C’mon, folks. It’s not about content!

At the risk of being labeled “Johnny 1‑note,” let me repeat this truth about media and the future. Paid content concepts divert media company attention from the real issue, which is the revolution in advertising. This keeps going through my mind this morning, as I read reaction to Apple’s iPad announcement and ponder the future.

Let me repeat: focusing on paid content concepts diverts our attention from the real issue, and that is the disruption to traditional advertising. The problem here is that media companies think they’re in the content business, but they’re not. Perhaps it was true in centuries past, but today the “business” of media is advertising.

The rise of content marketing and “advertising as content” in the Media 2.0 world are permanent disruptions in the way businesses sell their wares. Enabling commerce is the new mission of media, not serving ads, and the sooner we get going with it, the better.

I don’t doubt that there will always be a place for subscriptions and advertising, but those are not the kinds of growth categories that public companies need to impress investors. Yes, broadcasting has “matured,” but it will still make money (and lots of it), but media companies keep staring at red herrings instead of attacking what really matters.

Will the iPad help media, especially newspapers? I think it will, but not to the extent that newspapers especially need the help. So let’s all smile, but let’s do so with an eye on creating apps that enable commerce, especially locally.