Bill Gates told us 21 years ago that ‘content is king’ and for those of us in the content business, it was music to our ears. But as we all know, lots has changed since then.
It was 21 years ago, in 1996, that Google was invented, Dolly the sheep was cloned and the Spice Girls had the biggest selling song of the year with ‘Wannabe’.
Bill Gates went on to say “One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create.” And yes, that was true to an extent, but with video, things weren’t quite that easy!
It’s only in the last few years that broadband has become reasonably ubiquitous and that streaming high quality video is now a reality. (It certainly wasn’t in 1996 and as many people living and working in rural communities know, it’s still not always possible.)
So surely content, finally, is king? Well no, sadly not. What we’ve seen is the fragmentation of media channels. Back in 1996 Sky, with 28 analogue channels was starting the digital TV revolution announcing that it would have 150 channels in 1997. Eight years later, in 2005, YouTube was launched. YouTube now has 15 billion visitors per month and 5 billion videos are watched every day. And with the massive growth of video on Facebook, getting your video seen is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
And yet many organisations make a great video, put it on YouTube and are surprised when no one watches it (apart from maybe family, friends and the people that made it!). What’s worse, is that the organisation then announces, with the evidence to prove it, that video doesn’t work. (Trust me, I’ve seen this more than once.)
The king is dead; long live the king?
The answer, of course, is to ensure that you have a developed distribution strategy. And unless you have a talking dog or acrobatic goldfish, that usually means creating a media budget. Go back 21 years and it’s like making a press or TV ad without having a media budget and being surprised that no one sees it.
Bill Gate’s article also said that “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” That may or may not be true, but we are getting glimpses of it from the likes of Netflix and others. But one thing is for sure, without distribution, content will be mostly unseen and to me – and I say this with something approaching a heavy heart – will be king of a very small country. Of course, engaging content is incredibly important and something that those of us in the content business are passionate about, but without distribution, it’s a wasted opportunity. If content is still king, then maybe distribution is the heir apparent?
21 years on from Bill’s article, not everything has changed though; there’s a new Trainspotting film out!