Context is more important than Content

“Context is more important than content.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

What keeps bringing us back to the websites we love? Is it the beautifully designed header images? Does that design make us feel more like we have a design ideal? Maybe it’s the witty writing of our favorite poster?

No, it’s all about content. Or, so we’ve been told.

Fresh content no longer guarantees more views

We keep going back to our favorite websites because they always have fresh new content. We check our Facebook feed for new content. We check our Twitter feed for new content.

When was the last time you went on Twitter to find an old post? You ended up scrolling through the newest content instead didn’t you?

We don’t care about historical information. We want to know what’s happening now!

We’ve been hearing that content drives users to websites. For a while we had a hard time finding the websites with the content we wanted. Then Google came along and created an interface for us to get directly to the content we’re looking for. Google even ranked the results by helpfully placing the most linked pages at the top of the search results.

Now that we can find the content we’re looking for, and there’s so much of it, we’re suddenly more interested in the content creators than the content itself.

If I can get the same content from Bill and Suzy, I’m going to get the content from the person I identify with, respect, and believe in.

I love Paelo. If I know Bill is crazy about Paleo and I know Suzy isn’t, I’m going to go to Bill for my content.

How transparent is your supermarket?

Before I go on explaining the content versus context debate, allow me to make a comparison between websites and supermarkets.

If we don’t know exactly where our food comes from we don’t know which supermarket to support.

We venerate food when we know it comes from a sustainable source. It seems to just taste better when we know it as been grown, produced, and cultivated ethically.

We can get the same kind of food from all the other supermarkets around our house. But we do the extra research to find out how the food is made, how it gets to where we are, and who is affected positively and negatively by our food consumption.

Supermarkets that go out of their way to provide us with a narrative of how they grow their greens, how they bring them to us, and how much of a carbon footprint they require, get our business.

Shoppers vote with their dollars

Armed with this information we vote with our dollars by buying produce from locations that avow that their goods harm the world as little as possible.

This production and transparency of context gives us the ability to vote with our dollars and support those businesses with the most sustainable and ethical business practices.

We are seeing this context over content shift come to the websites we choose to visit because these websites are front-facing stores for our money, our ideals, and who we identify ourselves with.

This craving for transparency about where our food comes from bleeds into all of our social and economic outcomes. We vote and tally our beliefs by our actions regarding what we use our money to buy and support.

Users vote with their attention

If your users don’t know who you are, why would they choose you over your competitor? If the difference between your products and your competitors products is minimal you absolutely need to differentiate yourself.

The easiest way to differentiate yourself is to tell your story. What makes you different? Narratives must be lived to become fact.

We know you have the content, what’s your context?

What’s your story?

Author: David Neely

Professional Software Developer. Technology and Web Coordinator at the University of Hawaii's Manoa Career Center.