Quality editorial is not a growth position for a media company. It may be a competitive advantage. And it will surely be a brand differentiator. But it won’t by nature expand audience or increase revenues. It’s not necessarily even a loyalty control.
Of the many great things the Internet has done for media, it has failed to value trustworthiness enough. Instead, it values speed, plasticity, and access. Information is rewarded when it is first to appear, maleable and distributable in numerous ways, and available through multiple channels — links, feeds, indeces — and through other people.
How is a niche publisher to compete? First, catalyze relationships with and amongst people. Second, leverage the value chain as it is to your advantage. Paying more per word for content that is slow, static and hard to get to is a recipe for failure online.
This is the strategic play that makes the MySpace acquisition seem even smarter than I think Fox was aware of at the time. YouTube has adopted a few of the social aspects that make MySpace successful, but I wonder if it will be able to catalyze those relationships into something more meaningful than a one-upsmanship JackAss competition.
What publishers do understand well is the role a media brand can play in facilitating meaningful activity in a community. The nature of the relationships with and amongst the community members have clearly changed. And high quality editorial is a piece of that relationship, one that reinforces trust and understanding, particularly in niche publishing where it’s harder to find good information.
The easy mistake to make is believing that because you have good information people will come. They might, and they’ll just as quickly leave if you don’t give them a reason to create a relationship with you or other members of your community.