When Content is Tyrant – How to Break Free
In my “Link is President” post I wondered aloud why people still applaud the monarchy and repeat what media moguls say without considering the meaning of it. I’d like to explain why
in the specific case of content, the monarchy is a tyranny for most of us.
Most monarchies of the past have been abolished for a reason. Modern kings in the Middle East are not democratic either though.
When you value freedom and democracy in real life and on the Web you shouldn’t hail kings in general. Why would you support tyranny?
Content makes kings rich
Personally I love writing so that content creation is a breeze for me. Most business people are overwhelmed though.
Faced with the top down demand to create content for the Internet kings they realize quickly that they don’t have enough resources. What can we do about it?
Content marketers are not the first to preach that “content is king”, neither are search engine optimizers.
Billionaires like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Rupert Murdoch of Newscorp have been preaching that even before them.
It’s true, content is king when you monetize it. Usually the large corporations like Google or Facebook do it not the content creators themselves.
Content creators work for free
Content creators, that is you and me,
increasingly small business owners are just the peasants on the huge content farms.
Others reap the benefits unless your business is closely tied to your content and you can capitalize on it directly by selling books for example.
When someone tells you that content is king and that’s the reason you need to create it and put it on your site for free you need to get suspicious.
Either they don’t know what they are doing or they are consciously or worse unconsciously working for the king of content Google among them.
Yes, Google increasingly pressurizes website owners to provide more content for them to index and monetize.
Google steals your content
By now Google doesn’t even bother to send visitors back to the original content creators. They simply practice their “knowledge grab”. The bots put your content on Google sites without paying you for that use.
Google can force to comply with their almost global search traffic monopoly. German publishers just recently made the crushing experience.
In Germany and other nations throughout the world publishers opted out of Google News in protest of the Google content theft practice without revenue sharing.
Publishers from Germany only demanded a small percentage of Google’s advertising earnings the search giant makes on their back but to no avail. Google wants your content for free.
They’ve already forced book authors and image copyright holders to give away their assets. Now newspaper publishers and all other website owners are their last target.
Does the Web become Saudi Arabia?
In many cases content is king means content is tyrant. It’s just like living in Saudi Arabia. Women are not even allowed to ride bikes or leave their homes without a man.
Freedom of speech does not exist and the neighboring Bahrain’s democracy movement has been crushed by Saudi Arabian tanks. That’s what monarchy is all about.
Luckily we mostly still live in somewhat shaky democracies. We do not have to bow down before kings.
On the Web we witness a gradual regression most website owners are seemingly subject to. Small businesses are the most vulnerable it seems.
The new kings are not monarchs or other dictators of nation states. They are billionaires exploiting the global content. You are toiling on their content farms.
Either you produce content of increasing size and quality while at best maintaining a high publishing frequency or you get fewer and fewer visitors from gatekeepers Google and Facebook.
Are you in the business of publishing?
Most small business owners are not in the publishing business and do not aspire to become part of it especially as content marketing is growing more competitive each day.
Just imagine every business out there churning out content all the time. We already get flooded with myriads of mediocre content pieces nobody can digest.
Most businesses suck at creating content. They excel at offering their own products and services.
The good news is: you don’t have to provide Google and other kings with free content just because they demand you to. Despite all the “content is king” babble the Web is not a monarchy yet.
You can use the democratic nature of the Web to your advantage. Just think about it: before the Web the same idea could have evolved on two opposite ends of the world without the people involved realizing it.
Connecting the dots instead of reinventing the wheel
Many inventions have been invented simultaneously by two or more people across the world because “the time was ripe”. It’s very similar with content.
Many people share the same ideas and convictions and put them into words. Once they hit publish nobody else needs to repeat the same things though.
The person who wants to reinvent the wheel just can point to the lucky first individual or group who did it before them. It’s called a link.
There is no need for “me too” articles in most cases. Just link to the original.
It’s different when it comes to personal experience. It can’t be replaced. Even if thousand people say that falling on your knees hurts you will probably have to test it yourself.
Likewise people are using products and services every day and expressing their gratitude or dismay with it. It’s called reviews. Also everybody has just a limited audience.
Spreading the word by pointing to the source
Even when I say that content is tyrant, most other people won’t know it. That’s why it’s good when someone else repeats it even without adding much to the message.
Ideally I get cited or my article republished. Wait though. Google does not want so called “duplicate content”. They want content to be unique.
Nobody is allowed to repeat after you or they will annoy their Google overlords. That’s bad for us who express ideas and describe experiences. Again a link solves the problem.
Just link to the original content that appeared first and Google will follow that link gladly. They can’t even demote it as a “duplicate” anymore.
Linking is one way to break free from the tyranny of content.
Whenever someone else said it already you can use a link to point into that direction. When repetition is desirable – just think of positive reviews, the more you get the better – you need to encourage others to create content on your behalf.
That’s not only about reviews. Social media shares are in most cases also about repeating that you rock.
You need to convince other people to praise you. Bragging or faking reviews is of course selfish in the best case and fraud in the worst.
Encouraging onpage contributions
Encouraging brand evangelists to spread the word about you or even critical consumers to give you constructive feedback is always useful.
Social media engagement from Internet users does not suffice. It only partially solve the problem of content tyranny by feeding third party sites.
You also need to encourage people to contribute to your own sites.
Here we also have a good old way to empower people to contribute: the so called comment section. I prefer to call them responses or additions because they often go beyond commentary.
Simple commentary by itself is not very valuable in many cases. Just having dozens of similar opinions can end up being a “thank you great post” list.
In the worst case people disagree in a demeaning way so that the conversation spirals out of control.
By reaming “comments” to something else more valuable you already suggest what is expected of visitors.
Ideally you also formulate it as a call to action. I do by asking to “leave a reply“. This is a good start.
Last updated: November 15th, 2017.
* Creative Commons image by Bud