The Content Delusion
It’s an awkward subject and I hate to bring it up but we need to talk about content. Let’s start with an oldy and a goody – Gutenberg, the inventor and mastermind behind the printing press and moveable type. He had a primary aim of reproducing The Bible, which until his invention was painstakingly written by hand.[1. Johannes Gutenberg invented moveable type, read more about him here] This allowed more people to have a bible and to learn about Christianity.
Image credit: Stephen John Bryde
Gutenberg had a clear objective, increase production to improve the distribution of a message. Today there is no demand to increase production of information, we have solved this problem with computers. Distribution is still an issue, everyone would like to think that their message is exciting and important enough to reach those who care, those who need to know and even those who are blissfully unaware that they need to know.
This however is the content delusion, distribution. There is a vastly disproportionate concern to constantly increase distribution of content over the actual quality of the content itself. This manifests in a few key ways. Features and attractions, the belief being that more technical features alone will improve distribution. Aesthetics, design and style will improve, enhance and encourage distribution. Advertising, linking, shouting, selling and telling everyone will improve distribution.
Increasingly, one hears something along the lines of “We can add the content in later, don’t worry, it would be great to get a price for this website to do X, Y and Z right now”. Sometimes it might be “That’s perfect, we love the design, can you build the template and then we will go away and get some content”. The bottom line here, is that content is treated in a very poor manner, often ignored, pushed to the end of a job list, handed over to someone in the company who has spare time and in most cases never of the quality, tone or direction od this content is far removed from what anyone had in mind on day one of the project. We are often deluded by attractions, aesthetics and advertising.
How can we change this?
Quite simply. What do you want to say? If you can establish what you want from a message you can start to look at sculpting and crafting ideas that will help facilitate it. You need people who are great with words. A good copywriter is worth their weight in gold.[2. I have been lucky enough to work with Dom Savage and Mike Reed who both have an amazing skill of being able to communicate an idea] Production, someone to glue it all together and be willing to pull and pick at every part of the project to make sure it still answers the original question of “What do you want to say?”. You will no doubt need some kind of visual output be it photography, illustration or graphic design – working with the right people will again be one of the most important things you can do.
Content first. Then follows the attractions, aesthetics and advertising.
I do agree that bad design and usability can dramatically effect the consumption of wonderful, delicious and crafted content.