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Faris' Word - 31 May 2012

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Guest Editorial from Faris Yakob, Chief Innovation Officer kbs+
Faris' Word - 31 May 2012


Hello!  It’s Gabby! 
Not really, It’s me, Faris. 
I’m writing a guest editorial, which means I get to write Gabby’s Word for her.
It’s on odd feeling, writing as someone else. Trying on their voice, seeing if you can make them sing. 
Ghostwriters have long made a living taking words from the famous and putting them to paper. 
And, of course, advertising has long spoken for brands – in a very specific, mediated, context. 
Now, the web allows for, and thus seems to insist on, direct, disintermediated connections with customers, prospects, fans and detractors. This, in turn, has created a far greater need for content, as distinct from advertising
Content is something they want to hear; advertising is something we want to say. 
The Cannes Lions Advertising Festival announced their newest category – Branded Content – for 2012, to reflect this rapidly growing sector of the industry. Various agencies [including the one I work at, kbs+] have created new content units, staffed with former editorial types from different parts of the media industry, to service these needs.
So lots of people suddenly find themselves ghostwriting for brands in a new way, in some ways as though the brands were people. 
This is because on Facebook, and to some degree on the web in general, scale doesn’t necessarily provide significant advantages. A brand timeline is structurally the same as an individual one. This provides obvious benchmarks, as brand content comingles with consumer created content, which flows at a very high frequency compared to advertising – Facebook indicates that the average user creates 90 pieces of content a month – and rarely repeats itself. 
It’s a skill we are all learning, borrowing tools from the traditional publishing industry, and learning our own experiences as content creators, curators and propagators. It’s a huge challenge and opportunity for brands and their agents, as brands look to develop more depth and complexity to maintain an ongoing content stream, with immediate feedback as to what content resonates with a community, a chance to operate in near time. The economics of content are inherently unpredictable – as screenwriter William Goldman famously said of Hollywood’s ability to predict blockbusters: Nobody Knows Anything. Fortunately inside the stream we can experiment with much smaller fragments of content that require tiny individual investments, and keep learning as we go.
Previously, the ability to publish content, to make things public, was a privileged act. Only governments, the media-industrial complex, and advertisers could do it. Previous generations were defined in terms of the media the consumed – the MTV generation. Now the people formerly called the audience are churning out content as a function of living, as communication, as a way of creating themselves. This generation is defined by the media it creates, by what content is shares, which provides an ongoing role for brands – people need things to talk about, to share, and that content will earn us a place in their streams, supplementing the positions we can buy. 
If content was once king online, it is now a republic, and all content competes to attract attention, to advertise, in a live market that dynamically allocates attention to whatever it most interesting right now.
So we had better get good at ghostwriting. 
Thanks for the practice, Gabby! 
Faris Yakob
Chief Innovation Officer
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