“Premium Content” is the wrong name – will be called “Niche Content”

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Image by neonihil via Flickr

This week was internet week. I listened to a lot of media companies talk about “Premium Content” but I’m not sure that this is the right vernacular anymore.

Large media companies establish businesses on the basis that they can create an entire line of “premium content.” Information that is assembled, curated, and distributed with a stamp of approval – that stamp is the company brand name. There is a lot of value to this process, but I don’t buy it, at least not in today’s world.

If I had to choose between reading content written or produced by a “big name media company” or by someone I know and trust, or someone who has a community vouching for that person’s character, credentials and opinions, and someone (or a group of people) that focus on very specific topics and are experts in those topics, I will always choose the latter. (If I could do both, that would be killer – and is a viable business opportunity in my opinion)

I was riding the NYC subway yesterday and saw a quote for a book review. It said something along the lines of:

“An ultimate matchup between….You can’t put this down, it’s one of its kind” – The some city Post

Really? Why should I care that this newspaper, a newspaper from a city I’ve never even been to before, gave the book a rave review? Who cares?

What I really care about is the person that gave the review. I want to know who that person is. I want to know what that person has done and why they are entitled to speak on behalf of some newspaper. If that person’s opinion matters so much, I should be the one to decide.

The future of “Premium Content” will be created by small groups of people and crowds. People with a passion for niche topics, and those people will intently focus on that one topic. They will become businesses unto themselves. The community will provide the seal of approval and the “big name media company” will matter less, unless their businesses change – to businesses of small, relevant, meaningful “niche content.”

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  • You're spot on Dan. I'm now amazed that the majority of the content I consume is not “premium” content. Its Twitter feeds, mashups on HypeMachine, videos of talks, blog posts like yours, etc. I don't even want to call it UGC, since that is more reminiscent of cats playing piano. The approval stamp of a big media company doesn't mean anything to consumers, however, it does still mean a lot to media buyers.

    Granted, for my entertaining video content I'm still relying on professional content — HBO, Bravo, etc.

  • Wouldn't that be the day when HBO, Bravo-like content is produced en-mass?

    Hard to see that happening, which is why I'll gladly pay and rely on
    professional video content.

  • Dan – this is a great posting. It is amazing to see how disconnected the media buyers are from the consumers. Having spent years in consumer research, I know consumers will find the content that is relevant and is produced by people that know their areas of interest. The mid-tail of the internet is rich with high quality niche sites that are all owned and operated by category connectors, those people that actually care (live and die) about the category (or niche) that they write about. The visitors to these sites are engaged and care about what the head voice on the site is saying, but they also join in on the discussion via comments or sharing content.

    I can't tell you how many media buyers are doing their customers a disservice by defining 'Premium' as the comScore top 100 sites, because they know it is safe and they know it looks good.

    Well, the consumer that really cares about photography or a home workshop or a small business owner trying to save money, they all care about the content and how useful and engaging the content is. They don't care about the site design or if the site is in the comScore 100.

    Media buyers need to wake up, or the brands that hire them need to take over and get back to the true brand marketing strategies that they are using offline.

    Great posting!

  • Jim, you and I both know its only a matter of time before the current “media buyer” mindset changes…

    Unfortunately, we don't know how long that will be.

  • Great post.

    The thing that will keep “premium” being labeled and packaged in this manner is the fact that it is still very much edited content. Brands need to ensure their ads are next to content is appropriately filtered through a corporate screen.

    The more you disaggregate it to the author level, the close you get to user generated content, which is the exact opposite of premium right now.

    Looking at it from this view is why it will take so long for media planners to justify buying in this manner.

    If large media companies can find that sweet spot that drills down to the personable level, but keep it edited enough for the media planners to explain to their boss that it's “premium” – they'll buy.

  • Great post.

    The thing that will keep “premium” being labeled and packaged in this manner is the fact that it is still very much edited content. Brands need to ensure their ads are next to content is appropriately filtered through a corporate screen.

    The more you disaggregate it to the author level, the close you get to user generated content, which is the exact opposite of premium right now.

    Looking at it from this view is why it will take so long for media planners to justify buying in this manner.

    If large media companies can find that sweet spot that drills down to the personable level, but keep it edited enough for the media planners to explain to their boss that it's “premium” – they'll buy.

  • I think its less about finding the “sweet spot” and in the future, will more about finding the “sweet process” (at least for the larger media companies).

    Its the reason companies like Demand Media, and AOL's new strategies are popping up. Still think there could be a better approach.

    Think verisign but for content.