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Idea: Great Content is Created for People,
Not Machines

By Rex Hammock

Among various internet tribes, the word “trope” is used to describe labels applied to a cliché. For example, the TV Tropes wiki has a list of tropes related to Science Fiction clichés, including one of my favorites, the “Turned Against Their Masters” trope. 

In a sci-fi book or movie, this trope starts with humans inventing some type of helpful machine—perhaps a friendly robot or smart computer software. For some inexplicable reason, the machine decides it doesn’t want to serve humans anymore, so it rises up and crushes the humans until the hero pulls out his own trope: “Man learns machines can be killed by unplugging the power cord.”

Those of us who have lived through the advent and early days of digital marketing have witnessed a version of the machine vs. master trope play out over the last 20 years.

At first, we recognized the internet as a marvel of technology that allowed people to connect with one another in all sorts of wonderful ways. But then marketers began to believe that digital marketing isn’t about connecting with customers. Rather, it exists so marketers can communicate with a machine called Google.

Over the years, these marketers tried every trick in the book to make Google’s machines like them. And when those tricks stopped working, they reasoned that the Google machine survived by consuming something called Soylent Green content burgers. Soon, people became convinced that every form of human expression could be ground up into content burgers to feed the machine.

But soon, the machines turned against their masters. Google the term Content Marketing Idea Generator and you’ll find links to dozens of fill-in-the-blank generators—the kind that are usually created as a joke. Except this is no joke: The companies that built these generators are actually serious when they ask you to fill in blanks with keywords so the machine can spit out lots of content burger tropes such as, “The Top 10 List Trope” or the “What You Learn About [something related to your product] from [the name of a recent movie] Trope.”

Search a little deeper, and you’ll find lots of “machines” that can automate your content generation needs and spit out infographics, games and how-tos—all you have to do is deposit some keywords.

You know where this is heading, don’t you?

Pretty soon (like now) there will be machines that automate the creation of content burgers that will cut out humans altogether. These content generating machines will connect directly to Google’s content consuming machines and people will become nothing more than forgotten keywords.

Sound like too far-fetched of a plot? In his 2013 book, The Circle, Dave Eggers applied the machine turning against its master trope to social media-powered e-commerce. I’m guessing if it becomes a movie, it will star Will Smith.

Bottom line: The greatest marketing opportunities provided by current technology are not the unlimited ways we can automate the generation of content burgers for Google. The marketing marvel of current technology is the unlimited way it can connect creator and user, marketer and customer, people and people.





Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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