Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott pushes information aside in favor of context, meaning, and above all, time.
This post is inspired by an article I just read in MarketingTech News – The new publishing economy: how platforms will shape the industry in 2018 . It’s a decent read, pointing out to my surprise that The Daily Telegraph has been messing with the internet for 25 years. However, while the title of the article talks about platforms, as lots of folks in the publishing industry do right now, the underlying take away for me was about the criticality of context.
In particular this phrase:
“…the simple truth that where mere information is cheap and plentiful, context and meaning are more valuable than ever.”
Which comes from WIRED’s decision to introduce a pay wall, which they explain here , opening with:
"In the first issue of WIRED, published 25 years ago this year, founding editor Louis Rossetto declared that “in the age of information overload, the ultimate luxury is meaning and context.”
You can understand why someone looking to monetize their quality content would want to describe it as “the ultimate luxury”, to differentiate it from the free shit and half arsed opinions (like mine) that it competes with. However, while Rossetto is right to describe context in such glowing terms, in my opinion the actual ultimate luxury is time .
The meaning and context which is brought to content by its publisher, such as WIRED magazine (or any publication investing in journalists to research and write quality content), saves us time as content consumers.
If you are interested in a topic that is covered by WIRED, you can be assured that an article will be well researched and written to a decent standard. If you are a fan, you like what being a WIRED reader says about you, you identify with the publication, and you have the reassurance that it is consistently written for people like you.
Perhaps, you will happily quote from it and share its content on social media, in the same way we’d have a printed magazine on our coffee table to make a statement when guests arrive. We share what we think people like us will like and what makes us look good.
Finding this information for yourself, shifting through the bullshit and opinion to settle on a point of view that you enjoy, agree with and believe in, and that you would share with friends, would take you time. Being a WIRED reader is being part of a community, finding communities of people like you takes time.
Of course, the magazine reading experience is not about “finding” it is about the serendipity of being offered content that you did not know, but something which you think you will like, you are trusting WIRED to deliver something stimulating, possibly to fill 15 minutes of waiting for something else.
Trusting WIRED to deliver this content saves you time - why spend that 15 minutes swiping your way through the internet hoping for a decent distraction when a WIRED article will do the trick? But, you will only trust WIRED to save you time if its content has meaning and context – specifically if it understands your context.
Writing for a reader’s context is a challenge and the biggest challenge is not always understanding the reader, but to have the discipline to remain true to this understanding.
Often to appeal to one community of readers, you need to ignore another community. The very fact that someone really likes the something different about your content probably means that someone else doesn’t like that difference, but if you were to aim your content squarely in the middle of these two opinions, you would miss the context of both, neither would love you and your banal middle of the road content would waste their time.
I realize that this post has (to be honest, unintentionally as I have no insight or connection with this publication) focused a lot on WIRED, but if we take a journey back to the beginning, you get a real understanding of the context of the reader that WIRED was aiming for when it was founded in Rosetto’s manifesto which really deserves reading in full, but features lines like this:
“…because the computer ‘press’ is too busy churning out the latest PCINFOCOMPUTINGCORPORATEWORLD iteration of its ad sales formula cum parts catalog to discuss the meaning or context of SOCIAL CHANGES…”
It’s a very purposeful statement of intent of who WIRED was written for.
In a world where information is free and plentiful, context and meaning are indeed more valuable than ever, but the currency of that value is time.