There was a period during the 1990s when popular pundits declared that content was king. Then we had the dot-com crash, and content was blamed for many ills. The pendulum swung back toward the "content is dead" end of the scale and stayed there for a long time.
Now with Web 2.0 and social networking, we are in the era of the conversation where many will tell you it's still not about the content - it's about the connection. What you say seems to matter far less than how many people you say it to and how often you say it. As long as you are constantly posting to your blog, sharing your every thought via Twitter, and updating your MySpace page daily, you will expand your social network no matter how poor the quality of your content, or how inane your message may be.
So is content dead or dying? Absolutely not. In fact, the new wave of applications known generically as Web 3.0 or "the semantic Web" will bring content to the fore once again.
In simplest terms, Web 3.0 applications will look at the Web as one giant database, with all its information at your fingertips and easy to use in almost any way you see fit. Think of today's Web as a bank vault with millions of safety deposit boxes; if you want to get at the information in them, you must carry a key chain with millions of URL keys. Each Web 3.0 application, on the other hand, will give you a single master key providing instant access to the information you need for that particular purpose, from any or all of the millions of safe deposit boxes that may hold it.
This new era promises a revolution for PR pros. Accessing your applications through an integrated dashboard, you will leverage all the media intelligence at your disposal and immediately know and be able to do exactly what you want with it.
Why should you spend the time contacting 50 reporters, when you know that at most five will find the information useful? Today, you have to, because you never know which of the 50 are ready to write a story that day. Your Web 3.0 database will help you know exactly whom you should contact and, just as important, who doesn't want to be bothered and why. You will have up-to-the-minute information on exactly who is covering what, how, and why that day.
Why spend time and effort sending your release to a list of 500 publications and online sites when you know there are a limited number of outlets where most of your customers congregate? Your Web 3.0 database and distribution tools will know exactly which sites have audiences interested in your story and will place your search-optimized news with them in a format that will ensure everyone with any interest in you and your news finds you immediately.
Content will be king - not only when you can leverage it, wherever and whenever you need it, in whatever ways you want. Web 3.0 will do just that. It will put your PR content to work for you, and your world will never be the same.
Peter Granat is an EVP at Cision North America.