Soundview Executive Book Summaries

Content is STILL King

I recently spent a day searching on Google. I searched for cars, flights, deals on soap and anything else I could think of, sometimes following a string of totally unrelated searches just for the fun of it. My wife finally dragged me away after 9 hours of searching just to eat a meal. My last words as I saw the Google logo disappearing from view, was “this is my food.”

Do you believe a word I just said? Of course you don’t, because searching is not something we do for entertainment, we search because we’re looking for something. Searching is the necessary evil of finding something on the internet, not an end in itself.

But some “industry executives” would have us believe that “web navigation is more valuable than content.” In a recent WSJ article on the ouster of Carol Bartz as CEO of Yahoo, the writers made the case for the devaluing of content. Rishad Tobaccowala of Vivaki was quoted as saying, “People tell me that content is king, but that is not true at all. Most people make money pointing to content, not creating, curating or collecting content.”

Now I must admit that I am in the business of creating content, so perhaps my view of this issue is skewed. But has anyone ever totaled up the combined revenue of the search sites of the world, and compared that number to the total revenue of all e-commerce sites, airline ticket sales, restaurant meals, cars sales, and everything else to which search points us? Content is the basis for search engines. Without content there would be no Google, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube or any other site that survives by pointing to content.

I just did a quick scan though my Soundview Online Library to view our recent content. We have summaries of books by such excellent thinkers as Daniel Goleman, Jay Elliot, Guy Kawasaki, Josh Linkner, Daniel Burrus, and that’s just from the last few months. In addition we host webinars with these business writers to bring them together with our customers, and conduct video interviews with local executives dealing with real-life business decisions.

Google can point to our site, but they can’t provide the content. Speaking of Google, didn’t they just purchase Zagats? Isn’t this so that they have control over more content? Of course we shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds us. Google does provide us a lot of traffic, but the relationship is symbiotic.

A more productive avenue of thinking than this “search versus content” ideology is that advocated by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams in their latest book Macrowikinomics. The five principles of this book are collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity and interdependence. The authors argue for a more cooperative marketplace. Think how that might affect the relationship between the search giants and the content to which they point. What are your thoughts? Does search rule, or content, or does there need to be a truce called and an alliance negotiated?


2 Comments so far
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I don’t see the need to compare ‘search versus content’. The two support each other – without great content, your search will end up in frustration; without good search, you can’t find great content.

Search is like a signpost – Signposts are a means to an end and not the end itself.

With the shift in focus towards social media, and Facebook becoming more and more powerful, Search has taken a backseat. Google is trying to play catchup to negotiating the tricky and adrenaline filled world of social with Google plus. Yahoo is in the doldrums and Bing has already teamed up with Facebook to offer social content.

The new question is not about content vs search. it is about how content has changed in the new social world. One thing that is very interesting but that you have not brought up in this post is the value of user-generated content vs ‘publisher-centric’/owned content.

and I think Search is just a means to help people find that content. So don’t kill the messenger.


Comment by lydiang

Thanks for your comment. Your point is well taken. I was responding to the WSJ article about content being unimportant, and so stated my thoughts to bring the discussion back to center. I also see the necessity of search for finding the content. That’s why I called for a truce in the argument. We need to admit that both are necessary and symbiotic.

Comment by Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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