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Content is Dead

So say financial egg-heads on CNBC



8:17 am on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Just finished watching/listening to some analysts discussing Web properties on CNBC. Basically we tell each other in this forum and others in WebmasterWorld that Content is King and get all warm and fuzzy. But away from Webmaster World what do the guys on Finance-Consultant World think.

You guessed it, they think different from us!

What they were saying is that

"Content is NOT king, and the dot com crash proved it".
"Content is yesterday's world and is DEAD"


"...90% of investment is based on the Internet being a communication medium, and only 10% as a content delivery medium..."

This was expressed very stongly with little challenge.

So this is the way that the financial community and investors are seeing the future of the Web. For sure, the Web should be communication driven, but casting off content? - well that's a new spin to me.

The question is these guys have the money - should we trust them and their prophecies and are they self-fulfilling, or are they the same guys that spun the dot com bubble 4 years before?

Of course it also underlies that the guys that produce like authors and artists die in poverty while those that control the means of production stay in the 5 star hotels and wear the Armani suits (publishers, financiers, ISP's.)

Interesting alternative analysis for the Content Forum I'm sure!

(Sorry this was on the idiot box so no link to the source)


8:33 am on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Interesting thread Chiyo.

I definitly take everything Wall St. suits talk about with a grain of salt. What's about to happen soon in the Gold market will prove the importance of doing that, just as Enron did recently.

IMHO there are very few people worth listening to on CNBC (except for the traders on the floor!)

I guess that's why CNBC stands for:
Commercials, Nothing But Commercials :)


8:40 am on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Hunter - Yep, are the finance "experts" wrong again? Are they encouraging an unrealistic view of the future to encourage investment and a secondary dot com crash? History is the best indicator of the future so they dont look good!

Besides there is not as much profit potential in content as there is in communication/hardware/software. Just look at what we pay for CMS or Blog or News software compared to "communication", Customer Management Software (which mostly has failed badly despite the cost bye the bye), and related software?

Then again is it us who are wrong, in our little worlds busy making content sites?

OK iid shut up now...


12:30 pm on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

the same guys that spun the dot com bubble 4 years before?

Yep, seems to me you managed to package it neatly in that one line chiyo.

What would be the purpose of a bunch of suits influencing the direction of the web to offer less content? I look to motive here. Note these are still the guys from brick and mortar who know advertising for a 30 sec spot full of load music and skimpy clothing. From the Web Rage [webmasterworld.com] discussion itís obvious to me that even amongst our own weíre tired of much of that.

Not to mention, Iím sure thatís all Google wants to hear right now. Yes, letís throw away content and see whatís left. Itís so silly that they even give airtime to nonsense like that. The motivation behind it intrigues me though and the purpose. I wonder if the world at war has anything to do with this type of thinking? Itís been known to happen before in history, the world takes on a simpler state of mind, because of overload? Music changes, film changes so maybe they feel weíll need less meat and more dessert. Crazy to think about and thanks for bringing it up, love to see how folks weigh in on this one.


1:35 pm on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

It's all a matter of perspective. If you look at it sitting on Wall Street, then you'll primarily have to deal with the infrastructure providers. This is so because they generate an incredible demand for investment money. Building networks is expensive, but can be extremely profitable.

On the other side, if you look who offers the best content on the web, then most of them will never even go close to an IPO, many wouldn't even consider lending money with a bank. How could a finance guy realistically measure the weight of this sector?

What this guy is doing is to confuse the web generated footprint at the stock exchanges with what really happens on the web. Still wrong, but somewhat understandable.


10:13 pm on Mar 29, 2002 (gmt 0)


I struggle sometimes with content. What I have a hard time with is what do people REALLY WANT!

We all offer great content in order to reach our highest success in the search engines and even more so in Google. I have read on and on post after post about people establishing so many keywords in a site so that one would improve their ranking.

How many people here have their content dialed in to their liking, get massive hits, have the search engine ranking they want - BUT - Your stats show short page looks, no more or less business then you had before?

What I love to do is go to a cyber cafe, or the University Library and watch someone do research online for their paper. *Laughin! If you really watch.. look at their mouse (mouse = the extension of their eyeball) and you will re think the way your content is presented.

I think content management, art direction, and marketing HAVE TO GO HAND IN HAND or the lovely content filled site you have will fail.

The question I ask myself again and again is what do people in general really want?

For example - I run a humble hosting business on the side. Some packages are resold and most others are my own servers.

I used to offer a lot of information about my servers, a very very detailed FAQ, tutorials on how Hosting works. This was all the information that big hosting companies offered. However, with all that information and support my sales were very small and not even worth my time.

Why? What did people really want?

So I scrapped the whole hosting site and reformatted it. Simple, to the point, bottom line, basic information. Result? Sales went up, and clients were willing to read the short presented content.

Even though I am pleased with the results, I feel I am selling myself short to those who need my content.. Google? ha!

I guess in writing this I realize that I need to learn to develop a site that provides simple, easy, to the point, yet deep in rich content if I am going to have success in SE like Google, and with content hungry clients.

I just went off on this topic, just did not know where to put this - Chiyo sparked my fire. "Content could be King".



1:58 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

At this point the web is too many very different things for anyone to wrap it up into one neat package and accurately pontificate.

Is the web about content? You bet. That's why I prefer shopping online in many cases over shopping at the mall - the content on the web can be FAR superior. And there will be more and more organizations who realize this and leverage it.

Is it about communication? Of course. Isn't that what B2B is all about? And if there's one place the web shines it's in b2b. It's been a nearly complete revolution inside many businesses and their value chains.

I'd say the web is about knowledge management for the entire human race - but we're in the very early stages, so at this point it's not exactly shining.


2:04 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


good point, what we are seeing now is the beginning, but the fruition that takes place over the next 5 to 20 years will make the belivers on these forums very affluent people.

Regardless of CNBC, this is the cutting edge of the web environment and its evolution into the future, whether by observance of the latest processor on the market. or kick ass content, that makes a small company rule the keywords over a company 100 times its size.

Content Rocks.

Robert Charlton

4:52 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

As I interpret this, and I didn't hear the CNBC story, we're using "content" in two different ways....

Far be it from me to defend financial analysts, but I would guess that the analysts are talking about content itself as a marketable commodity, with a business model of advertising or subscriptions paying for that content.

When we talk about content being king, I believe we're talking about the stickiness of sites... what makes visitors linger on a site that's selling or offering something else, but we're not trying to make money by selling the content itself. That's my interpretation anyway.


5:33 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The web is far too expansive to cover with a generalized blanket.

Funny how the CNBC "people with vision" are so near sited.

Ted, you hit on another good point. I was recently shopping for a digital camera and I found a site that had extensive comparisons. Each camera was run through a complete series of performance tests, and were they thorough! I learned more that I ever though possible regarding digital photography from this one site alone.

The "content" kept me there for a long time... and I have been back several; times since.

This was also a merchant site... and yes, I did buy my camera from them.


6:19 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

"...I'd say the web is about knowledge management for the entire human race..."

Another Tedster gem. Agree totally and beautifully summed up.

Politics and the IT/publishing/corporate/ conglomerates will try for all their worth however to make the Web about "...knowledge management for the entire coporate/industrial/opportunistic investor race..." And if they can't influence the Web, they will kill it.

Smart small guys who do REALLY know how the Web can best be exploited and its true essence can make it difficult for them however. Knowledge, not the stock market and investors made rich through contributing nothing other than shifting money around the markets, entering and leaving stocks with no reponsibility apart from their own selfish financial goals, is really the King!


8:23 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member littleman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

The problem with the all the companies that went bust during the crash was their lack of content (business plan). I was thinking about this as I drove past the beautiful and now empty Excite@home complex [devconconstruction.com] earlier today. These big empty hulks are now littering the bay area with little sun bleached "For Rent" signs futilely hanging off of them.

Web economics are very simple:
$1 -> $0 don't do it.
$1 -> $1 hobby
$1 -> $2 business plan

What is dead, or should be is fluff -- punch-the-monkey, and shiatzu massage parties.


10:40 am on Mar 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

These are all very good points and don't mistake what I am about to say for anything but opinion.

(far fetched analogy ahead)
As I watch my son growing up I can see different phases in his life that seem to jump from one extreme to another.

(relavent content)
Watching everything from civilizations to big businesses to a newly formed interest club you will find that there are limitations and overdoses that have to be realized. This as we all know is called growing pains. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to trends when the telephone first came out but we are still finding trends changing with different approaches of using the phone for business sales.

As far as web pages go the key I believe is being the first one on the block to realize what direction you and your target audience is going in and how to mix as much usable content with customer required communications.

I believe that the analysts may be correct in saying that "content is dead". In there world they have found the limits that people are willing to spend there money on. The fact that a big portion of the internet offers content for free most likely played a big part in that. My goal now is to get enough free content on my page to attract and interest people so they stay long enough to get in a buying mood. Kind of like what papabaer experienced with his cameras. He didn't have to go from site to site to compare cameras that were not on that site. Since he was already on that same site he bought the camera there.

Million dollar question? How much is enough?


10:48 pm on Apr 2, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>I believe that the analysts may be correct in saying that "content is dead". In there world they have found the limits that people are willing to spend there money on. The fact that a big portion of the internet offers content for free most likely played a big part in that.<<

TV shows are free to end users, but that doesn't mean the networks and content providers aren't making money off them.

In my niche (travel information), editorial content can generate substantial revenues--not through subscriptions or download fees, but through commissions on CPA advertising (i.e., affiliate sales). I'm sure the same approach is working for editorial "content sites" in other subject areas where users are interested in buying related products or services.


11:59 pm on Apr 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


IMHO I think what the analysts are saying is that historically, content was King because not many people had it and everyone wanted it. This led to a lot of large purchases of content and distribution companies to capitalize on the demand for content.

However, today, as others have pointed out, content is easier and cheaper to purchase or acquire free so it does not attract the dollar value for a corporate (i.e. purchase the company) that it once did.

This is completely different from saying that your site should have or not have content. I believe that you cannot confuse the two.

So therefore I agree with the analysts in part that content is no longer important as they refer to it in the sense of $$$ rather than the article you might read on a website.

Remember that an analyst is basically valuing businesses and as content has been commoditised then the value of content has fallen and therefore the value of the companies that own content has fallen.


12:43 am on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Welcome to Webmaster World fulcan and thanks for your post. You've added an interesting new perspective to the discussion. I hope others weigh in on this. I believe this is a worthy discussion that chiyo has brought to the table and itís been very interesting to see how itís interpreted.


6:03 pm on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Content is dead. Many content-packed sites have closed down or are in a desperate struggle for survival.

Here in the UK, we had an awesome content-rich site called Popcorn, which had everything to do with movies. Spent millions of pounds on it. It was packed full of movie reviews, features, interviews with stars, trailers etc. etc. The people who wrote the reviews were the best critics in the country, which years of experience behind them.

Everybody in the UK was in awe of this site. To this day it has thousands of links to it at Google. The site won award after award.

I was one of those boring people who said 'Yeh, this is fantastic, but how are these guys going to recover the 100 million of whatever they ploughed into the site?' People used to knock me down on the messageboards, saying it was a world-beating site and I was just jealous.

Well, guess what? It closed down last year. They couldn't afford to pay for their scores of critics, writers, programmers, graphic designers and marketers.

A content-rich site will not make you money. People tend do their research, enjoy your free content, and then return to emailing jokes to their mates. They rarely buy from you.

Look at Encarta and Britannica. They receive millions of hits a week, but are losing money hand-over-foot. They are so desperate for revenue now, that they have flooded their sites with ads and hit you with pop-up after pop-up.


9:54 pm on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Popcorn, what a lovely site [web.archive.org...] though I doubt a site like that spent too much money other than paying the bandwidth bill.

One thing I've always wanted to know is when these companies closed I wish they could give tips on what marketing strategy worked the best even though the overall business model didn't work. I fill like I have to reinvent the wheel every time for a new idea when I could benefit from there tried and tested ideas.

cyril kearney

10:51 pm on Apr 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Have you proved that content is dead or that someone's business plan didn't make sense.

If it cost me .15 cents to make lemonade and I sell it for .10 cents a glass and go broke. Does that prove the beverage industry is dead or that my cost of goods or sales price is wrong?

Is anyone on the Internet making money with content? I think some of the financial newsletters are. I know one publisher that is and doing very well too.


10:33 pm on Apr 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>A content-rich site will not make you money.<<

Wanna bet? :-)

>>People tend do their research, enjoy your free content, and then return to emailing jokes to their mates. They rarely buy from you.<<

Depends on the topic and whether the advertising or e-commerce aspects of the site are targeted toward the audience. (It's obviously a lot easier to generate revenue with, say, a travel site than with a site devoted to medieval French history)

>>Look at Encarta and Britannica. They receive millions of hits a week, but are losing money hand-over-foot. They are so desperate for revenue now, that they have flooded their sites with ads and hit you with pop-up after pop-up.<<

They're losing money for two reasons:

1) Huge overhead.

2) Having to rely on low-paying, low-performing run-of-network advertising for revenues.

Content sites *can* be profitable, but that doesn't mean all content sites will be profitable. (For what it's worth, not all magazine or book publishing is profitable, either.)


1:13 am on Apr 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If content is dead, then let's light the torches and march together on the libraries.

I'm probably a bit different than many of those here. At different times, I've been a teacher, technical writer, and an instructional designer.

A couple of months ago, I began a search to find information about writing good B2B web-copy that was accessible to both readers and search engines.

I came across this website, and I realized that it was time to sit down, read, and listen. Your content here has been quite lively, informative, and engaging. In fact, it's drawn me to regular readership and now posting.

In the case of services, content is a necessary part of turning a prospect into a client.

Buyers want to know that you know your material, that you have experience, and most importantly you can understand their needs and create the solutions they want.

You can only build that credibility through contact with the client. It can be over email, phone, face-to-face, or even through your website; however, regardless of the medium, what you're doing is giving them "content."

Does this mean you give away some information for free to your clients? Certainly. However, if after a short presentation of your services someone can produce the same results you can,then either your field has A) a low-level of entry and a steep learning curve or B) you are an incredible teacher. If A is true, then you are probably in a very competitive field. If B is true, you will make many training professionals (including me) jealous of your kung-fu training mastery.

Does "content" function similarly or different when selling a product? I'd guess that it'd depend on the product. Products that are commodities tend to need more advertising and packaging to make sales where brand/vendor loyalty may be low.

However, since I don't have experience with product-based sites, I may be making some bad assumptions above. If so, please correct me!


4:18 am on Apr 28, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member chiyo is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Thanks for all the comments here. This is a great example of a WMW intelligent discussion with disparate views, and realising that we have to be careful in definitions!

I have to agree with Europe for Visitors. Content IS king - if your revenue stream is as targeted as possible to a specific readership. One of the reasons behind the dot com crash was thet advertisers were not aware of the basis of the Web. It is a natural for targeting specific groups, but when it comes to mass market selling, it is putting a nother "artificial level" on top of the WWW protocol. Long term it wont work.

Second point is I think we are moving into a second stage of the Web. Content is increasingly being sold, not given away free. Many expamples recently. Consumer Reports do it, Wall St Journal do it, as an example of just a couple that are leading the charge. Yahoo will get into it. Slate was just too early, and led by MS arrogance.

The killer of course is that people have to have a reason to use the Web, rather than other media for getting info, communicating, shopping, or whatever. The free and easily accessible content made famous by the Web is what transformed the geek world of Archie, Veronica, Compuserve, Gopher, bulletin boards and WAIS to mainstream.

In order to make the profits that infrastrucural and investment firms want, you need to have eyeballs. And its only content that will bring those eyeballs. Having one without the other, or expecting millions of authors, artists, designers and copywriters to give away their content so that investors can make money on the mode of distribution is clearly illogical. People will soon start heading back to the local library, shopping centre, print newspapers and magaines and the like in droves and we will have a second dot com crash with broadband companies and infrasturcture providers having nothing to service.

We are already seeing braodband co's profits and earnings failing badly. They need content that requires bandwodth - big videos etc. But who is providing compelling enough content that people are willing to pay for? very few i venture

At the same time lightweight is cool again. Mobile content delivery has a thirsty market, and if that sector can work out the right mix between content and the infrastructure to service it before the Web does, well, maybe the dominant era of the Web as the leading internet protocol may well be dead.. and sooner than we expect...


10:36 pm on Apr 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Coincidence? Check out my post at the bottom from a little while ago today:

I think Content is more important than ever (except for when the internet JUST came out). To brick and mortar or non-web based businesses, perhaps what they say is true about communication being more important to commerce for operations. I think in general the client wants content when visiting a webiste - any website. Even the forums, as an excellent tool for communications, would be nothing without the amounts of knowledge that are poured into them.


10:47 pm on Apr 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member eliteweb is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Im surprised to hear people say content is dead. The web and Internet is driven off of content. Maybe me and the Finacials guys have different opinions but hey they do numbers and I do the sites so who knows best ;)


11:10 pm on Apr 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think you need to look at the issue of "content is dead" from two perspectives when considering the analyst point of view. An analyst spends his or her day valuing businesses. Therefore when an analyst refers to "content being dead" what they mean is that the value of the company that owns that content is not worth as much as it was previously. If the value of a content company was $20b two years ago and today it is $200m then yes content is dead from their perspective. Just take a look at the value of all internet companies.

However, I agree with what all have said in terms of the value of your website relative to attracting and retaining customers. Content is not dead. You need good content to continue to attract and reatin customers.

But please all stop confusing the two different perspectives.


7:18 pm on May 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Whether they generate huge money or not, content driven sites are always going to exist on the internet . Most of the clients I have, aren't even interested in generating revenue on the internet, they simply want to educate the public to their product/service.


7:55 pm on May 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If we were to look at the "dot.gone" companies, would we find the vast majority of these sites lacking in "content", in my humble opinion, YES, they lacked "content". They were basically developed for one purpose "generate revenue".
They were what I call "get rich quick schemes".

These sites are what I believe drove the market and what collapsed the market. They are also responsible for shaping our new market. A market which to me is the true intent of the internet, an Information Market.

When was the last time someone opened an Encyclopedia, a dictionary, a map. For me, I can't remember, I simply go to Webster.com or Maptech, or Britannica. If I want to know about certain products, I'll find a comparison. If I want to window shop without dealing with traffic, I'll shop online.

This is called "Information Transfer" and once again we have gone full circle, the Internet is a " CHANNEL of INFORMATION" which was its intended use at it's inception in 1976.

Content is king


8:23 pm on May 14, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think sparrow has Wisniewski syndrome:



12:23 am on May 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks, I resemble that remark!

No not really, I just find it fascinating that 10 years ago we'd check out a book from the library, or go to a shopping mall and endure the traffic jams, or break-out the 20 year old webster dictionary to look up a word.

Today, everything is at your fingertips, if you want it.

Don't get me wrong, I still walk the aisle of Barnes and Noble, if not for the smell of Starbucks, for the sense of self-improvement. I can just choice when I do it now.

You must remember, some of remember the day JFK was shot!


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