“Content is King”: A Retrospective

If you’ve dabbled in marketing, PR, or business, you’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king,” which was coined by Sumner Redstone (founder of Viacom) in the mid-’90s. It was an exciting era for electronic communications and marketing; Japan began to manufacture DVDs, a little auction company called “eBay” took off, and the number of Internet host computers jumped from 1 million to 10 million.

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In 1996, Bill Gates wrote a column by the same name. At the time, it was his way of saying that the web suddenly made supplying information and entertainment easy, and that anyone with an Internet connection could seize the opportunity to publish and prosper. He warned that there would be intense competition for the hearts and minds of consumers; simply slinging advertising wasn’t enough–companies would have to provide useful content with a personal touch.

Keeping in mind that Gates said this a mere sixteen years ago, what does marketing content look like today?

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If content is king, social media and search are the town criers. With businesses jockeying for page rankings, retweets, Facebook followers, and more, it’s easy to see how the sharing space could get cluttered, even with the best of intentions. To that end, Panda–a major update to the Google search algorithm–set out to clean up the marketing mess, with a stunning end result; 12% of queries were affected to a significant degree.

For some, Panda has been a rude awakening. It’s one thing to outsource article writing, but Google has made it clear that quality content is king. In the words of Gates, “If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.”

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