Welcome to the latest season of Media Voices: Big Noises! This season, sponsored by Glide Publishing Platform, we’ll be talking to publishing people with something to say. Media Voices co-host Peter Houston is tired of hearing the same old industry buzzwords. The publishing platitudes are starting to wear a bit thin, and he’s decided to see if he can shake the conversation up a bit by speaking to some of the biggest characters in the business.

First up is Neil Thackray. Neil is a media executive with decades of experience leading media companies both large and small. As one of the co-founders of Briefing Media (home of theMediaBriefing and AgriBriefing), he gained a formidable reputation for calling out executive BS at conferences and in his columns, and being unafraid to point out some of the biggest industry issues.

Neil spoke to Peter about the myth that content is king, the failures of publishing leadership, how media companies have lost the ability to differentiate, and how investors share some of the blame.

Here’s a taster of some of what Neil had to say:

The ‘Content is King’ myth

Let’s start with one of my favourite rankles. I’ve been to many, many conferences and organised a fair few, and there is not one of them, where are some point during the rpoceedings, somebody hasn’t said “Content is king.” And if you’re very lucky, someone from the back of the hall will shout, “And Queen!” sagely as if this is a statement of undeniable truth. Nobody ever responds to it, because everyone just nods and says, “Quite right, content is king.”

I put it to you, that is completely bollocks…

There’s several things wrong with it. The first is the vocabulary itself. I’m pretty sure that if something is content, it means it is contained within something. And I’m prepared to accept that what is written, the photography and the illustrations that are contained within a magazine might legitimately be classed as ‘content’. I do not understand why that will be true for anything that you’ve delivered digitally, or even in other media platforms, by the very nature of the thing…

So that’s the first problem is that most of media is not content. Free media on the internet, which a lot of it is, is not contained within anything. In fact, it is normally open to the prey of anyone who wants to come and steal it, whether it be the search engines or Facebook or plagirists or AI machines. So I think that initial premise is wrong.

The reason it matters is it drives media owners to think that what they should be doing online is trying to work out how they do what they did offline, in a digital world. One of the reasons they think like that is because they still think about ‘content’.

The second objection I had is the second word – the ‘king’ thing. Not because I’m anti-royal particularly, but if media owners really think that what they produce, the information, data, pictures, whatever it is, is king, explain to me why most of the publishers I see on the web give it away for free?

They therefore consider it is not worth anything and that their webpages are drowning in terrible quality advertising, which is spammy, is selling cryptocurrency stuff, is full of dodgy get rick quick schemes and whatever. But apparently your content – which it isn’t – is king – which you clearly don’t think that it is. But you still say this guff at media conferences around the world, and – heaven help us – possibly use it as a starting point for building your strategy.

Thanks to Glide Publishing Platform who have sponsored this season of Media Voices: Big Noises. Glide exists to make publishers more successful by removing any need to get bogged down building Content Management Systems, providing an industry-leading SaaS tailored to let publishers do more and spend less. Publishers using Glide direct more resources at their audiences and products, and focus on building things that make them money. You do the content, Glide does the management.

Glide have created 3 expert guides to getting much more from a new or headless CMS, created for editorial, technology, and product teams. You can get the whitepapers here.

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