Many years ago, before this Internet thing took off, the big-time digital content purveyors were Lockheed’s Dialog and LexisNexis. They published enormous information databases on 12-inch laser platters.
A couple of my Silicon Valley buddies, Brett Butler and Martha West, were library-science types who understood where digital information systems were going. I helped them organize a startup that would use a high-capacity laser storage system on a credit-card format to make it possible for military pilots to carry massive equipment maintenance manuals in their pockets. The engineers I lined up for this project wowed me with their designs, and I was thrilled about the hardware that would make us all rich.
Brett and Martha, however, rolled their eyes. “The delivery system is a given, Nick. The money is in the content. Content is king! And that’s what makes us money!”
I thought they were nuts. Years later, I started a publishing business to license my Ask The Headhunter through all kinds of media—because they were right.
Today, Web sites and apps are the equivalent of that old hardware: delivery systems that are really not much to talk about. The value of any Web site—or publisher—lies in the value of its content. So it is with Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and all those popular delivery services. It seems the guys who run those services don’t always get it: Content is still king.
As a headhunter, my interest is in sources of information and connections that help me map good people to good companies. Uh … that’s why Reid Hoffman invented LinkedIn, right? Speaking of LinkedIn, it was supposed to become the leading professional content outlet, thanks to all the famous “Influencers” who were handpicked to share their musings. But it quickly became evident that many LinkedIn Influencers were writing advertorials—unless ghostwriters were doing it for them—and publishing on LinkedIn quickly turned into a “networking opportunity” so transparent that much of it is of questionable value. (See “Bad Dog Gets Loose: The Future Of Content Marketing On LinkedIn?”)
According to an article in SocialTimes: Facebook recently surpassed Google as the top referrer for major publishers.
LinkedIn isn’t even in the running. So what happened? Facebook was supposed to be where you yakked with your friends and their friends, chewed social pabulum, and lived a prosaic digital life. People like you and I, who want to do business, were supposed to gather on a "professional platform" where thought leaders would teach us.
But a funny thing happened on the way to building the world’s most successful digital content referral source. “Facebook began taking a more active interest in developing relationships with publishers to curate and promote content,” reports SocialTimes.
While Google focused on search algorithms and Hoffman focused on his networking database, Zuck realized that content is king--good content produced by professionals.
While Google is still the king of all Web traffic, and LinkedIn is the biggest digital resume database, Facebook has become the leading channel that moves content around the ‘net. Who’d have thought that a site abandoned by Millennials because their moms and grandmothers were flocking to it would pull this off? And why does a headhunter care?
Like you, I have limited time to find content that leads me to the people I need to know about—and the people I need to know about are in the news. Parse.ly CTO Andrew Montalenti told SocialTimes that Facebook “realized that a lot of the interesting conversations happening around the Web were happening around major news, media, and information.” So Zuck created partnerships with publishers to bring their top-tier content to his community. (See “Here Come Facebook’s Instant Articles.”)
Networks and search engines are great. I can’t live without them. But Brett and Martha are still right: It’s not the platform. It’s the content, and content is always king. Zuck seems to get that. And that’s why I spend more time on Facebook than LinkedIn. It’s where the best content rolls through. And that’s what makes me money.
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