John McCann

You are in the content business!

In Content business, Content workers on April 4, 2006 at 11:51 am

An article in USA Today reports that Hollywood is starting to offer downloads of its newer movies at the same time that it makes them available on DVD. The article ends with a quote about what this represents on a larger scale:

"The smartest people in Hollywood realize that they are not in the movie business; they are in the content business," says Shelly Palmer, author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV.

Looking at a business in a broader context is now a standard way for executives to begin to understand how they can expand and/or break out of their normal way of doing business. Once the studios recognize they are in the content business, they can move beyond the structures and strategies of the movie business.

When I read this article I was struck by the question: Who else is in the content business? This question led me to a line of thought that produced insights that surprised me.

  • If a movie is content, then so is a television show and a music recording. In fact, all recorded entertainment is content.
  • If the movie "My Fair Lady" is content, is the theater production of "My Fair Lady" also content? Does something have to be recorded onto some medium in order to be content? No, a live performance is also content.
  • So entertainment in all forms and formats is content, including concerts, plays, nightclub performances, etc.
  • Newspaper and magazine stories are content.
  • All written communications are content, including letters, instant messages, and memoranda.
  • Radio programs are content, as are podcasts.
  • All spoken words are content, including telephone calls, sermons, conversations, college lectures and corporate presentations.
  • Software is content, including entertainment software (games, etc.), business software (Microsoft Office, etc.), and web pages.
  • Content includes all expressions of knowledge.
  • Most content is private to the individual, family, group or organization.
  • All white collar workers are content producers and/or managers. They produce content by their daily work and they manage the content that they and others produce.
  • Content is located, combined, created, refined, stored, protected, communicated and displayed.

The most surprising insight, at least surprising to me, is that all white collar workers are Content Workers in the sense that they work with content in their daily jobs. Their organizations may not be in the content business, but they are when they talk on the phone, participate in meetings, prepare and deliver a presentation, find content produced by others, send an email message, write a memorandum, etc.

I now see that I was a Content Worker (CW) when I designed and tested new products as an engineer, prepared and taught college courses, did research and wrote papers, consulted with corporations, etc.

This insight allows me to see the Participation Age through a new lens, and I will be writing about what I see in future posts.

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  1. […] In an earlier post titled "You are in the Content Business," I concluded that all white collar workers are Content Workers (CWs). As Content Workers they locate, combine, create, refine, store, protect, communicate and display content. In this work, they use Content Tools (CTs) such as computers, networks, software, hard drives, DVDs, phones, mp3 players, video devices, cameras, camcorders, PDAs and other digital technologies. […]

  2. […] When I started this blog, I had been using these remarks (along with hundreds of others that I collected in the 1990s) to help me explain the nature of the networked world and why it was so important. Only in the last few weeks have I been able to recognize that one implication of the trends is that a large fraction of the workers in the developed world are content workers. […]

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