled together and thought of as ‘curation’.

    And I think that curation is key, or king as the article would have it, emperor perhaps!

    UX and cost are taken for granted by our learners at this point, and data is either a way to monetise, or an ingredient of curation – to know what to serve up, when and how.

    Why curation? Does the internet need any more content – in my opinion, mostly, no.

    But our learners need guidance and direction, about what to learn, in what order, when and how. This is of course the role of the teacher – but the days of this being our monopoly are quickly passing.

    This is the crux of the problem/opportunity that we’re all facing – what does curation look like in the future?

    There are lots of interesting experiments, with adaptive learning, or empowering teachers in various ways. But curation that’s also truly engaging and interesting (we’re social animals of course, tying in with a comment above), and works at scale, is some way off – apart from teachers of course!

    In the meantime I’m enjoying learning from these experiments and taking part in them!

  12. Really interesting post that I agree with in many many respects.

    I’m not sure about certain aspects of your analysis of Netflix though. The value of each film to each user is not the subscription divided by the total but rather the subscription divided by what they actually viewed. Or maybe something much more complex somewhere in between!

    Nextflix has reduced the price of content massively but it’s been able to do so by reaching many more customers than blockbusters ever could. The value of the content is reduced but in the end it’s the content that subscribers want. Also, look at what isn’t available, i.e. what you might call ‘premium’ content where the owners of the content know they can make more money elsewhere and then sell to Netflix later. It will be interesting to see where Netflix’s experiments with production go of course but you could argue that if content weren’t key they wouldn’t be spending millions generating it.

    • Thanks for commenting, Simon.

      “The value of each film to each user is not the subscription divided by the total but rather the subscription divided by what they actually viewed. Or maybe something much more complex somewhere in between!”

      Ha! You may be right. I struggled to work out the mathematics of it.

      “Also, look at what isn’t available, i.e. what you might call ‘premium’ content where the owners of the content know they can make more money elsewhere and then sell to Netflix later.”

      That’s an interesting point to raise. I’d love to know how the negotiations go between Netflix and the people they license from. I imagine that Netflix attempts to drive the licensing fee right down by deemphasising the value of the content while the content owners attempt to do the exact opposite. The real value is probably somewhere in between, which I imagine is where most of the negotiations end up. I wonder, though, if those companies that refuse to license to Netflix because Netflix won’t pay enough are doing so because they think they can get a better deal or because they’re too proud (or blinkered even). I have no idea really, just conjecture.

      “It will be interesting to see where Netflix’s experiments with production go of course but you could argue that if content weren’t key they wouldn’t be spending millions generating it.”

      Yes, absolutely, and a good example of how complex this whole topic is! I wonder again, though, whether what’s ‘king’ in that scenario (i.e. what has the real value) is not the content itself but the huge audience that Netflix has built for that content (or the data they’ve used to pinpoint exactly who they should be making content for).

      Thanks again for commenting.

  13. Great article and delightfully thought provoking. So to answer one of your questions, “where does that leave content developers, etc.” It leaves us in an ever-changing landscape where we are more than writers, more than ESL professionals; we are shape shifters, early adopters, and an amalgam of all that is evolving digitally, that is user-driven. We must adapt or be left behind. It’s a brave new world. Thanks for the wake-up call.

  14. Great post, Nick. Just to clarify and be sure I´ve understood correctly… When you say “Those elements aren´t going anywhere” in the last paragraph, I´m assuming you mean “they aren´t going away” as invaluable elements of learning (in constant evolution).

  15. Instead of simply saying Content is King I think what we need to remind ourselves of is that original, superlative, gripping, world-creating (eg. the Marvel universe) content is King.

    Derivative, unoriginal, see-that-done-that, rehashed, repackaged content is not even royalty in my opinion.

    Also I think we need to be careful when we compare entertainment to education to make a point. Services like Spotify and Netflix are non-linear services. This fact, largely invalidates them as models for learning services as everything we do through the Intermediate level for INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS must be “largely” linear. A better example of a provider that supplies content on this scale is an outfit like Chinesepod. IMHO, it is best to use examples of services that must be served up in a linear fashion to individual students.

    • “Derivative, unoriginal, see-that-done-that, rehashed, repackaged content is not even royalty in my opinion.”

      Tell that to EL James, the highest grossing films each year, reality TV shows etc etc … it’s people that in the end consume both entertainment and education and there is a move towards edutainment so it’s likely to go the same way. Hook people with some element and the content is overlooked.

    • Great to have you back and commenting, Mike!

      Very interesting points, as ever. I’m not sure I 100% agree on the linear vs. non-linear thing when it comes to learning, but it may be best to deal with that in a separate post!

      • Dear Nick,
        I never left :-). One thing your posting didn’t do was define content. I think that was an small oversight. My own modest attempt follows:

        Content can be divided into Base content and Secondary content.
        Base content would be the words, sounds, pictures, numbers, or symbols that can, should, or do have meaning to the user (e.g. the text in a book, word lists, definitions, etc.). Secondary content is anything that you build that makes it possible for students to interact with the base content (in a game this would be the rules of the game and the instructions to the students as to how play the game). Base content and secondary content are complementary and they both work to amplify the value of the other (very synergistic). Think of a meat dish as being the Main content and the spices we add as being the Secondary content. In Chinese cooking there is no such a thing as a meat dish without spices. A good materials writer will envision (plan for?, think about?) both the Base content and the Secondary content in a product at the same time. Today thanks in part to Lexical research Base content is much easier to produce. However, producing good secondary content is darn hard work and is probably getting harder!

        Another minor point; a note about UX. The rules for a good UX are fairly stable and small. Sometimes people break the rules (see: Apple is giving Design a bad name) but the rules themselves are stable. The rules for good content are vast and often good content involves breaking existing rules.

        Good UX is a MUST have but also something everyone CAN have as you pointed out above. Good content is much more elusive and more difficult to insure.

  16. Thinking about the title, Content is no longer king, it seems awfully monarchy-centric. I don’t believe, in this case anyway, that only one component of this vast and ever-changing digital landscape can possibly be king, perhaps a duchess or a duke, but not a king (or a queen). I believe it’s the combination, the collective that makes for a successful product. Content hasn’t been demoted necessarily; rather, it’s been combined, and perhaps challenged to compete and evolve. All hail the queen, or whatever.

    • “Content hasn’t been demoted necessarily; rather, it’s been combined, and perhaps challenged to compete and evolve.”

      That’s a brilliant way to express it, Katie; thanks for sharing. The question, I suppose, is whether content creators (be they publishers or writers) truly realise that. The argument over the ongoing existence of royalties would seem to suggest that writers, at least, don’t.

  17. Totally interesting, Nick. Great 5 points. Personally, I like to phrase it this way: When we’re successful we don’t provide content, we deliver media and media = content + features. “Content as king” folks often ignore that. (This is one problem with chronically late authors: “available on time” is a key feature whose absence can obscure even the best content!)

    • Great to hear from you, Rod!

      I like the idea of content + features being thought of as one combined entity.

      And haha @ “This is one problem with chronically late authors: “available on time” is a key feature whose absence can obscure even the best content!”

      All too true.


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