Music producer Brian McTear was one of the speakers at this past Friday’s TedXPhiladelphia event and he made headlines by proclaiming “Your content is worthless.” Obviously, he’s wrong – in fact McTear’s own experience demonstrates the worth of content, and is a valuable lesson for content marketers.

Riffing off the “content is king” cliché, McTear said “community is king.” However, it should be obvious that there is no community without content; people won’t come together if they don’t have information to share. While it’s true that just having content is no longer enough, it still needs to be the baseline of attracting and engaging the community. It is true that McTear’s content  – music – is “worth less” than it used to be; but that doesn’t make it worthless. It just means he needs to explore new models to make his organization viable in the marketplace. And, he is.

worthless content

McTear’s nonprofit music incubator Weathervane Music initially attempted to deliver content (music) the old fashioned way – they produced and released it and hoped it would catch fire. It never did, at least in part because the world of music is very crowded. But then McTear had success by doing something different – releasing the recorded tracks through another site that allowed the audience to remix and manipulate it however they wanted. The audience ate it up, spending hours and hours playing with the tracks.

Same content, different delivery.

Now, McTear’s content is actually proving its worth under this new model; really, he was just presenting it the wrong way previously. Now that he is delivering it to the audience with a different expectation and the opportunity to interact with the content in a different way, he’s winning.

It’s an update on a model McTear might be familiar with – the Grateful Dead business model. The Dead created a legion of hyper-engaged fans by giving away their content – the music, which they allowed fans to record at concerts – and selling the experience that surrounded the music. Not only did they build a monstrous, rabid community, they also made a pretty hefty fortune doing it. Without the music, there is no experience, no community.

Organizations that embrace content marketing realize full well that they’re not going to be able to build a business based upon the content alone. They’re seeking to build an experience around their brand. By creating informative or entertaining content, they’re attempting to fuel the community that McTear says is king – and they know they can’t do it without content that drives dialogue.

Organizations that create content, release it into the market and then sit back and wait for it to take off are going to struggle (looking at you, news media).

Organizations that realize content is merely the start of creating the experience and that focus resources on building a closer relationship with their audience are more likely to succeed. A great local example here is Technically Media, the still-young organziation that covers the business of technology in Philadelphia, and has expanded to Baltimore and Brooklyn [We’re buddies with the founders]. Technically Media took off when it launched Philly Tech Week, which has become a weeklong celebration and exploration of the local tech scene. “PTW” is an experience. More importantly, it creates a level of engagement with the audience that builds the audience, but that also delivers revenues that help enable Technically Media to fulfill its journalistic mission.

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