Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Is Content Really King?

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You’ve heard it before, repeated again and again all over the Internet, as if it were gospel truth: “Content is king.” The problem is it’s just not true.

Content Is King

Photo credit: Kevin Chang (Creative Commons)

Content is not king. Content is a fat, dethroned monarch, dis-empowered of his royal ability to influence. And he lost that power a long time ago.

In other words, your words aren’t enough. I almost wish they were.

Plenty of brilliant writers don’t get the attention their work deserves. Will they eventually get noticed? Maybe… some day.

But why not now? Why not today? Because we’ve been believing a lie.

I said I “almost” wished content was enough, because now I know the secret to why some writers flourish while others do not. It has to do with relationships.

Relationships rule the web

Think about it. This is the Inter-net. The World Wide Web. These are social networks.

This whole stinking thing is predicated on the idea of relationships and connection.

So why in the world would little ol’ you on the couch with your laptop be able to make a difference without stepping one foot into the deep, scary waters of relationship?

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Networking is the best marketing

I used to be terrible at relationships. I thought all I needed to do was write. But I was wrong.

Frankly, I was just scared and lazy. I didn’t want to meet people. I just wanted to write. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. So why would I think for one minute the Web might be different?

Even in real life, it’s not just what you know that matters, but who you know. In business, the best way to promote an idea, product, or service is through relationship.

We all know this, because in the Information Age, when we are all over-saturated with media messages, we don’t buy what advertising tell us to buy. We buy what our friends recommend.

Relationship is why we write

Here’s the bottom line: Without putting yourself out there, your work doesn’t get found.

You have to connect and converse. You must engage. Although that may feel like a hassle for some, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

After all, it’s why many of us got into the business in the first place. Wasn’t it? To relate? To connect? To influence?

If you’ve longed for your words to make a difference and been disappointed with the results, then you had better get started. It’s time to build some relationships.

And please, let’s top believing the lie that content is enough. Sure, it’s a good start, but you’re going to need more than content.

Content is a given

Yes, you need to write. And yes, it needs to be good. But that’s the bare minimum, the prerequisite to making the kind of connections your work was intended for.

Whatever you do after reading this, I hope you stop believing that sitting in a cabin somewhere with a pen and paper is enough to succeed. It’s not.

It may be sufficient to feed your soul, but it’s not enough to sell books, make a living, or even get your words read by another human being.

What you need is attention. And the only way to do that is to get in front of people, to build relationships. To put it in less savory terms, you are going to have to market your stuff.

What does that look like? Simple:

  1. Help as many people as you can.
  2. Give away as much of your work as you can.
  3. When the time is right, ask.

Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? If you do those things, you will be on your way to earning an audience for your content.

People will read what you wrote, because you took the time to get your words out there. Because you did the tough, scary work of marketing.

And maybe that’s not such a terrible thing, after all.

(By the way, for another perspective on this issue, check out this article that advocates for design being king.)

What do you think? Is content king? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://twitter.com/WebWritingStuff Michela G. Andreola

    Hi Jeff,

    I think content and audience play the same role on the Internet and I wrote a post on this a couple of weeks ago. My opinion is that without content it wouldn’t be possible to convey ideas and brands and users couldn’t be reached and stimulated. But without readers asking for content, content would have no reason to exist. Good content generates relationships and sharing. Bad content doesn’t satisfy the readers and makes them click on the “back” button. I would summarize these little thoughts as follows “Build a loyal audience by creating and organizing valuable content”.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great observations, Michela. I like how you said it: we need both.

  • http://twitter.com/rdopping Ralph Dopping

    Thanks Jeff,
    Good common sense commentary. Just as the old adage goes, “Its not what you know but who you know”. Not totally true because the what you know gets you the business but without the relationships the front door will remain shut.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      agreed. you need both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/keri.wyatt.kent Keri Wyatt Kent

    Content matters. Quality matters. But only when that quality content actually gets read does it have potential to begin a conversation that people are willing to stay engaged with. Writing books or articles is exactly that–a conversation with the reader. Marketing what you write is important and necessary, but it becomes more effective when we view it as building a relationship with our readers–who expect quality content. I’ll agree content is not king, but neither is marketing or advertising or design. All are strands in the net we’re weaving to try to capture people’s attention so we can share our message. 

  • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

    I don’t like to say it, but I agree…content is only half the work. But marketing is what you make it and does not have to be as sleazy as some make it out to be. It’s calling out a message, and if your message is your ministry, or your message is life-cultivating, thought-provoking, challenging, by all means–get the word out. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      amen. no need to apologize for wanting to change a life.

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    Jeff, I love how you said content is not king but a prerequisite. I’d never thought of it in those exact terms before, but I agree. Great content is super important — a must, a starting point. Then we best pay attention to relationships (marketing) and the other strands that Keri mentioned as well.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Cheryl. Appreciate your reading and engaging in the discussion.

  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    Such a good point. Content is important but not the only thing. As an introvert, I hate meeting people. I’d rather hole away at home with just me and my laptop. But one of the beauties of the internet is not having to actually “meet” people. Although face to face contact is still totally important, it’s a lot less exhausting to “meet” people online. At least for me.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I think you’re right. I’ve reached out to a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise introduced myself to in real life. The interesting thing is that this eventually led to a real-life relationship (in person and everything!).

  • http://robrash.us Rob Rash

    I do believe content is king but it really depends on whether or not your content is relevant and/or reaching your target audience. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing, Rob!

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    You’re definitely right. I read you’re blog the first time because Michael Hyatt recommended. I read it the second time because you seemed to care about your readers. I keep reading because you are involved. You’re not simply just “writing”. 

    It seems the bigger some people get, the less they stay involved with those who helped them grow. Makes me sad. 

    If you can’t take the time to talk with those who comment on your blog, for instance, what does that say about your relationship skills? 

    Thanks for staying involved. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure, Sundi. I still owe you a guest post.

  • http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/ Sarah Arrow

    I agree, a lot of people say that only by having excellent writing can you build an audience. Yet I have seen average writers build their audience because they understood that writing was not the whole, but a part of.

    Interesting to read the comments here. What about the fact that a writer often writes for themselves and not for their intended audience?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Of course, that’s true. But a lot of writers are liars (myself included). We write for ourselves, but we want an audience, too. It’s a two-sided issue chock full of paradox. That said, if you want to write just for yourself and don’t want any readers (I know exactly ZERO writers who want this), then don’t worry about relationships and marketing.
      However, if you want to write for yourself AND get an audience, you better realign your expectations. That’s having your cake and eating it, too. It doesn’t work, and it’s just plain lazy.

      • http://www.birdsontheblog.co.uk/ Sarah Arrow

        I think being a liar is a pre-requisite for writing,  I always said as a kid – “it’s not lying, it’s imagining it how it should’ve happened” ;), that serves the writer well :)

        • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Not king, perhaps, but count. Count Content. Yep, that’s alliterates nicely. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Immediately, I thought of Chocula.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.bulger Joe Bulger

    Thanks Jeff. Writing as well as you do is remarkable enough. Add being socially relevant and having some marketing chops…  Seems like impossible requirements.

    Then a little shiny-headed dude lit the way.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      shiny head? hmmm…

  • http://twitter.com/ChristyMLambert Christy Lambert

    It is about relationships.  It’s easy to forget that you’re not looking at a screen and writing for the web.  You are writing for the one person who’s reading.  One person at a time.  If you think about your writing as a conversation with one.  It makes it easier to form those relationships.

    • Anonymous

      the problem is, when that ONE that you’re writing for is the only ONE reading… :)

      • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

        You have to start somewhere, right?

  • http://www.jasonvana.com Jason Vana

    Most of the great writers of old wrote for the purpose of changing the world – but that can’t be done if no one is reading your work. Excellent post Jeff. Content AND Relationships/Marketing are co-Kings.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I like what Sonia Simone once said: “If content is king, relationships are queen.”

  • http://twitter.com/jburno Josh Burns

    I agree with you Jeff. And Gary Vaynerchuck makes a point similar to this, although I think you’re making a slightly different point 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      I’ll check that out, Josh.

  • http://thisblankpage.com Timothy Snyder

    I like seeing marketing as building a relationship.  When I think of marketing, one of my first thoughts is selling and personally, I’m not too big on sales.  But relationships, I’m all about that.  Thanks Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      My pleasure. Thanks for reading, Timothy.

  • Theresa

    Love this post. I did start writing to connect with people quite indeed. Having gone through a painstaking process to become more extroverted, I am now actually looking forward to the part where I get to connect. :) First have to get my prerequisites in order though, haha. 
    Please keep writing, I love reading your thoughts!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Theresa!

  • Keli Gwyn

    This is one of the best posts on the importance of content I’ve read. If I was only after content, I’d skip a lot of posts. What drives me to blogs, books, etc, much of the time are the connections I’ve made with the bloggers and authors.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Keli. I agree — me, too. I don’t just want content; I want connection.

  • http://www.nosuperheroes.com Chris Lautsbaugh

    Of course you want a good product, but if that is the case; it should be easy for first time writers to get published. I received advise from a published author about how to submit a manuscript and it was all outdated, you can’t do it that way.

    Relationships are key. In writing, in ministry, in your job. Whatever it is, wherever you are relationships are not dead.

    Community still survives

  • NickZ

    Marketing helps to catch the attention of the readers, but the content keeps them.

  • Jeff

    Jeff…this is great!  I just completed a book about this very topic, although a bit more broad than just writing.  The book is called Bigger than the Widget.  It is about the need for companies to go beyond their products and establish meaningful relationships with their communities (http://www.biggerthanthewidget.com).
    Ironically, my book is just a widget.  By itself it will not spread…somehow it must be bigger.  As such, I am donating all of the profits from the book to The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  My abe my book can spread because it is attached a cause that is much bigger than just my book.  You can read my story here http://biggerthanthewidget.com/my-bttw-widget-story/

    By the way, your blog was sent to me through one of my connections.  The inter-net at work!

    Thanks again!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Sounds interesting, Jeff.

  • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

    I’m conflicted because I know how important marketing is (I sell my book on my website) but if you read a website like http://zenhabits.net/ Leo talks about how content is king and that’s why he has nothing else on his site. Seeing how he has 230,000 subscribers, he must know what he’s talking about. But the question is did he get all those subscribers with just content? This is why I’m conflicted!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      No. He didn’t. He did it by guest blogging like crazy. Download his ebook.

      • http://talesofwork.com kimanzi constable

        I heard a great phrase during #blogchat this weekend, if content is king, then marketing is queen, pretty cool!

  • TorConstantino

    Fantastic observation – the best marketers tend to nurture relationships with their customers and prospects. They also make a ton of “deposits” in their customers before they start making “withdrawals”….great stuff!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Tor. I think it’s very much about deposits and withdrawals. And if you find yourself withdrawing more than you deposit, you’re in trouble.

  • http://hirstmusic.com Mike Hirst

    Fantastic post Jeff! Totally changed my perspective, that’s for sure. Keep up the great work and I’ll be following you.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Really appreciate it, Mike. I’m glad. Thanks for reading.

  • http://twitter.com/Angela_Goff Angela Goff

    Excellent points. I know many aspiring authors who are struggling with this right now, with the idea they’re selling themselves and not their novel. We keep bantering about networking and what place – and how much – it has in our literary aspirations. The amount is probably still up for discussion, but your arguments here are sound. Must forward this on. Thanks for posting!

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Content is a generic cop-out. It is mediocrity wrapped in plain, white paper with a well-used stamp of conformity across its face. It is the pursuit of the lowest common denominator; it is discount fare; it is the least expensive bag of plain potato chips on the bottom shelf.

    I tend to avoid the marketing thing simply because I believe products and services truly worth owning sell themselves. Delivering lasting, meaningful benefit is such a rarity in our post-modern society, we’ve come to consider those random, viral success stories the exception rather than the rule.

    Relationships are the key to it all. I pursue them in all aspects of my own business ventures, but where “marketing” paints these relationships in shades of hucksterism, however positively spun, The Golden Rule reminds me that, when I make the needs of others my priority, it’s only a matter of time before enough of them reciprocate.

    And I’m happy to wait.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Great call with the Golden Rule, Brian. I’ve found this to be especially true in my life. My dad said it like this: “What goes around comes around.” (I am pretty sure he didn’t coin this.) Turns out, he was right.

  • Anonymous

    This is so true!  The writing is the easy part.  It sometimes can be effortless.  The hard part is the journey of making the “right connections”…  Discovering where to find those relationships is the battle.  Do I do it online, in my community or through a mass mailing packet.  I have come to understand that the path that I am on, will lead me to where He intended.  I just needed to realize that I have been on this path my whole life.   Psalms 37:4

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Jennifer!

  • http://www.madebydenise.net Denise Smedley

    Relationships, making a difference, giving back…

    all those things are “king” for writers and every other profession for that matter.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      excellent. well said, Denise.

  • http://twitter.com/ModernReject Nicole Cottrell

    When I began blogging, I resisted social media. I cringed at the idea of being constantly surveyed, inspected, and judged. That’s what social media felt like to me. Little did I know that engaging with my readers, caring about their issues like they were my own, and then responding like a friend would become my favorite part of “writing.”

    I believe marketing flows out of a desire to be excellent. No one cares if you wrote the next Pulitzer Prize piece when you fail to gain the interest of others.

    This post is brilliant because it is honest. Content is perhaps the court jester. It makes you look, laugh, listen, stay a while, but relationship truly is king.

    Thanks Jeff.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Brilliant analogy, Nicole. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I think you make a good point, Jeff. I believe there was a time online when content was king; you needed good content to rise above the all the content flow. Now, with the overwhelming tsunami of information, even good content drowns. The relationships we build online are the markers we use to distinguish good content from bad. Consequently, value shifts from just the content to the  network of real relationships. 

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Beautifully said, Trey.

  • http://twitter.com/BrandonEBC Brandon Contreras

    Agree.  I’m in a relationship based business.  Content is important only so much as it begins to stoke the fire of relationships.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      well said, brandon

  • http://www.self-esteem-tips.com/ Self Esteem Tips

    I think the visual is what captures attention. Content must also be there and must be good content that is easily readable to keep the attention. And please, no auto-anything. Getting music or a video slapped in my face the minute I hit a site is sure to make me leave it without even considering design or content.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      amen to this: “please no auto-anything.”

  • http://victoriagaines.com Vicki

    Love your blog, Jeff. So glad I stumbled upon it recently:-)

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Vicki! I appreciate your reading it.

  • Mark

    Jesus had it right all along. Regardless of the communication tools, it’s all about relationships. Great article Jeff. Blessings!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      thanks, Mark! indeed you did. ;)

  • Jonas Eriksson

    Great post as usual, Jeff. I would say that the online world is shifting towards content NOT being king with every google algorithm change. And with that I mean that spamming and building sites just to make a buck or 50 000, is different. You need to actually give value today to get noticed and in my world that is a good thing.

    Value = showing passion = building relationships = making a difference.

    (And doing it with a smile on your face).

    Keep up the good work. Cheers / Jonas

  • K_Challapalli

    Content being over rated and disappointment with content is due to lack of relevance we are able to create. Content is king! Social Media & digital will be largely driven by content:


  • http://www.alexdoesdigital.com/ Alex Johnson

    Absolutely fantastic post Jeff. I remember reading this post before but stumbled upon it again and had to say something this time around!

    Like you say, it’s so easy to trick yourself into thinking by posts regularly with ‘quality content’ (how can you even define that?) that it’s just a matter of time. You only grow by making connections in the offline world, so why is it any different online? Anyway, great stuff!

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