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Steve Rubel – The Content Imperative

There are now a billion people on Facebook, and social media has arguably reached mass adoption. The sheer volume of content created and shared can be daunting, and as a result, it appears that we’re seeing a shift from mediocre content produced to go viral to higher quality premium content that stands out from the noise.

Does this signify an evolution of the social Web, and do you think content will always be king?

I don’t think it’s an evolution of the social Web but rather an evolution of supply and demand. I tend to look at this very simplistically, which could be to a fault. Let’s call supply “quality information and content” and demand “attention or appetite for that content or time with that content.” Somewhere in between fall marketers.

In the pre-Internet days, the demand for content was high, and the supply was limited. There were few options because the cost to produce and distribute content was high. The evolution of the Internet in the 1990s increased the number of options but not to the degree that it outstripped demand, so demand for content increased. People were spending more time with information. Supply was increasing but not so far ahead of demand. They increased in unison. So there was enough to benefit everybody.

The key trend is the supply and demand issue: the supply of content choices and the demand for that content. That’s what now seems to be inescapable and accelerating

Then the social revolution happened, and content has exploded, particularly in the last six or seven years, not just because of social but also because the overall costs involved in creating a content operation have dropped. So content exploded with options vying for attention and into micro-niches. There are also multiple players in the same major niche. Time and attention for content has increased as well because we have pockets of time we never had before where we use our cell phones, for example, to get it.

The problem is, supply of content is increasing so dramatically, including from brand marketers that have decided to go direct. So that has to be reconciled. The only group that benefits is readers or viewers. They have lots of diverse sources they can choose from, but for the companies that make their money on content, that can be problematic due to competition. The marketers are depending on those companies to deliver some sort of scale of audience. That can be difficult. No one outside of readers or viewers is immune, so everyone has to work harder now at how that gets reconciled.

That is what’s going to set up the next wave of growth in the PR industry. More and more, the media companies are saying bring us your content and pay us, and we’ll amplify it in a very significant way that we didn’t do before. It’s an outgrowth of a historical model that worked well in print and TV, and is now going to become the norm in many media companies.

At the same time, it’s disruptive because of the way it is accelerating, but it’s necessary to align the interests of the marketers and the media companies in scaling. Whether or not it provides any value to the audience remains to be seen, but that’s the next wave. The key trend is the supply and demand issue: the supply of content choices and the demand for that content. That’s what now seems to be inescapable and accelerating


Steve Rubel – Chief Content Strategist, Edelman PR

Steve Rubel is Chief Content Strategist for Edelman–the world’s largest independent public relations firm. In this role Rubel is responsible for creating and cultivating best practices in content strategy and for piloting innovative media partnerships that blend paid, owned and earned strategies. He serves as a strategic advisor to both the firm’s Executive Committee as well as its clients.

While with Edelman Rubel has served in a number of senior advisory roles. He helped evolve both the firm’s thinking and strategy around the rapid advance of social media and, more recently, disruptions in the broader media landscape. As part of his remit, Rubel publishes regular reports that are based on in-depth interviews with executives and thought leaders in the media, technology and entertainment industries. He also represents Edelman on the World Economic Forum’s Media, Entertainment and Infor- mation Industry Partnership.

Rubel is one of Edelman’s most visible industry thought leaders. He has written a monthly column for Advertising Age since 2006. Further, he was one of the first market- ers picked to join the LinkedIn Influencer content network. He is followed by 80,000 on Twitter.

Prior to joining Edelman in 2006, Rubel worked for 15 years in a variety of market- ing communications positions in corporate, non-profit and small/mid-sized PR firms. He joined Edelman in 2006 from CooperKatz where he lead some of the earliest social media programs in both consumer marketing (for Vespa) and in corporate reputation (for the Association of National Advertisers).