The content revolution is coming, and it's full of crap

Ian Lurie
How visionaries are born

‘2011 is the Year of Content!!!!’

That’s what the addled woman who smelled slightly of sour beer belched into her cell phone yesterday. We were both waiting in line to get food at the airport.

She said it as if she’d just discovered the secret business success.

She saved me $10, though, because when I heard this amazing quote, I had a blinding flash of insight. Over a decade in business, and I’ve never taken my agency to the promised land (lots of money, or acquisition, or something). Now, I understand why:

I assume people already know stuff like ‘content is important’ and ‘writing is important’ and ‘if your product sucks aluminum bolts, no marketer can save you’.

Apparently, they don’t. So when someone proclaims that 2011 is the ‘Year of the content revolution’, they’re haled as the risen savior of business.

At that point, I lost my appetite and ate my own molars, instead.


OK, if you really don’t get it, here it is:

‘Content’ has been important since your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great ancestor clubbed a close relative and explained themselves by saying ‘ook’. And content drives internet marketing. It always has. Saying it’s revolutionary is like taking a deep breath and declaring “OH MY GOD I’VE DISCOVERED AIR.”

So don’t encourage the goobers who try to tell us it’s a revolution, OK?


If you don’t understand the mind-crushing stupidity of it all, I’m sorry for you. But you might want my new e-book, ‘2011, The Year of Selling Stuff For More Than You Spent To Make It’. It’s coming out in 9 months, and it’s a guaranteed plan for business success!

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. But Ian, if everyone followed your philosophy, the entire industry of self-help, diet and financial prognostication books would collapse.

  2. The people who utter these phrases usually have not used these tactics in their marketing mix before. And since its new to them, it must be new to everyone else too and is therefore groundbreaking. They think they have found some untapped pot of internet gold that will save their crappy product or flawed business model, blindly failing to recognize that their competition has already buried them.

  3. Where can I get your e-book?
    Seriously it is amazing that the basics have to be “evangelized” but this has also been true since that first “ook” some people are uncertain beings and they occasionally (cyclically) need there hands held and to be told they’l be alright.

  4. A refreshing change of pace on the Twitter stream!
    I think my view might be even more cynical, because when I look at the keyword phrases I can make conversions on, I still see a whole lot of junk at the top of the charts – especially when the domain names are matching keywords.
    Some of the higher profile farms might have got knocked down, but this doesn’t seem to reach very far in to the scum at the bottom of the pond (and top of the results, just as often as not.)

  5. I’ve had to purposefully divorce my opinions of people from any of their statements that are not followed by, “No, I actually DO think that,” because so many people (myself included) say things that just flow with the conversation at the time, but we realize in retrospect were actually stupid.
    That being said, I’m totally gonna maximize, optimize, integrate, rule, and transmediate the last 2 weeks of 2011 after I get your book!

  6. Truth:
    One year when I was writing a plan document, MS Word kept suggesting I change “content” to “discontent.”
    This might explain a lot.

  7. I like CM because you often write what I want to say. The annoying part of all this is there are “marketing gurus” out there being paid exorbitant amounts of money for no-brainer platitudes like this.

  8. How do I become one of these touted visionaries? So that I may spew forth regurgitated common knowledge as it if were divine manna direct from the virtual Mount Olympus of the intent God’s.
    Oh the fun I could have with my toga wearing cult of twit’s all retweeting the incredibly insightful words of their all-knowing guru.
    Occasionally I would benevolently reply to their tweets causing near terminal excitement in the thusly blessed individual.

  9. But you wouldn’t believe the number of professionals I run across who will look at me, become puzzled, and say, “Content?”
    Or maybe you would believe it.

  10. My favorite book on engagement, thought leadership and developing a “tribe” as Seth Godin calls it was written by John C. Maxwell and it’s called “Developing the Leader With You.” It was written before social media or even blogging was cool or even the term Tribe or Permission Marketing existed and the words web, internet or online are not mentioned once in the book.
    Case in point: success principles rarely change, just the media and tools have.

  11. Thanks for sharing that overheard conversation, Ian.
    Makes me feel a little less suicidal after my conversation with a client who last week deleted all the blog content on the site because it was ‘old.’ Less suicidal, but I do still want to cry.

  12. @Rob Please don’t take this the wrong way but I laughed out loud at your comment. It was a laugh tinged with despair.

  13. I’m new to the whole SEO field but I have always assumed content was important since without it you don’t have much of a site or business, now do you? But I also understand that sometimes you don’t realize an obvious course of action until someone points it out or alludes to it. Like wasabi at a Japanese restaurant… you see it on the plate every time and you know some people use it but you don’t… then a friend comes along and says “if you put a little wasabi on then it tastes better.” Following that you fall madly in love with it and proclaim to all that they need to try wasabi. Some people roll their eyes at you, “Of course we use wasabi.” Others become afraid, “I still don’t like that paste stuff.” Still others join the bandwagon and proclaim with you “The year of wasabi!” And the remainder smear too much on and destroy their taste buds. Yeah, content is like wasabi.

  14. Not really that surprising when you consider how many social media “experts” there are out there that are experts simply because they have been using the technology for a few years. In that case I was certainly a TV expert by 16.

  15. I have to say I laughed out loud, hard, reading this. It is so true and so funny. As someone who writes content for a living, it is, unfortunately true that a lot of people do not realize they need words on their website…. Thank you for making me laugh after a very stressful day !

  16. Seriously funny rant…
    It’s incredibly how many so called ‘experts’ out there suddenly realise something most people already new for a while and try to turn that into a revolution and monetise on it. It’s specially annoying when people start talking about ‘The year of…’
    So much happens in a year, who gets to say what deserves the title of thing of the year?
    p.s. just found out about this blog.. thoroughly enjoying it….

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