Content is King by Bill Gates

Content is King
I’ve had a frustrating time trying to find the original ‘Content is King’ article written by Bill Gates back in 1996. There’s a few sites that have a copy of the essay, but nothing on the Microsoft site (it has been removed from the Bill Gates Published Writing page). Wayback Machine seems to be the only other option (thanks to Andrew Heenan for the link).

If you can find a Microsoft link could you please let me know. For now, I am adding the essay in it’s entirety here (as I will be referring to it in a future post).

Content Is King – Bill Gates (1/3/1996)

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.

When it comes to an interactive network such as the Internet, the definition of “content” becomes very wide. For example, computer software is a form of content-an extremely important one, and the one that for Microsoft will remain by far the most important.

But the broad opportunities for most companies involve supplying information or entertainment. No company is too small to participate.

One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.

The Internet also allows information to be distributed worldwide at basically zero marginal cost to the publisher. Opportunities are remarkable, and many companies are laying plans to create content for the Internet.

For example, the television network NBC and Microsoft recently agreed to enter the interactive news business together. Our companies will jointly own a cable news network, MSNBC, and an interactive news service on the Internet. NBC will maintain editorial control over the joint venture.

I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success-in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and on-line communities devoted to major interests.

Printed magazines have readerships that share common interests. It’s easy to imagine these communities being served by electronic online editions.

But to be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium.

If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines.

A question on many minds is how often the same company that serves an interest group in print will succeed in serving it online. Even the very future of certain printed magazines is called into question by the Internet.

For example, the Internet is already revolutionizing the exchange of specialized scientific information. Printed scientific journals tend to have small circulations, making them high-priced. University libraries are a big part of the market. It’s been an awkward, slow, expensive way to distribute information to a specialized audience, but there hasn’t been an alternative.

Now some researchers are beginning to use the Internet to publish scientific findings. The practice challenges the future of some venerable printed journals.

Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling. Although the gold rush atmosphere today is primarily confined to the United States, I expect it to sweep the world as communications costs come down and a critical mass of localized content becomes available in different countries.

For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work. The long-term prospects are good, but I expect a lot of disappointment in the short-term as content companies struggle to make money through advertising or subscriptions. It isn’t working yet, and it may not for some time.

So far, at least, most of the money and effort put into interactive publishing is little more than a labor of love, or an effort to help promote products sold in the non-electronic world. Often these efforts are based on the belief that over time someone will figure out how to get revenue.

In the long run, advertising is promising. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information. A user can click on the ad to get additional information-and an advertiser can measure whether people are doing so.

But today the amount of subscription revenue or advertising revenue realized on the Internet is near zero-maybe $20 million or $30 million in total. Advertisers are always a little reluctant about a new medium, and the Internet is certainly new and different.

Some reluctance on the part of advertisers may be justified, because many Internet users are less-than-thrilled about seeing advertising. One reason is that many advertisers use big images that take a long time to download across a telephone dial-up connection. A magazine ad takes up space too, but a reader can flip a printed page rapidly.

As connections to the Internet get faster, the annoyance of waiting for an advertisement to load will diminish and then disappear. But that’s a few years off.

Some content companies are experimenting with subscriptions, often with the lure of some free content. It’s tricky, though, because as soon as an electronic community charges a subscription, the number of people who visit the site drops dramatically, reducing the value proposition to advertisers.

A major reason paying for content doesn’t work very well yet is that it’s not practical to charge small amounts. The cost and hassle of electronic transactions makes it impractical to charge less than a fairly high subscription rate.

But within a year the mechanisms will be in place that allow content providers to charge just a cent or a few cents for information. If you decide to visit a page that costs a nickel, you won’t be writing a check or getting a bill in the mail for a nickel. You’ll just click on what you want, knowing you’ll be charged a nickel on an aggregated basis.

This technology will liberate publishers to charge small amounts of money, in the hope of attracting wide audiences.

Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products-a marketplace of content.

This essay is copyright © 2001 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

610 thoughts on “Content is King by Bill Gates

  1. Content is king but what if you are not able to come up with new content so frequently that you can compete with the big guys in your niche and are in danger of being neglected by search engines?
    Just find guest bloggers to add valuable content within your niche on your blog. You can connect with guest bloggers through [snip]

  2. Since 2000 the main message to all business owners for their website creation has been to focus on creating great content. Why do so many business owners fail to understand this. It’s funny how I as do many developers use the phrase content is king and explain it and all this time I never knew it was Mr Gates who coined the expression. The new expression is why I researched the original, the new expression being – content is cash!
    Technology is fantastic for many things but its still true that what is published of value is not always easy to find, so finding this was good and may it stay on position one for
    article written by bill gates back in 1996 :)
    Andy Web

  3. I didn’t even realise until today (after many years working in SEO) that Bill Gates had every produced an article like this. Firstly, thank you for taking the time and effort to to find as much of the original article as you could.

    There are many interesting points within this article which are really relevant in 2011 (nearly 2012!).
    Bill Gates shows great insight into content, information and interactivity which many companies are just getting to grips with now.

    A really good read

    • Thank you Craig Bailey for your efforts to share this.

      I agree with Clare about this being relevant in 2011. I was shocked to see the original writing date which shows a true visionary with passion, who understands his business and knows what his customers want. 2012 will challenge us with content curation and context, but I believe will be the catalyst to incite the masses to produce valuable content in order to stay relevant.

      My belief is that people who cannot come up with valuable content aren’t doing what they love or aren’t loving what they do, as well as continually learning and growing…I have been writing for almost two years now and still have a backlog of topics to write about.

      Thank you for enabling me to provide the appropriate credit to this commonly used term.

  4. Hiya Craig,
    I’d like to join previous guests in thanking you for making this important essay available. Strange that Microsoft/Mr. Gates have made an effort to eradicate this. I’ll admit I’ve saved it on my machine just to make sure I always have it accessible.

    It’s truly incredible the depth of vision expressed in the article, and reaffirms my notion that “There’s Nothing New Under the Sun” when it comes to human behavior (How this relates to Online Marketing is a theme I’ve been developing for a 5 years in courses and seminars I’ve published, i.e. –

    Bill was very correct in using the ascent of televised-media to predict how the web would evolve, even though by that time it was probably beginning to be obvious to quite a few people (by 1996 the web was already 6 years old, and enough of a mainstay to prompt Time magazine to dedicate a cover to Marc Andreessen – co-founder of Netscape…). Personally I believe that the next-to-nil production and syndication costs were/are the more important factor to the incredilbe ballooning of content.

    What I feel Bill may have missed in his prediction relates to the actual quality of the content, and what kinds of content would become popular (I bet he didn’t think it would be dogs riding skateboards… In hindsight it was probably obvious – the realization that “Panem et Circenses” are what the thronging masses really want was old when the Roman empire was young…

    : )
    Mike Darnell

  5. Content has always been important to get good results, keeping it fresh and up to date should go without saying really. Ive always been reiterating this since first reading the article and its always been a cornerstone of our SEO, as updates to algorithms come and go, good quality, orginal and fresh content has always produced results.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this essay! It’s a real gem to hear such a forward-thinking concept from 1996 and then look back on how much has evolved in content since then.

  7. The article may have been titled, “Content is King,” however he certainly didn’t create the phrase.  Executives at Encyclopaedia Britannica were stating that years before this article was published.
    I cannot find the proof, but believe this was a statement that can be attributed to Harold Kester who was VP at Britannica  at the time, but it may have been Mr. Esposito, as quoted here.

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  9. Thanks for posting this. It’s amazing to believe the digital world is still catching up with his vision!
    Here’s a few interesting stats to support Mr Gates’ prediction:

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  12. Bill Gates is absolutely right! Content is indeed King. Problem is that creating content on a daily basis is difficult. At Pindle we have the solution: a beautiful social wall that shows fresh content generated by your fans.

  13. This is a very good read — it reminds me of the book, I read thru my International Business class @ Liberty University, by Thomas L. Friedman called “The World Is Flat” . Thank you for sharing this article. it is all about “Change..”

  14. Hi Craig, this is a very good article! Thanks for sharing it. I’m in the process of creating a good content marketing strategy for my website, that’s how I found your website.
    It’s fantastic that this article is written more than 20 years ago and how Bill Gates had the capacity to see the future back then.

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