A generation ago (and yes it really is that long) as the early file-sharing websites, such as Napster, allowed fans to share their music collections, we were warned that this “democratisation of content” would ruin not only the music industry, but the entire entertainment ecosystem. Many of the early pioneers lost legal battles, as behemoths with too much at stake in the status quo threw all their resources into the struggle to keep the lid on the internet.
Needless to say, if they won those battles, ultimately the big boys lost the war. Certainly, the rise of social media over the last decade and the attitude of the current generation of wannabe millionaire entrepreneurs (“generation Y not give it a try myself?”) heralds the end of an era where thriving large corporates control things from the centre.
Today, peer-to-peer has become a major, if not the predominant, communication channel. Want to get something interesting out to the market? Forget about relying on contacts in the mainstream media pushing the news for you. Communication is no longer something companies do; it is something that happens to them. Reputation used to be something those with the reputation to lose controlled. Today, the idea that reputations can be managed by a PR firm at all looks outmoded.
One key to this shift is the power of search, and Google in particular. It may be much more than just a search company, but Google is nevertheless the dominant search engine (see our A-Z on SEO) and as such, what it decides will drive search results and influence what the rest of the world does. Right now Google is all about content. Fresh, engaging, evergreen, original. Use what adjective you like, but for the last decade the use of content as a means to communicate with an audience has grown increasingly important.
While other areas of communication have become democratised, content marketing (or customer publishing as it was until 2011) has remained largely the preserve of companies with big enough budgets to commission big agencies to create big content for them. There may be more agencies than ever offering these services to a wider range of businesses, and margins and fees may be falling, but it’s still largely a big company game. Or at least it was.
Now, in a remarkable example of what Julie Meyer calls “ecosystem economics”, having created the need for more content, the internet is opening up the possibility for that content to reach a wider range of businesses than ever. Thanks to new products and services such as our own sister service Content Cloud and other, similar platforms, businesses of all sizes can commission and create content previously regarded as out of reach.
Let’s face it, producing great content likely to stimulate the sort of sharing by customers that will drive web traffic and customer engagement, generally means big production budgets, teams of editorial and design staff and the other trappings of content-marketing agencies. Thankfully (for those of us employed in such work), this is still the case for some clients with the appropriate demands and budgets. But smaller firms also have a story to tell and these online content market places make it easy for them to sign-up and connect with the talent to create it. Digital disruption always produces winners and losers – this time, the winners appear to be the smaller companies keen to generate great content for a modest sum.
Visit Content Cloud to sign up as a creator, or commission the content your business needs