Context is the new king.
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After taking a look at how communication has changed with technology throughout history and how to focus on what really matters today, futurist David Houle now examines the big trend in media consumption—content vs. context—that will drive the next decade.
"Content is king"—this is a phrase that, while very true, became a cliché in the Information Age once it was clear we were in a world of information, knowledge and, yes, content. The underlying idea was and still is that creating and owning content was of supreme importance, particularly in the world of entertainment and media. If you owned the rights, you were king, had influence and could become very wealthy.

There are many examples to illustrate this point. Once George Lucas created Star Wars, every door in Hollywood was open to him, because he had created a content franchise. When Norman Lear created all of his great sitcoms in the 1970s—such as All in the Family and The Jeffersons—he not only changed the face of television: He sat atop a kingdom of content that plays to this day somewhere in the world. When J.K. Rowling created the character and world of Harry Potter, she changed the reading habits of children, gave a huge shot of life to the publishing industry, launched a major movie franchise and, oh yes, became the second-richest woman in Great Britain, after the Queen of England.

The 1980s, 1990s and the early part of this century saw the creation of literally hundreds of cable channels around the world, all thirsty for programming—again, content. You heard the phrase "content is king" on the lips of every person in the entertainment and media businesses all the time. Why? It was true. Actually, the phrase should have been "Good content is king," as all the above examples are of good content.

We are now in an age of information overload. As I wrote about dealing with information overload, we have moved from information being of value to attention being what creates value today and in the future. Our attention creates the value for the information. If a lot of people give their attention to a particular website, that information is valued more than a website that gets little or no attention.

Content is no longer king; the phrase of today is, "Context is king."

I wrote in that last column about developing filters in your life so you do not become overloaded with information. A variation on that idea is the idea of context. In other words, the context creates the filter. For example, if you are a technology geek, you probably subscribe to one of the daily technology newsletters. The content consumed from the newsletter is done so within the context of the trust, accuracy and authority of that branded newsletter. If you are an avid gardener, you probably go to a well-respected gardening site for your information. That site has created a context in which you can consume content of value, because you trust that site to provide content just for gardeners.

Our mobile devices are providing us with the opportunity to create dynamic contexts. With GPS technology, we can find friends who are close to us and meet. We can develop contextual relations with merchants based on where we are and what our interests or buying patterns are. We can create a real-time contextual relationship with others around the same place or event that is all about shared interests.

Our lives are increasingly becoming contextual. As we become ever more connected, as physical place has less importance, as information increases, as social media become ever more embedded in our lives and communication patterns...we are increasingly living in context. We will be living in a world that is moving toward contextual data, contextual creation of value, contextual value of electronically connected communities, and even the contextual mapping of human movement and behavior.

At least for now: In 10 years, "context is king" will probably be just as outdated as "content is king" is at this moment. But for now it is our emerging reality.

David Houle is an award-winning futurist and strategist who has launched successful brands and is an in-demand speaker about the future. He writes the popular futurist blog Evolution Shift and lives his life slightly ahead of the curve.

Have you taken any of David's advice about focusing your media attention? Share your experience in the comments area.

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