Content, Sans Crown

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Content, Sans Crown

By Jaci Clement,

For a very long time, the news business was successful for one very good reason: Content was king.

Content built empires. It was content that attracted audiences and wherever audiences went, money soon followed. The ’80s and ’90s are now regarded as the golden age of news. It was a time when news meetings were called for the sole purpose of trying to figure out how to spend money. 

Old-time staffers at Newsday would recall those golden days, noting that prospective advertisers often could be found lined up around the building. When the lengthy queue didn’t advance quickly and people got fed up with waiting, they’d resort to throwing copy and cash through the ad department’s windows. 

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it would be that departments responsible for revenue generation should always occupy the ground floor. 

But I digress.

With the advent of cable news, content morphed from status symbol to commodity — still king, but by now the robe was showing signs of wear, and the crown lacked luster. The internet gave us content galore, which diminished content’s stature entirely: Once a status symbol, content is now relegated to clearance bins.

Interestingly, at this moment in the timeline, advertising is eschewed from the content equation, as if to erode its value further. Spend a few bucks more on a monthly subscription and you can avoid advertising completely. Newbie news outlets, having no experience with advertising, actually don’t know what to do with ads. Online news sources offer maybe — maybe — five areas within their digital products for ads to appear. 

While all these changes were playing out, something else was happening on the consumer front. The public lost track of where news actually comes from, making it unlikely, if not impossible, for them to name their sources for news, local or otherwise.

News just magically appears in their feeds, aggregates on search engine pages, and is posted within social media channels. News delivery via a third party has been going on for more than 20 years, which means younger Millennials, Gen Z’s, and Gen Alphas have no idea where news actually originates. In fairness, they’ve never had to look. 

Doubt this? Ask them. But first, ask yourself if you know where the news you’re using is coming from. 

Accessibility now wears the crown. That’s a problem for many reasons, including whether or not the news being delivered to you is real, fake, credible, or just.

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