16 October 2016 Content Hubs Are Broken
Years ago I sat in a session ‘Where Have All The Rebels Gone?’, a piece of research on young Australians by Junkee Media.
A key finding was what they called becoming the Content Generation – “content” as in a state of complacent satisfaction, not the thing you watch on YouTube (that gag works better when you present it out loud).
They described a generation of people who value experiences over things (think #fomo). Combined with the lack of housing affordability means they’re living at home longer. They hero their parents more than any previous generation. They’ve grown up comfortably where everyone gets a participation trophy and been told everything will be okay all their life.
As a byproduct of technology, they’ve never had to wait in line. And lines are where passions are formed. When you camp overnight for front row tickets to David Bowie, you meet others fans who love Ziggy Stardust just as much. And that’s when you decide to start the David Bowie fanzine. Interestingly the guys who started Junkee Media met while waiting in line at a record store.
We’re becoming pancakes – with a wide variety of interests but none of them very deep. We don’t have to know much about anything because we can look it up on our mobile, and when we do we only go so far as the Wikipedia entry. There’s no hierarchy to our news because it’s delivered in a newsfeed by an algorithm. Politics, health, education and finance sit right next to photos of cats and foodporn. And when we do see the important stuff it’s summarised in 140 characters of clickbait.
The opportunity, Junkee Media said, is for brands to connect people with their passions.
Of course, that’s a fairly pessimistic take on a whole generation (of which I am a part). My sample of one likes to think he has more ambition and passion. And would argue the internet allows for greater connections among like-minded people by removing the barrier of geography.
But what I find most interesting is how this impacts content strategy. Specifically, the premise and role of content hubs – a common strategy many brands invest in (and I’ll put my hand up to say I’ve been involved with a few myself).
The thinking is to build a ‘sticky’ environment full of relevant, regularly-updated content. People (not “users”) discover this rich content, browse thoroughly in an ‘experience’ and love it so much they want to return and/or share.
But this approach is broken. And not just because most branded content sucks either.
We consume media on the Buzzfeed model. If 62% of adults get their news from social media it means not only are we not picking up a newspaper (which we’ve known for ages) but we’re not even going to publisher homepages. The notion of browsing dies. People want their content served directly to them, one piece at a time. And once it’s consumed they’ll spit it out and bounce (and that’s okay).
Distribution becomes more important than the content creation, yet is often the most overlooked.
The role of a content hub should just be a container, not a destination. Don’t advertise the fact you have content, push the content instead. Your content becomes your advertising.
In some cases people may not even need to hit your content hub. Instant and formats like Canvas mean you can create a valuable, immersive experiences without ever needing to leave the Facebook environment.
In many ways Facebook Pages have also fallen into the same troubles. People don’t visit Pages for content (it would appear they only visit for customer service). Likewise distribution remains hugely overlooked, with either no spend behind posts or a media strategy which is too simplistic (it has never been easier to be more sophisticated with your targeting and ability to steer consumers down a funnel).
That feels like a really long-winded way to say if you’re investing in content, especially a content hub, ensure you have a clear distribution strategy. And align your objectives to how people actually consume their media.