Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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Does Content Matter Any More?

A discussion on the linked in group Specialist Media Network argues that the future of business media is not content but audience.  Hard not to agree.  In the old model, where we earned our corn from the publishing of magazines, we used content created by professional journalism to attract an audience which we could then monetise with advertising.  Although we were very interested in journalism it was not the purpose of what we did, it was simply the means we used to generate revenue.

The debate about the future is often muddled.  Journalism does matter but it turns out that in the new business media world it doesn’t matter as much as it used to.  Journalists in national papers, regional papers and the trade press reasonably complain that as costs are squeezed the quality of journalism falls and this weakens the papers on which they work.  They cannot understand how their bosses can’t see the connection between the two. 

The truth is that everyone recognises that papers and magazines are fundamentally altered by the squeeze on content costs.  Most would agree that printed products are not as good as they used to be.  The problem for journalists is that the media owners no longer think the impact matters all that much.  It might matter in a philosophical concern about the state ofthe fourth estate, but it is not very relevant to the business we are in.

There are many ways to skin a cat, and in the digital world there are many ways to build an audience and to engage with them.  Journalism is not only,no longer the only way to do it, it is in danger of becoming not even a very important way to do it.

However content can be a useful way to attract an audience.  Just look at the traffic success of the free to air newspaper websites.  But on its own, as evidenced by the low level of page views per visit on most sites, it won’t create real user engagement that can be monetised on a scale sufficient to fund the costs of content production.

The commercial solution is becoming clear.  Business media companies are beginning to understand that providing network tools, research, training, work flow tools, data, events, lead generation and more will create a sustainable model. 

The answer to the philosophical question about the future of journalism is much less clear. Journalists are going to have to work out how their skills can make a meaningful contribution to the development of audience engagement.   To begin there needs to be an acknoeledgement that it is not only professional journalists who can create great content.  For many journalists such a concept is anathema. Citizen journalists, bloggers, expert witnesses all have a role to play. Some a re good, many are not. The professional journalist has a role to play in sifting, organising, validating, editing, assessing, commenting, following up, verifying, linking, challenging all this content.

When a journalist writes for the web, what is his or her job?  In print it was simply to persuade readers to read what was written.  On the web every journalists mission must be to persuade their audience to read something else. A journalists job is not finished when the last full stop is placed at the end of the final sentence in the final paragraph; it has only just begun.  By taking this approach it is possible that the owners of media companies will realise that if content is no longer king, it certainly deserves a place at court.

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July 13, 2010 - Posted by | B2B Journalism, business media strategy |


  1. There are a couple of issues here.

    First, let’s not forget that although the average may be to bounce away after a page or two, that hides that some stay for much longer-

    They’re your committed readers. Chances are they’ve not come in through search, either. And chances are these are the people your advertisers want to reach. So let’s not give up hope for the importance of content just yet.

    But I agree, the journalist’s role has only just begun at posting.

    There’s an art to writing a good tweet with a link (particularly if you want it retweeted). And that’s assuming you’ve already done the work in building up a personal Twitter following. And probably a Facebook group and maybe LinkedIn too.

    It’s about building the audience ahead of time and activating that network when you’ve got a piece of content to tempt them.

    (Apologies for any typos – Blackberrying)


    Tim – Mumbrella

    Comment by Tim Burrowes | July 13, 2010

  2. Hi Tim,

    Thats true, but more most web sites that core audience is too small to make you rich – or rich enough to rely soley on advertising to fund the content costs. I ranted on this theme 12 minutes is to this video,

    Comment by neilthackray | July 14, 2010

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