Content is the new oil. But is it still valuable?

When I moved to Oman in 2012 I was told that the most desirable asset in every organisation was good quality content. I was immediately surprised to find out that Arabic content was not as widely available as I had imagined.
At the same time I was also interested in finding out what type of content was in need. Back then, although it was just 5 years ago, content was a very valuable asset which all organisation, both in the public and private sector, were willing to buy generously. I have heard in a few occasions the phrase: “Content is the new oil.”
One could at this point argue that oil is no longer such an expensive commodity that everyone craves in the pursuit of profit. As the oil crisis came, the whole industry was impacted and as a result, the new oil, at least in the energy field, became gas. The Government of the Sultanate of Oman has wisely invested in gas before the oil crisis started, generating an excellent diversification strategy.
At the same time, the content crisis came too, simply because there is already too much content. Let us look at how we went from scarcity to abundance of content in less than 5 years.
Millennial and Generation Y are ruling the content-sphere. They are those young people that is born with cellphones in their hands and technology to them has never been a mystery. Many of them have started documenting their live at a very early age, through pictures and status updates.
Time goes by so fast, if we think that an 18 years old teenagers at the time when Facebook was launched, would by now have reached his or her 30s.
Time flies. As parents wish a “light” job for their children, nothing offers a better opportunity for combining passion with work than job such as Digital Marketer, Content Producer, Lead Generator, Online Community Marketer etc. None of these jobs existed 10 or 15 years ago. Now there is such an abundance of Digital Marketers that salaries have already been dragged down by tough competition.
A recent statistics in the US found that among the millennials, the average daily time invested in producing content (either written or pictures) is an astonishing 5 hours! That equals to a part time job. What the statistic also emphasises is that such amount of time is often not remunerated. In fact it accounts for the amount of time that a young person spends at the phone sharing their “live highlights”.
Many think they are working by doing so, but it appears as if they are just sharing irrelevant and unvaluable data with other users that are not seeking to buy.
Others have taken the path of helping others. Websites providing solutions on virtually any topic can be found abundantly for any sort of problem. Some users made a life mission in helping others online. Some companies have managed to ride on this wave of “good Samaritans” by extending their customer experience and customer support.
At the end of the day, who does not love to be pampered with attentions? Hence online customer service is one of the most efficient ways to provide very specific and targeted content to the customers.
From such approach, other companies have gone through the process of educating to avoid the problems from arising. And those more keen to interact with their own customers have implemented both strategies. So both before and after we make a purchase, the company can sell us knowledge on how to avoid problems and how to fix them.
So tutorials on how some products work, can also facilitate the purchase for those users who want to know more, but is not ready to buy yet. One step back and we end up in the “unboxing” videos, showing users who have already purchased an item and they are now recording a video of themselves opening the item.
All sort of content can now be found and to a certain extent it has become redundant. For every single topic that pops into our mind, there is an improvised expert that has already written documentation and taken plenty of pictures.
That is how we get to know so much about pretty much anything. But did you notice that no one is paying for information anymore? Or at least much less than 5 years ago, when oil was sold at over $120 per barrel and content was a very rare commodity to find on the market.

— By Stefano Virgilli
— vs.voxlab.net@gmail.com