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What are the implications of the internet for your content?
That might seem like a strange question. The internet has become so much a part of our daily lives that it’s easy to forget that it is a recent phenomenon. Aren’t we already living with the consequences of the digital age?
But actually, it’s such a recent introduction that many industries – publishing included – are still struggling to deal with the disruption it is causing. Some are taking everything online and moving away from print. Others are producing new kinds of content, from listicles and online magazines to videos, in an attempt to keep their businesses viable.
Publishers are finding it very difficult to determine what kind of content will get people reading, be useful to those readers, and help them to turn a profit.
A giant Xerox machine
In publishing terms, the internet is just another point on the continuum from cave painting to medieval copyist to printing press. It’s a giant copying machine that has made information increasingly less exclusive, and connections between people both more easy to form and less valuable.
When information is cheap, and connections are so simple to make and so common, your organisation will need to provide something really special in order to stand out. That’s true whether you are a publisher, a membership body, or a business.
What kind of special?
In the past, you could rely on your intended audience reading your monthly journal or daily newspaper. It was their main source of relevant information about the important subject area you are involved in.
Now, you’re competing with everyone on the internet – passionate individuals, rival organisations and international competitors that your audience was previously unaware of. They are all just a Google search away.
Today, there are three kinds of content that are special enough to keep people reading:
These three kinds of content all fulfil important needs for your audience. Relevant content informs them, beautiful content inspires them, and community content boosts their confidence by letting them know they are part of something bigger, and gives them the ability to participate.
If your content isn’t fulfilling these needs, perhaps it’s time to reassess your strategy. If it already falls into one (or more) of these categories, that’s great news, but it’s no reason to be complacent – the internet is constantly evolving, so keeping a constant watch on your content is bound to pay off.
Rob Coston is an editor at CPL