It used to be that there was this top down content pyramid in operation (operated by traditional media and the big online players), where the quantity and quality of news / content was controlled by relatively fewer organisations. 

This is changing rapidly, becoming flatter and more diverse (we’re not really interested in the why’s right now), which can either be seen as an opportunity or a threat. Organisations that embrace this change are going to benefit (think Murdoch buying MySpace), so the question then becomes how one capitalises on the opportunity…

Let’s look at some of the key strategic issues to consider.

Diversify your content delivery channels to provide choice to the user…

As we become a society increasingly inundated with information overload, the sheer amount of information that is available to consume is overwhelming and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be getting easier anytime soon.

Many people are starting to move away from the method of browsing multiple content streams to get their content / information fix for the day, to aggregating content in a way which makes sense to them (think Sky+ and RSS). 

As a business, are you offering multiple channels for users to consume your content, and then tracking the effectiveness of each one so that you can make informed decisions regarding the use, consumption and growth of your content in the future?

Understand which side of the content platform you’re on…
Are you going to be offering content, or do you provide a place for user to generate their own content (buzzword alert: user generated content) and then share it? 

Either way, because there is this shift away from massive monolithic portals offering anything to everyone, to niched choice driven content, it’s vital that you understand what you’re offering and how it’s delivered. 

Very few people are doing both well at the same time, so unless you can innovate in that space, it’s probably wiser to start off doing one first, rather than both.

Monitor what people are saying about you and your offering so you see the wood for the trees…

As a business it’s becoming increasingly important to stay abreast of what people are saying about you, and not only through the regular trade press channels, but also online. 

Are you listening to what people are saying online as well as in the traditional press? Do you have radars set up that listen for your brand and the key players in your organisation?

The crowds are wiser than you are…

Offering compelling content, or allowing people to manage their own content, is a better value proposition for the user when they are able to interact and converse with other users. Allowing interaction creates an arena where anyone can add their 2 pence – if something is grossly wrong, incorrect or undesirable, the chances are higher that users will pick up on this and make it known to you.

Are you giving people the opportunity to interact with you not only via telephone but also via the web, mobile and TV? 

Are you taking the time and making the effort to understand what content people are consuming and how? 

Most importantly, when you do have data from your users, are you acting on it?

Extracting value is paramount if you’re going to survive…

The next generation of the web is still primarily about page views (and more recently, RSS impressions), except that this time around, the internet has aged somewhat and the sheer choice anyone has means that it’s probably harder to make a good ROI than it was pre-2000. .

The problem is that as any kind of content publisher, you have to make ROI. This ROI is usually generated when you provide some sort of payoff for the consumer, either because you’re providing them something that they use on a regular basis, or they’re learning something from you that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. This value has to be real, otherwise users will go elsewhere, and all your hard work will be for nought.

Moving forward…

Now the focus is on content niches and owning people’s data, in return for which you own their eyeballs for a short amount of time. 

As a business, are you offering content that is different, niched, useful, provocative and relevant to your consumers? If you’re not, then you’re probably already losing ground to those that are, but more importantly it’s going to be harder to regain that ground in the future.

The consensus seems to be that there are many opportunities to be capitalised on; where vertical niches seem to make the most sense from a content provision and delivery point of view. 

If you extrapolate that further, operationally the two key ingredients to achieving that elusive ROI are being able to execute on opportunities quickly, and being agile enough to react to what your users are saying.