A coup d'etat on content
On the Internet, content is no longer king. Instead, web surfers rely on aggregators and the like to determine where to point their mice.
"Content is king" is a recurrent cliche among those with dreams of writing a popular blog, achieving meteoric success on YouTube or launching a profitable website. But is this cliche valid in the Web 2.0 world of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, where taking in the information uploaded to the Web every day is mission impossible?
"In a world where there were three television channels, or five daily newspapers, content was king to some extent," says Ido Hartogsohn, a Ph.D. candidate in communications at Bar-Ilan Univeristy and author of "Technomysticism: Consciousness in the Age of Technology" (in Hebrew, Madaf Press ).
"A group of excellent writers or an especially successful program was worth its weight in gold," he says. "The rise and fall of communications media depended on them. [Now] access to an unlimited amount of news bites on the Internet and video on YouTube moved the center of gravity from media creators to aggregators," software or Web applications which collect syndicated Web content.
But the Internet is precisely the place where content is coronated, according to Nadav Saadia, manager and editor in chief of culture website Flix.co.il.
He says that "people understood that on the Internet as well, it was impossible to be satisfied with manipulation alone; content had to be backed up and justify itself. It might be trash and it might be a 10-part Internet documentary. As long as it holds up and it has good content, it has the right to exist."
Nevertheless, Steve Rosenbaum, founder of Magnify.net, believes that the time has come to dethrone content. In his article, "Business Insider," he offers a new king: curation (a term usually associated with museum collections ). In an interview with Haaretz he explained that curation occurs when each one of us passes on links via Twitter, uploads photos on Flickr and short videos on YouTube, to distribute them among friends.
But this is only part of the picture. The second half is composed, he says, of more professional websites like The Huffington Post or the Daily Beast, which combine original content, YouTube videos and other material.
"Today the Internet is the distributor, and I have the same ability to reach an audience as the NBC network," Rosenbaum says.
Not everyone agrees with Rosenbaum, and there are those who criticize his article as merely advertising for his own company, where the concept of curation takes center stage. But that's no reason to discount his words.
Israeli Internet veterans agree that "content might be king, but a tired one," according to blogger Gadi Shimshon (http://blog.orange.co.il/arspoeti ).
"It's not for nothing that complex reports essentially composed of referrals to eight cool things or eight interesting photos are the ones that receive the highest ratings," he says. "This kind of curation is a type of content. Sometimes it is more important than the actual content itself. Because there is a ton of content."
Israeli Internet content, he says, does not fit the rubrik. "Most of it is still produced using methods a decade old. Most communications media in Israel focus on the production of relatively cheap content. Therefore, very little is extraordinary. But it's a fact that people make do with it."
Israeli media firms, he adds, still expect Web surfers to reach their site. But here too change is taking place, albeit slowly: content is increasingly coming to the user via friends on Facebook, Twitter or similar services.
Of course it is difficult to build successful niche sites for a population as small as Israel's. But that hasn't stopped many people from trying. Hannah Beit-Halahmi is one of those who believe in content. She founded the Second Opinion site (http://2nd-ops.com/ ) with Esti Segal, who like her is a veteran blogger.
"In Israel people think in stereotypes, in molds," Beit-Halahmi says. "It's a really strong trend in society, also with respect to topics like the Gaza flotilla or segregation in ultra-Orthodox schools in Immanuel; people are satisfied with superficiality. There is a need for quality content. What has changed is the method of distribution. Once the tough, red-headed librarian in the Histadrut union office in Ramat Gan would supply me with book summaries; now I open Twitter or Facebook and anonymous friends offer new material."
At the end of the day, everyone agrees that there is a place for quality content, but aggregators and recommenders have a more important role.
Whoever wants to flourish online has to know how to stay afloat in an ocean of content.
"The myth of YouTube, that you can bring a camera, shoot a clip, and tomorrow you'll be a star, is still possible and it happens but it is becoming harder," says Saadia. "The young Israeli women from Ashdod with a clip of the Pixies 'Hey' would get 200 views [today]. If you want the material to float you have to sneak something in or ride a trend at the same time and do it well."