King for a Night... or Schmuck for a Lifetime?


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I've always been intrigued by the underdog-an interest I inherited from my father. My dad was always taking one under his wing, despite the fact that everyone else had kicked that same underdog to the curb. Consequently, my childhood was crowded with a cast of fascinating characters whose passions and dreams were indulged thanks to a generosity of both checkbook and soul from my father.

My dad's love of the underdog even extended to his choice of sports teams. In 1972, the Texas Rangers moved to Dallas, and he and I spent hundreds of sweltering summer afternoons hoping that the Rangers would-if not win-simply not lose by double digits. When my father passed away last year, the Rangers' underdog status remained intact, as this was a team that had won only a single playoff game in the history of baseball.

But then, one day last October, we looked up and there they were-yes, unbelievably-the Rangers had made it to the hallowed World Series. These underdogs' day had come: They were finally the big dogs.
Today, the same has come true with content. For most of my life, content has been limited to a handful of sources: a radio, a book, a TV. But now, content has become limitless in the ways that it dominates our lives.
In my younger years, if the baseball coach ran late to our practice, we killed time by (gulp) talking to each other. Today, I'd like to see you find a kid in the same situation who's not surfing the web on his mobile device. Previously, content was an escape; today, content is inescapable.

It's that inescapable phenomenon that, for me, packs the really unexpected punch. The other day, I was talking to someone about the VH1 reality TV show, You're Cut Off!. The series takes pampered women, moves them into a house, and then reveals to them that their benefactors have cut them off unless they can survive several weeks of humbling tasks. I was surprised to learn that, while some of the girls became motivated by the prospect of being the next Snooki from Jersey Shore, many are shocked when they actually find real camaraderie and purpose in the house. When shooting wraps, these usually obnoxious women have discovered that (likely for the first time in their lives) they've finally made a few real friends.

And so, despite the inherent cattiness of this manufactured situation, the act of creating this content actually brings about some real-world connections-perhaps even a certain comfort. It's indicative of the fact that content and real life now intrinsically interact with each other as the dividing line between them has been permanently destroyed.

To take this even further, that very interaction-or better yet, domination-has caused content to now intrude on the everyday facets of even what used to be noncontent functions. A friend was recently offered a great job in marketing at a healthcare company, but she was about to decline it because she really wanted to take a position that allowed her to create entertainment. When she asked my advice, I told her that the job actually is an entertainment job. In other words, marketing has now become a two-way conversation with your customer, and the only way to engage your customer in that conversation is to entertain him or her. So, what used to be a marketing job in healthcare is now a job creating entertainment to start a conversation about healthcare. No longer is this role about simply pushing out a single message, but rather it's about creating powerful content with the gusto to truly engage people. She took the position and hasn't looked back.

As the people who create, manage, and sell content for a living, we are unique. To steal a line from longtime University of Texas assistant athletic director, Bill Little, what most people do for recreation, we do for vocation. And it's our command of the world's content that gives us considerable power. It means that, at the risk of plagiarizing your favorite superhero, we make decisions every day about whether to use our power for good or evil. So, for instance, will you drive your customers to devalue and steal content by sticking with outdated models, platforms, and policies? Or will you create a dialogue with your customers to come up with solutions that satisfy everyone involved? It's questions like these that actually force us to accept the awesome responsibility with which we're suddenly tasked.

In the old Martin Scorsese movie, The King of Comedy, Robert De Niro decides that it's better to be a king for a night ... than a schmuck for a lifetime. With content's move from underdog to big dog, who will you be-a powerful king or a lowly schmuck?


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