Content is King: But what of its Kingdom?

I’m back on solid ground after my week in New York. The City That Never Sleeps.

And neither did I.

Not that I’m complaining, I hasten to add. The trade off for shorter days – and even shorter nights – is the luxury of waving goodbye to routine. Of leaving the minutiae of the everyday at home and exploring. Streets smell different. Accents change. Tipping becomes compulsory.

Excluding the latter (sorry America) New York never ceases to inspire me with its bright lights, in-your-face advertising and movie scene memories. And I’m sure it’s no different for those born and bred in the biggest of apples – if not more so, being surrounded by the trigger points of creativity 24/7.

While I concede I’ll never know, it did get me thinking about the sheer amount of material those who walk down the streets of NY engage with on a daily basis. Shop windows, banners, walled TVs – the list is near infinite as we continue to step into the world of digital. And that got me thinking about a phrase I hear a lot in digital media circles: ‘content is king’.

Make no bones about it: allowing content to spearhead our path into the future is a strategic priority for GDS as we move through 2013. But it’s not just about creating the right content – it’s about identifying the optimal environment to place that content. Or, as it was put far more succinctly at our digital marketing conference, iStrategy: “If content is king, then context is its kingdom.”

As I meandered my way towards JFK Airport in the back of an iconic yellow cab (the vernacular is entirely deliberate), I watched as an advert on the ‘in-car’ TV embodied just that. It was offering discounted tables at a very established restaurant if you could prove you’d landed that evening. A good ad, but was I interested in the offer?

Not in the slightest. And why would I be; I was going in the opposite direction. But was I engaged with it? Sure. I had little else to look at.

Would the vast amount of New Yorkers feel the same? You’d assume so. Despite the glaring fact that they wouldn’t even qualify for the offer, it was difficult to not understand what the advert was trying to do; who it was aimed at and the intended result. It wouldn’t serve its primary objective – clearly – but it had an important side effect: it was engaging.

And so it is in the world of media and events. You have to know the ‘whys and ‘whos’ of your content. You have to research your demographic and understand their wants and needs. You have to know the link between the content you create and the context you place it in. You have to get all of this right…and yet keep it engaging to your ‘unknown-unknowns’; to the audience out there you’re yet to meet.

My advice: Don’t be all things to all men.

At GDS, we’ve shifted our focus onto being more content driven. We’re using our data in new ways to create content that provides exclusive insight to our clients – both existing and potential – and allows them to hit the ground running when they arrive on site at one of our events.

We observe discussions across multiple industries happening right now that both our clients and audiences are a part of, before working with them to create content that pushes those discussions further. We don’t pitch to potential clients like we used to – we listen to them, gather information and build a landscape of content that provides exponential value to their business to work with.

Just like the advert in the back of my cab, we do this because we have the confidence to know our content won’t serve everyone. We don’t want it to. If the New Yorker sat in the back of our cab ignores our advert, then great. Our content works. Our context works. All we need to do it pick up the right passenger.

This is the start of a new content chapter for all over at GDS. Of course, our writers, designers and marketers will play a pivotal role in moving us forward – but the rest of the business is hot on their heels and connecting the dots, fast.

Who’ll rule the roost? For now, only time will tell. But one thing is certain: the king is back. And long may he reign.

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About Spencer Green

Spencer Green founded GDS Publishing Ltd in October 1993 to specialise in industrial, government-led publications for the burgeoning Chinese market. The company launched over forty business-to-business titles, was name-checked alongside Tony Blair on China’s national news as ‘best for Chinese business’, and – following a move into India – deemed to be ‘of national importance’ by the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade. In 1998, GDS Publishing became GDS International and launched its first conference, Enterprise China. The hugely successful Enterprise series of conferences was rolled out across China and Latin America in the next two years. In 2000, GDS International launched its first Senior Executive Summit under the ‘Next Generation’ banner. This became the catalyst for nine years of 25% year-on-year growth... and 40% growth in 2010. In 2011, GDS held over 70 Summits for C-level Executives from a wide range of industries and across the globe, and eight digital marketing conferences. Today, GDS International is determined to become the world’s no. 1 business-to-business media and services company. It’s going to be an exciting journey! Spencer is married to Emily. They have two children, Finlay and Maya, and live in Bristol, UK.
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