“Content is king”. I’ve been hearing and reading this phrase ever since I started working in the e-learning industry more than a decade ago. It has been mostly true for most of the history of content. But is it true now? I think the answer is “it depends”.
Content is social
In the last few years, the free content on the Internet is killing the print industry. People recognized that they don’t need “experts” writing news stories, analyses, and reviews for which they have to pay. Content created by amateurs is good enough and most importantly, it’s free. Breaking news is available on Twitter, restaurant reviews are available on Yelp, content on any topic is available on Wikipedia. If I want to learn a programming language, I just go to W3Schools or Codecademy. If I have a question, I can ask my friends on Facebook or anyone on Yahoo Answers, Stack Exchange, or Quora. Most importantly, participation in a community increases engagement.
Design and user experience have always been important in every industry but good design is hard and not many people focus on it. Content has always been available in print or digital format. But it doesn’t always address our learning and development needs. It’s generic and is not tailored to anyone. It might be irrelevant. However, the main reason users do not trust a Web site is not content, it’s the Web site design. On the other hand, people trust content originating from authoritative sources.
Content, however good it is, will not be used if it doesn’t fit nicely into a satisfying experience. Reading a book doesn’t provide that experience, so a number of startups are developing interactive ebooks using rich media. Analytics tools are available, which, when integrated with ebooks and quizzing, might provide useful usage and performance data. Social media is being integrated with ebooks to help students interact with their peers and teachers.
Quality content is not enough. It should reach the target users. Marketing, especially social media marketing, is very important to make sure a large number of people are aware of the existence of the content. Good content is what gets shared, and that’s the best marketing for the content.
Content for students
Times are changing. Very soon, content creators will be competing not only on the quality of content, but the experience they are providing to their users. Users will no longer learn by reading their books, they will get all kinds of current information delivered to their electronic devices. They will take an assessment and will instantly get feedback and recommendation on what they should study next and which resources they can use. They have a question, they just ask, and someone, somewhere around the globe will answer it. They are on the move, and small chunks of information will be delivered to their smartphones based on spoken search queries. Content would never be stale again. Rapidly advancing technology is making things happen that were unimaginable a few years ago.
There are three elements of a great experience: Content, community, and technology.
So the answer to the question – Is content king? – is yes. Content will always be king. But the place for experts in today’s world is getting smaller and smaller. The wisdom of individuals and crowds is taking over content creation. The design of the experience is more important than ever.