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Content Communities – The Future for Natural Products

When I first introduced NPIcenter back in 1999 with my business partner Jason (@jasonbu), the natural products industry and traditional communications pathways were part of a different universe. It doesn’t matter whether we think about ourselves as having been a news service, content provider, directory, or even industry voice, so much has changed – and so much has not.

Our backdrop then was the emergence of the Internet as a viable connection medium, and one in which we, as NPIcenter, could be at once a hub and industry megaphone, calling out individual, company and association efforts, commenting on industry views with a deliberate editorial stance that felt science, intellectual property and industry commitment should be celebrated and honored. We were a portal, gathering around ourselves a group of leading companies, largely at the branded ingredient level, and these companies and individuals became community constituents, friends and business partners over the years.

Our industry communications landscape has changed dramatically over the past 19 years. When we launched, industry print pubs still had press releases occupying much of the magazine. The Internet sped up the news cycle so dramatically that even ‘48 hours’ could not meet market expectations – we had daily news and newsletters for the first time. The Internet also allowed anyone to become a ‘content provider’, meaning that news, information and even ‘disinformation’ were allowed to flourish in the Internet ‘free for all’. Then we went through a period of progressive search optimization, where the providers of unique content were rewarded with high ranking and repetitive content (read ‘releases’) was devalued. Press releases and product introductions evolved to media updates and supply chain driving documents (technical bulletins).

Into this content storm, new social platforms have emerged: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, followed by Instagram as video and photos began to outperform the written word both from a viewer preference as well as an optimal search engine algorithm. While we still have print publications, tradeshows and conferences, their role has altered as business opportunity funnels have become more structured and digitized. We’ve learned that nothing replaces face to face, but you better have a high ROI on that face to face activity due to cost, opportunity cost and new accountabilities.

It’s not only images and video. Our appetite (and attention span) has dramatically changed. While demand for full on feature articles may mostly be a thing of the past, blog size posts by experts and editors get wide viewership – when business leaders get the chance to actually read them. More often though, we are simply skimming headlines and subject lines trying to find those critical keywords. Deep dives, it seems, are still reserved for those long airplane rides.

What’s next in the content landscape? With industry media consolidation, there are fewer vehicles and platforms to use to get messages out. We still have a problem reaching and impacting a broader audience – we often talk amongst ourselves as a sector. This is certainly the case when you consider younger generations that don’t understand (or care) how this industry has traditionally operated. With more cautious approaches to targeting content against viewers, it’s even more challenging to get in front of the right folks. Unlike other industries, as a sector, our approaches to content marketing are often far too promotional and therefore do not perform adequately, either on SEO or on lead generation.

A tech consultant I spoke with this past week informed me that the new search algorithms favor content at least 2700 words long, and with 30 inbound links. This represents a new content marketing opportunity, but it leaves room for other content types that will not be SEO recognizable. What happens to those? And what happens to the generations of readers who want blog style and not 2700 word treatises?

For the past several years I’ve been of the opinion that the future of content lies in the user-generated type, and that if you could create a gamified environment where the most valuable, trusted content was rewarded and celebrated, then that could in fact create a highly motivated and engaged community. You’d have subject matter experts, gurus in fact, and you’d reward them with perks. And because they were respected and trusted, who better than to help evaluate and upvote other valuable trusted content and content providers? If those perks were noticeable and ultimately monetizable, well, they’d be potentially lucrative. A Blockchain platform operating a social media network allows this to occur. You have witnesses, trust, reward, gamification, engagement and community.

At Industry Transparency Center, we believe that the future of certain aspects of content lie on social platform building blocks. In this case, the Steem blockchain platform provides the support. All that’s needed is subject matter experts and community. The natural products industry is not yet broadly present on the platform, we’re here at ITC to assist, and have created Nunesso as our community hub. Contact us and we’ll help you get started on Steem and to engage with this future-focused natural products industry community.

~Len (@lmon)