The Content Trap

I recently listened to an interesting HBR Ideacast on a new book The Content Trap.   Essentially it is saying that “Content is King” is a myth and a trap.   Instead, we need to understand how content connects with the users/consumers of that content.

The author believes that the key is to focus on the demand side of content, not the supply side.   A twist on the Zig Ziglar’s “tuning in to radio station WIIFM”  that you should be answering  “What’s In It For Them.”  by providing content that helps them do “X”.

Gave the example of Schibsted, a Norwegian media company during the 2011 Icelandic volcano eruption that disrupted European travel.   Rather than produce content, they created created an app called Hitchhiker’s Central.

What they noticed very early on during the travel disruption was people posting messages on the website saying, how do I get from point A to point B? Is anyone going? Essentially, people just wanted to figure out ways to get from point A to point B.  They were using the website as a way to connect.

Similarly, newspapers were not “content centers”,  they were classified ad listing services connecting people.   The demise of newspaper was not that it content was free on line. Rather is was the rise of services like Craigslist.  Newspapers had derived 50% of their profits from classified revenue.


The book has three main premises for content:

  1. Success comes not just from creating content, or the “best content”, but from creating content that connects users. In other words, success comes from recognizing user connections.
  2. Success increasingly comes not from preserving your content at all costs, but from unearthing related opportunities close by. In other words, success comes from recognizing product connections.
  3. Success comes not from viewing content decisions or mimicking competitors’ content choices in isolation, but from recognizing them as part of a connected whole. In other words, success comes from recognizing functional connections.

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