The True Cost of Content

    March 6, 2006

Most content will never show a return on investment. The Web is overflowing with low-quality content. Sooner or later, senior management is going to pay serious attention to all this waste.

An organization that had a 4,000 page public website decided to do a major audit of content quality. As a result, it got rid of 1,000 pages. It didn’t get one single enquiry for the deleted pages. A 100,000 page intranet deleted 60,000 pages. There was not one single enquiry for the deleted pages.

Content is being created in vast quantities today. The vast majority of this content will not cover its cost of publication. In fact, much of this content will deliver negative value. Publishing this filler content is like sowing weeds in a flower garden. The weeds will simply choke the flowers (the killer web content).

In an age of information overload, content management must be more concerned with what you don’t publish. It is easy to put everything you have up. It is easy to take a print document and save it as a PDF. But that’s not management, and those who take that approach have no future as content managers.

The fact that the Internet has low distribution costs can be more a curse than a benefit. Just look at spam. Spam exists because it is so cheap to distribute content.

Spam has many forms. An unnecessary email from a colleague is spam. A poorly written document might as well be spam. A page on a website or intranet that doesn’t need to be there is spam.

Most authors have never made a living from their books. Only a tiny few live well from book royalties. The rest subsidize their writing by having a “day job”. This was the case before the Web. Most web content is not coming near to covering its cost of publication. And yet publishing continues to explode.

Most organizations realize that quality content is costly. What they don’t understand is that poor quality content has an even greater cost. The true cost of content must also include the cost of attention and the cost of action.

People are highly impatient on the Web. If there’s one thing they absolutely detest it’s a website that wastes their time. Poor quality filler content wastes time by taking attention away from killer web content. It gets in the way.

Should someone confuse filler web content with killer web content and start reading it, the costs get even higher. Lots of time will be wasted trying to comprehend the poor writing. At the end, the person will be left confused, not knowing what to do next.

Worse, if the filler content is inaccurate or misleading, then the person may take the wrong action, thus wasting even more time. There is nothing more damaging to your brand on the Web than filler content. The more you frustrate and waste the time of your customers, the more you damage your brand.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it can’t do any harm to publish lots and lots of content. Content is not neutral. It is either delivering value or destroying it. If you want to maximize value, focus on the killer web content and get rid of the filler.

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For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern

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