Content is King. Now there is a worn out cliche. The problem with blindly repeating that slogan is like what happens when you say a word over and over again: it starts to sound funny and lose its meaning. To understand this, let's do a little deconstruction of the phrase, starting with "king."
Is content really king? Really? Are all the bloggers out there just writing because they cannot pull their fingers away from the keyboard? Enough rhetorical questions; the answer is no. While many write for passion, the real king is revenue. Sales. Most bloggers are writing to try to gain exposure with the eventual goal of sales and even the most reputable sources of great journalism package that journalism in advertising, the hope being that the better the content, the higher the ad revenue.
Content, then, is really more like a horse: the better the horse, the faster you can reach the king. Or maybe the content is the castle and the taller the turrets the more likely you are to visit court. Setting aside my bland metaphors, content has to be recognized as a means to an end, either as a vehicle or packaging. Content has been called king because it can be directly manipulated by the writer or company producing it, while sales cannot. We can control what is written on our blog or what our blog looks like or how much parallax scrolling it has, but we cannot control the number of times people click "buy."
What we as content creators should be endeavoring to do is constantly push the frontier of what content looks like. We should always be asking "how can we create content that astounds a user and compels them to share our work with others?" The more eyes we can get on to our content, the more likely we will reach the king.
As a connoisseur of digital media and the next evolution of content, I've compiled a list of a few leaders in the way content is either created, marketed, or packaged:
I am on this app daily. It provides digested views of the world and lets me follow stories I love. Great design, good content: solid.
These Digital Stories
The New York Times has put out a few really great pieces (here, here, and here) that use your computer screen in beautiful ways. ESPN made this, too. My biggest problem is the lack of our king - advertising seems to be given no consideration at all when I think it could be thoughtfully included in the design alongside the content.
In addition to putting out great stories that they sell individually in an iTunes-for-storytelling model, they have sell the rights to use their publishing platform to others. Great piece of tribute to our ruler, the king.
This is a fantastic platform for companies to elevate their content from PR firm riff raff to real engaging content. A recent piece in the Times made a great comparison to Red Bull, a company that has pushed the relationship between content and sales to a new level.
Full disclosure: I am involved with this venture. However, that does not stop me from genuinely believing it to be innovative. Instead of just hoping that a great story will lead to a sale, Jaunt ties stories to products be allowing subscribers to "touch stories" via a box they receive quarterly. It's a young startup with an untested model, but it is certainly innovative.
Many of those I listed above are in the business of content, so how does this relate to a small business with a small website and perhaps a blog? The takeaway is to be innovative with your storytelling. These examples are leading the charge in the industry of media, but companies like Blendtec used this maxim to create an insanely popular YouTube series where some of its videos have 16 million views. Think about how your industry is viewed. What are its stereotypes? What are its secrets? What are its annoying habits? Move away from what everybody is used to seeing and you will be able to call yourself a content innovator.