Content as Product Worth Paying for

Last week, we talked about digital products as evolution of content.

This week, I'd like to go the other way and focus on content readers deem good enough to purchase.

On the bookshelves

In addition to buying books because they inspire us — poetry, the classics, art, design — help us communicate — language phrase books, dictionaries, proverbs — and make sense of things — mythology, aphorisms, stories in general — we buy books for the pleasure of immersing ourselves in narrative.

The Harry Potter series (by 2011, Rowling had sold about 450 million. Source: ABC News), The Hunger Games were born as characters on a page before getting onto the big screen. Remember Gone with the Wind? It defined an era.

We buy do-it-yourself kind of books, including recipe books, and books on appreciating wines and spirits. Even when we go online to find good recipes, the collection in one place makes sense. My go-to recipe book is The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. I like to write notes in the margins.

Finally, we buy children's books. Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat has sold 7.2 million copies, Green Eggs and Ham 8.1 million copies, and Beatrix Potter The Tale of Peter Rabbit sold 9.3 million copies. Some sources list The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry at a startling 200 million, while other list it at 80 million.

Fiction can teach us a lot about interaction, in addition to teaching us how to tell stories. Business School students could use some solid fiction reading to help with presentations.

Content as a product worth paying for

We are still willing to pay for content that entertains us, that helps inspire us and be creative, that teaches us something important, and that has shelf life (no pun intended).

On the supply side, the rise in popularity of long reads, and well designed/interactive essays. The New York Times has been experimenting with interactive formats.

It produced the article “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” about a deadly avalanche in the Washington Cascades, which combined nearly 17,000 words of text with online video and graphics that illustrated the disaster and explained the science behind it, creating an immersive experience for the reader.

We seek the immersive experiences. Digital has brought about more opportunities to create three-dimensional environments and contexts rich with storytelling we can lean back or into, as we choose.

Mr. Branch, 45, a sports reporter for The Times, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and gave credit to the more than 20 people who contributed.


Imagine beyond content destined for inbound marketing to content products that help us connect with the services and objects we purchase.

Some companies have created interactive brochures and fun promotional ones, like those of the new VW Beetle and Mini Cooper (they have an iPhone app, too). How would you transform the car manual into a social and cultural tool that is part of the ownership experience?

With digital, we are getting closer and closer to being able to buy stories curated and (potentially) designed for us, if not by us — in the same way as online retailers are opening stores to sell you shelving systems designed by you.


Next week, I'll have more on video, images, and some thoughts on the million dollar question, which is how do you get your good content discovered?



Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.