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Content may be king. At least that's what many companies in the business of producing content think for obvious reasons.

Take Demand Media, for instance. It's so confident that its content is an appreciating asset that will produce value over a long period of time that it amortizes the costs of producing content over five years.

But according to reports, some of Demand Media's properties have taken quite a hit in Google's latest Panda update. Although Demand Media disputes these reports, they raise an interesting question: is content an appreciating asset, or a depreciating asset?

It's a difficult question to answer. Not all content is created equal, and not all content is used by its creators in the same way. When speaking in general terms, there's a better question: can content be an appreciating asset?

The answer: yes, but not without a well-executed strategy. When trying to develop a strategy that produces content that appreciates in value, there are a number of things to consider.

Content orientation

Content that is designed to piggyback on the latest news and trends can often attract a lot of eyeballs very quickly, but it also typically depreciates rapidly in value over unless augmented by some quality (insight, entertainment value) that will be appreciated by consumers into the future.

For this reason, publishers need to consider the orientation of the content they produce: will it still be relevant two weeks from now, two months from now, two years from now? For content that appreciates in value, the answer over all three timeframes should be 'yes'.

SEO dependence

For many publishers, SEO is of great importance. After all, many consumers discover content through search engines. But if content is going to be an appreciating asset, its creator shouldn't be overly dependent on traffic from organic SEO.

As the situation with Demand Media highlights, search algorithms change, and content creators can't assume that their content's stellar position in the SERPs will last. Instead, they have to assume that their rankings could drop, meaning that a piece of content's long-term value should never be judged solely by its current search profile.

Monetization techniques

Business models matter, particularly when it comes to content that is often discovered via search. Some business models produce far more revenue than others in particular situations, highlighting the importance of nailing the monetization game.

For most publishers, this means experimenting, analyzing and refining with a single goal: find the technique or techniques that maximize the profitability of content.

Cost

At the end of the day, for content to be considered an appreciating asset, it eventually has to produce more in revenue than it cost to create.

Obviously, this doesn't mean publishers should cut corners to cut costs (quality does matter), but at some point, there is the potential to go quality-crazy, creating a situation under which content's ability to pay for itself and more is significantly diminished. In other words, finding the right balance is key.

Spend too much on production, and chances are you're out of business. Spend too little on production, and chances are you'll never have a business.

Multichannel distribution

For many publishers, one of the fastest ways to ensure that content can appreciate in value is to ensure that content can effectively and cost-efficiently be distributed to multiple channels.

Almost every channel provides revenue opportunities, and companies that are prepared to take advantage of multi-channel distribution will find it much easier to create great content that continues to bring home the bacon.

Patricio Robles

Published 3 May, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

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Nick Stamoulis

Some content could be considered an appreciating asset, but not all content. If you want your content to be relevant months or years down the road, it has to be full of solid advice and information that is unlikely to change. Obviously that is easier said than done, but it is possible.

over 5 years ago

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William King

It totally depends on the nature of the topic. If the topics depends on the such knowledge that keeps on changing then the value of your asset will also decrease. But in the same time this content will definitely increase the credibility of your site.

over 5 years ago

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Barnaby Perrin Aldous

In my opinion, a crucial factor on this subject is that search engines are dealing with companies that have content for a purpose, and companies that have content for the sake of having content. Content has to have a purpose, and that purpose must not be simply to attract attention in the short term.

Algorithms are only getting better, and the way to stay afloat is to raise your game. It's fair game to make money through providing quality information, and this is also crucial. To appear well, search engines have to return relevant and quality information. The challenge for them is to sort the wheat from the chaff mathematically, but they do it.

Content created purely for the sake of visibility indicates a goal of simply generating traffic, which in turn indicates a lack of real purpose. Content has to have a purpose, which should be to provide information, and not simply to attract attention (and there are ways of telling by the data left behind). So provide content because you want to provide information, and if you haven't got anything good to say, then don't say anything.

Search engines want to raise the profiles of companies offering customers the information they are looking for, ie: companies doing the right thing. It creates a better Internet, and makes the search engine look better. Working in the interests of search engines by investing in quality content can be nothing other than a key step towards ensuring that search engines work in your interests long term.

Search engines want your good content, and the better your content, the better it makes them seem you, the dear user. If somebody turned up to your job interview in their underwear with a fake CV, would you employ them? Consider the image you give off and how the search engines see you. So invest in bricks, not sticks nor straw, and you'll stand firm through hurricanes.

The wind is picking up.

over 5 years ago

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Software_Index

Just wonder if there are any other examples of websites with contents that appreciate in value?

over 5 years ago

Anuja Aggarwal

Anuja Aggarwal, Online Marketing Consultant at DoRightMarketing

Quality content will always have value. Companies should make a "Content Culture" in their organizations, where knowledge is utilized to develop content that can be useful for prospects and clients. "Relevance" is the key here. If your content offers timely and relevant insights to your audience, then you will achieve your content marketing objectives. Writing just for SEO might get you eyeballs, but no engagement.

over 5 years ago

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Yannis Anastasakis

I think it is both a case of "what you've got" AND "what you do with it".

Looking at the value of content over time is very interesting... And feeling is that content will tend to show incremental value only if you are looking at it in relation to what you do with it.

From an SEO perspective it may serve us to consider the value of content both as a "stream" (e.g. when you constantly update and compound information in a blog) and as an inbound target - with the building of inbound links directly and indirectly to it. If you are wearing an SEO hat you are likely to consider progressively linked and fresh content as something that appreciates in value - especially if the offering remains relevant over time.

From a data mining perspective, it would both be possible to see it as declining in value (if you were looking at content that becomes older) and increase in value (if you are using it in conjunction with newer content to form more established trend information).

Your thoughts on cost and multichannel distribution are spot on - and got me thinking of content recycling an re-use in the context of the RFP processes (huge business in the travel industry), as well as re-creation of content in an international, multilingual market. Again, it really seems to be a question of what you do with it.

Possibly there are as many answers here as there are ways to use content... definitely an interesting point to consider in any e-strategy plan - thank you for the thoughts.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

It's an interesting area/debate. I think it does depend a bit on what you define as 'content'.

For example there is a lot of 'technology' (e.g. various web or mobile apps, or games) that you could reasonably describe as a piece of tech IP, and therefore amortize, but which is also 'content' or, indeed, 'marketing'.

We at Econsultancy amortize our investment in our website platform tech which I think is reasonable. However, if you look at the Red Friday 'marketing campaign' we did (see http://econsultancy.com/red-friday - now closed) most of the actual cost/work in doing that was building the tech platform to support it. So can you get marketing that doesn't hit your P&L..? Maybe.

I don't think it is realistic to amortise content like Demand Media do. That's just a way to inflate profits. Some content may appreciate in value but I think you'd just have to value that as 'goodwill'.

On the other hand I do think that strong organic search rankings, which typically *result* from great content, sustained over time, are very valuable and should be recognised as such in valuing any business because they are a barrier to entry to competitors.

over 5 years ago

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Karin Beuerlein

I have to laugh--I rarely see any publisher going "quality-crazy" and paying too much for content! (If you know one of these publishers, please introduce me.) If you want smart content that has staying power, hire a good writer and pay fairly based on the content's value over time. Demand Media, I'm talking to you.

over 5 years ago

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Tyler DeWitt

Content does appreciate, it does require a lot of up front work. However, it most certain pays off years down the road. I have client's that have never bought or built a link into their site. And they are getting 60,000+ visits per month due to their site age.

We are actually working on a new business venture. That will require a lot of capital. This is one of our main strategy is to create invaluable content that will appreciate for years to come. Then eventually monetizing these web properties for profit.

over 5 years ago

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