An interesting two-part article in Paid Content entitled "Traditional Ways Of Judging 'Quality' In Published Content Are Now Useless" really provides an important lesson in context.

In the article, the author blithely lists four characteristics of quality that he dismissively labels as "Publishing 1.0," the stuff of "old media traditionalists," because in his view, they simply don't matter anymore. Consider his list:

1. Credentials (that's right, your brand)

2. Correctness (yup, we're talking about plain old accuracy)

3. Objectivity (forget facts, it's all about feelings)

4. Craftsmanship (apparently doing a good job is old-fashioned too)

Basically, this article wants you to believe that readers don't care if the article comes from the New York Times  or Joe's Blog. Factual correctness? Well, the author's stance is that since you can quickly and easily correct your mistakes online, there's no harm in getting the initial story wrong. As far as objectivity goes, why bother? Readers look at lots of content, not just yours, so they'll figure out if you are biased or have an agenda. Craftsmanship? Well, the author believes quantity trumps quality.

I could spend pages rebutting this nonsense, but the real question is "who would write something like this?" I dug a little further, and determined that the author runs a website called Wetpaint, an aggregator of what appears to be largely entertainment-oriented blogs. And therein lies the answer. Our author isn't wrong; everything he says makes perfect sense in a world where you are concerned about content such as "Warrior Cat Clans 2" and "Zombie Survival and Defense." It's an issue of context.

Even at this late date, online remains largely uncharted territory. It continues to evolve and change. That's very destabilizing, and it naturally makes us eager to take ideas, insights and business models from those who have found online success. The caveat, of which this article is a perfect example, is that context matters. Things that work in the consumer sphere tend not to translate well in the B2B world. Things that work in one specialized arena usually aren't universally applicable. Ideas that work for newspapers aren't likely to help data publishers. Ad-based sites have different objectives than subscription-based sites.

I'm not asking you to tune out new ideas. Rather, the next time you hear on an online success story, consider the source. It's not just a question of whether the idea makes sense ... the question is also whether the idea is makes sense for you. 


We are pleased to announce 

 Iain Melville


Iain Melville CEO, Reed Construction Data 


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as our keynote speaker at DataContent 2010.