Break Free of the Digital-Content Trap

Content Alone Is a Dead End

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Is the web a vehicle for distribution or a unique and creative medium in its own right?

While the mantra of the web these days seems to be "content, content, content," we keep finding that content alone is a dead end for ongoing engagement.

For instance, we create endless blog posts and tweets and videos to fulfill our perceived need for content and call it our social-media strategy. Trouble is it's not really a social strategy, as much as a search-engine-optimization strategy. We aren't necessarily engaging an audience with this "content." All we are doing is enticing them to watch and maybe share a link. So in the end the value of most "content strategies" is to create inbound link traffic, which is really SEO.

But delving deeper, creating content often means negating the one thing that the web is uniquely qualified to deliver, which is a connected and engaging user experience.

The value of Facebook to your customers is not the content you put there. The true value is derived from the experience of connecting with friends. So while you can say your audience is sharing videos or posting notes or playing "Farmville," what they are really doing is engaging in a rich user experience that is unique to the web.

As broadcasters and publishers attempts to find ways to leverage digital for distribution of content, and even blogs look for ways to get people to click on their links, I'm starting to wonder if we haven't all missed the point. Maybe the web isn't summed up as a new means of distributing content, but as the totality of the user experience.

When we set out to create digital stories, maybe it's time we left behind old models completely. Instead of looking for ways to get eyeballs on our videos or clicks to our pages, maybe we need more focus on creating multilayered experiences that keep people involved, immersed and interacting. And maybe the measurement of effectiveness shouldn't be based solely on page views or "likes," but on distributed participation of fans both online and offline.

This isn't to say video, audio and text don't still play a role. But it does challenge the notion that engagement ends with a click, a comment or a share. Because after all, a click strategy is just an immediate form of the broadcast and publishing models. (We promote and we hope for tune-in.) Maybe it's time we looked at the web as something completely different. And as such, maybe the web deserves storytelling that embraces user experience as deeply as it embraces our own artistic expression of content.

Bob Knorpp is host of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast at and is president of Cool Beans Group, a marketing strategy consultancy based in New York. He likes laughing even more than breathing. You can follow the madness on Twitter at
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