Is Content King in Internet Marketing? The Argument to End All Arguments

Panem et Circenses. Bread and circuses.  This was the Roman formula, coined by the satirist Juvenal, for the well being of their population that stipulated sustenance and entertainment were imperative to their approval.  Apparently the Romans could have been spectacular marketers because they understood (even unknowingly) what great content should entail.  Maybe they could have answered the whole “Is Content King?” debate.  But they’re not here and I am, so here we go – hopefully for the last time.

The Coronation

In an essay written in 1996, Bill Gates crowned content king, sparking a debate of epic proportions.  Most recognize that he didn’t mean that content just had to exist, but rather that it had to be of a higher quality that informed, entertained, and educated people – namely that it had to offer Panem et Circenses – sustenance and entertainment.  Sixteen years after that essay, the question now is, is content still king? What about all the king’s horses and all of his men? Amit Singhal says, “It’s not just about content.  It’s about identity, relationships, and content.”

Whether or not you agree with the worn-out mantra of “content is king” depends on how you define content.  If you define content as articles or text on a website, then no, content has been dethroned.  However, in his article, Gates implied that text does not sum up content, saying “When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of ‘content’ becomes very wide” and that “to be successful online, [you] can’t just take what [newspapers and magazines have] in print and move it to the electronic realm.”  He even uses computer software as an example of content.  This means that a site’s programming, web design, photos, videos, infographics, case studies, blog posts, and white pages are all part of its content.  The question may no longer be whether content is king, but whether the king is properly dressed.

Web Design or Text?  The Chicken or the Egg?

To be a king, he must have a country loyal to him.  For content to be king (if it really is), it must have an audience, a loyal following of people.  While a true king is born into his authority, a website only has a few seconds to capture the attention of potential loyalists and establish its authority.  Now comes the question of the chicken or the egg.  While we have established that both web design and text are part of content, people still want to argue over which one reigns in this hierarchy. Well, I guess that depends on who you’re asking – web designers or copywriters.

Sorry web designers, but ultimately, it is the text that matters, at least initially (and that is not just because I’m a copywriter).  The title is the first thing that comes up in a search result and is what entices people to visit the page to begin with.  But web design’s role is just as important, if not more so once the link has been clicked. If a page looks spammy or chaotic, no one will bother reading the first paragraph or even re-reading the title.  Bounce!

Maybe it really comes down to the fact that the whole analogy is faulty, and this is not a hierarchy after all, but a chronology where the title gets them to the website, the design gets them to read the first sentence which should make them read the second sentence and so on and so forth. Both of these aspects of content must work together to establish an identity, or brand, that people can easily identify and want to interact with.  (Side note: We copywriters and web designers shouldn’t be fighting over who is more important to results, but working together to create some really stellar websites that offer the best of both worlds).  It doesn’t matter what comes first or who is most important, you can’t have the chicken without the egg after all, or the egg without the chicken.

So. Is Content (even with all these inclusions) Really King?
And can we get this analogy straight once and for all?

The answer is no; the whole analogy has become so muddled by various authors claiming that content is or isn’t king, that users are kings, or whatever have you.  I apologize to Bill and my contemporaries, but for this analogy to work, internet marketers and website owners must be the kings.  Content is the king’s treasure.  But to stay in power, a king has to have a thought for his country, which in this case would be the users, and must wisely distribute his treasure throughout the nation.

A country wants to feel a connection with, and have confidence in its leaders.  Plain and simple.  This is what really great content aims to achieve – authority.  People that interact with your brand – your kingdom – want to be able to voice their questions and trust that your authority will provide them the right answer. There is nothing worse than a well-dressed leader that doesn’t know his arse from his elbow.

People don’t want to feel like they are just a source of income, either.  They want to feel understood and cared about; it is what creates brand loyalty and return customers.  Offering them valuable content will do more to this end than any cleverly veiled sales pitch. While they may be willing to support the king’s cause, the king must also support theirs. Reciprocity, my friends.

If link building is an important part of your economy (which it really should be) then you rely very heavily on your followers to like, tweet, +1, and generally share your valuable content through social media.  After all, content is nothing unless people know it exists.  Leveraging social media to enact this exchange of “currency” will establish your authority and bring in revenue like tithes never could.  Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have become the cities where kings are either celebrated or beheaded.  To avoid the social guillotine, make sure your content is useful, entertaining, informative, educational, and easy to navigate.  To be any kind of business giant these days, the most important thing to do is to understand and connect with your audience.  And if you want people to kiss the ring and share your content, you must offer them Panem et Circenses.

To work with an internet marketing company that understands the principles of Panem et Circenses as it applies to content, with experience and authority in every other aspect of internet marketing contact Optimum7 today!