Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/16/2011

Is Content King or Pauper? Value or Valueless?


Some are trying to redefine what content REALLY is…or isn’t. They are doing this by trying to separate content from any measurable value of it’s own and essentially saying that the mass availability of any content somehow makes it valueless.

 Au contraire! In this writer’s humble opinion, content CANNOT be separated from it’s own inherent value…which is simply what the content portrays to each of us. Some peoples dislikes are others love affairs.

Look at basic content (say raw data and facts alone) as a blob of clay (to be shaped later into a unique sculpture) or a painter’s blank palette (to be transformed into a work of visual art)…the content blob has inherent value on its own because it is the substance or heart of what will be (refined content, if you will). Basic content is like the living cells of a larger being. The ability to create this larger literary being is talent loaded with value.   

It’s how the content is structured, analyzed and presented that adds more overt value, insight, viewpoints, education and entertainment to the basic content. It becomes a living, breathing piece of readable gold…And this is the intellectual capital of the author-artist and it is literally PRICELESS!…And deserves proper compensation and copyright protection.

Jeff Jarvis of the HuffPost seems to harbor a different view (if I’m interpreting this correctly) even though he is restricting his comments to news and media…Hell, content is content:

Please read my yesterday’s post on the Writers Welcome Blog  (Is Copyright a Relic?) for more background on what Jeff Jarvis is referring to in his featured article here:

It’s Not All About the Content    

In his New York Times column complaining about Huffington Post and the new economics of content competition, I think David Carr makes two understandable but fundamentally fallacious assumptions about news and media: that the value in journalism is in content and that making content must be work. Because that’s the way it used to be.

In their op-ed the next day in the New York Times complaining about copyright losing its hardness, Scott Turow, Paul Aiken, and James Shapiro extend the error to entertainment, assuming that content is entertainment and content is what content makers make.

Not necessarily.

Pull back to view the true value of these things: information, knowledge, enlightenment, amusement, experience, engagement. Content can be and has been a vessel to deliver their worth. But it is not the only one. That is the lesson of the internet — indeed, of Huffington Post itself. I have argued that the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the BBC, and other media should have but never would have started the Huffington Post because they, like the gentlemen above, still see content as value in itself and further believe that content is their own franchise (granted by their control of the means of production and distribution). So the benefits of content cannot come from others — bloggers, commenters, citizens, amateurs — as new wine in new casks. They instead want to put their old wine in the new skins (witness The Daily). (John’s note: I do believe good content can come from others — bloggers, commenters, citizens, amateurs, etc.).

That is why old media people are missing new opportunities. It’s not about the content (stupid). It’s about the value.

We can be informed now by many means: by our neighbors telling us what they know, enabled to do so by the net, at a marginal cost of zero, doing so not because it is work (and work must be paid) but because this is what neighbors do for each other (John’s note: This has always been the case, even before the net…nothing new here). We can be entertained by many means: by clever people making songs and shows and telling stories because they love doing so and because they are compensated in attention rather than royalties (and that attention may well lead to money when they can finally detour around the gauntlet of old media’s closed ways to find audiences on their own). (John’s note: Again this has been the situation since the beginning of time).

Why do people write on Huffington Post? Because they can. Because they give a shit. Because they like the attention and conversation. Because they couldn’t before. Why do they sing their songs on YouTube? Same reasons.

Is there still a role for the journalist, the professional, the artist in this? Perhaps. I think so. That’s why I am teaching journalism school. But I’m not necessarily teaching them to make content. (John’s note: you can’t “make” content, it already exists due to human existence; you can only interpret and write about it). That is now only one of many, many ways to meet the goals of adding value to information, time, and society. Some of my entrepreneurial journalism students are, for example, creating businesses that will use data to impart information; they will add value by gathering and analyzing it and making it possible for you to find the intersecting points that matter to you. Other of my students are creating platforms for you to get more value out of your own data. Others are creating platforms for people to connect around interests and make and find their own value. Others are finding new ways to sustain reporting and the making of content. They are all valid if they bring value.

If you concentrate on the value, not the form — content — then the possibilities explode.

Turow et al shut down the idea that opening up information can yield greater value that protecting it. Sharers are…

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