Standing Out: Do Content Brands Need Edges

April 21, 2010 No comments Tags:

Consider, for a moment, a table.

Knowing where the table’s edges are make the experience of using a table possible. If you don’t know where it begins and ends, things will just fall off. Hold that thought, as I think it’s a good metaphor for exploring the point that content publisher brands have found themselves at, and the bets that they’re placing on the app-format being spun out of the emergence of the iPad.

Over the last 12+ years, the way we find and judge the value of information sources has changed quite a lot. Web-wide search engines make finding content an easy but mostly brand-less experience. Results are presented in the same format, no matter the query, and we satisfice with what lands near the top.

Gradually, web users traded the brand behind the content for the search result ranking as the marker of trustworthiness. I’ve come to think that phenomenon played a big part in bringing big content providers to the dire state they find themselves in, possibly more so than the reluctance to be ‘webby’ with their content, as the conventional wisdom goes.

The iPad as New Hope?

Content providers can’t avoid the web, but they’ve found fighting it a losing battle and the advice of ‘make it free’ digital optimists wanting, especially in the revenue department. So, more than a few of them are moving to double down on digital with custom-build iPad apps.

Some call out app-based content as an attempt to resurrect walled gardens. That might be so, but I see it as a deeper struggle re-establish awareness in readers about where a piece of content comes from, to re-cohere brand identity against the mush-making tide of search.

Like the table, apps provide an edge (or boundary if you like) that defines where the experience of that brand begins and ends. In short, apps are a chance for content brands to differentiate what they are and are not with a clear sense of inside and outside.

Some call out app-based content as an attempt to resurrect walled gardens. That might be so, but I see it as a deeper struggle re-establish awareness in readers about where a piece of content comes from, to re-cohere brand identity against the mush-making tide of search.

Edges don’t need to be walls. I sincerely hope content brands don’t fall back to pointing guns at their feet by neglecting good ways to share and build on the value they provide. Some will, and others will take this moment as a chance to evolve their brands beyond begging for pennies on ad-clicks, because that sure as hell isn’t working for them now. Can we blame them for trying to… well, find an edge?

 

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