The renaissance of expert-driven content in today’s information age

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Representational image. Photo: Pexels/ Judit Peter

Think back to the time when newspapers, radio and TV were your only sources of information. If someone wanted to share their expertise or knowledge with the world, the only way was to do it through these mediums. I am lucky enough to have this platform provided by Onlinekhabar to share the things I’ve learned in my decade-long experience in media and marketing. This was not always the case.

For example, a doctor looking to share their knowledge in the past had to first contact the media agencies or channels. If the media deemed that it was good for them to publish it, the doctor would have to give an interview or provide a written draft.

The information would then be edited and transcribed by writers before being distributed. Even the video talk shows and interviews were limited by the freedom provided by those channels. The hassles and limitations were massive. It was almost impossible for the doctor’s voice to reach the audience unedited and unfiltered.

Then came the early age of internet access to the general population. The internet became filled with blogs and articles. The experts along with opinionated people started blogging to share their opinions. With not much exposure to the internet, it was hard to search for these articles. However, genuine experts were not the only ones looking to succeed through blogs.

Age of content

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Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Collectors and curators began scraping across the internet to make repurposed articles that lacked authenticity and originality. I can give you a personal anecdote on this one. I used to write articles such as ‘10 Best Holiday Destinations’. The places which I recommended were places I had never been to. I used to read 100s of similar articles about holiday getaways and make a list of my own. Yeah, I was one of those curators. Guilty.

These sorts of articles, which were mostly faceless and even nameless, not only saturated the internet blogosphere but also decreased the credibility of blogs that were genuinely written by people with knowledge on these topics.

Times have changed. The world evolved so fast in terms of the internet that you still can feel the whiplash. Today if you want to listen to someone’s opinion, you do not have to rely on traditional media. Nor do you have to scour through blogs and websites. You can just go on their social media handles or listen to them on various podcasts.

People can just come up with the narrative from those posts and videos. A writer or editor need not spoon-feed people what they are reading and how they should perceive it. People are open to basing their own ideas when they hear others’ opinions first-hand.

People now want to know information or consume content first-hand. Slowly the reliance on interpretation from mainstream media and writers is decreasing. Social media has helped democratise information that mainstream media could not. It has helped those experts I mentioned in the past find their target audience easily. It has allowed the audience to not be limited by agendas and narratives being pushed by writers, editors and even those experts themselves.

However, with the ease of access to platforms comes information overload. Along with an overload of information comes hoards of people without proper expertise trying to portray themselves as reliable sources. Scammers and impersonators have been prevalent throughout history. So, their nefarious use of the internet and content to their advantage is of no surprise. People with all the resources in
their fingertips need to evaluate, double-check and understand the motives of content creators and influencers.

The growth of social media as a major information source means this generation will have to be expert-driven. With the possibility of gaining knowledge directly through professionals, this era of the Information Age is truly going to be shaped by people who can share information regarding their field of specialisation. Little to no barrier to entry in social media means experts need to be at the forefront so
that non-experts or scammers cannot deceive the general audience.

Recently in India, there was an advertisement on the front page of The Economic Times run by YouTube as part of their ‘Hit Pause’ campaign. This advertisement was accompanied by an image of Rachana Ranade who is a chartered accountant turned YouTube influencer. The message at the top of the advertisement read “Trust only the real experts”.

This advertisement also had the state emblem of India alongside the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. This is an example of a positive step towards putting experts at the forefront of
critical niches such as finance. Audiences need to know who they are listening to, and whose advice they are adhering to. These initiatives look like a great way to aware audiences all the while promoting experts.

However, this campaign faced criticism from the Registered Investment Advisors (RIA) of India. Since the advertisement campaign made it look like Rachana is an expert (which may be subjective), RIAs had objections. Since Rachana is not a registered investment advisor herself, the RIAs found the advertisement to be a bit misleading by advocating Rachana as someone who she is not. Since it had the stamp of the state emblem, it looked like the government itself was advocating Rachana.

If we look at this, the message the advertisement is trying to convey is right. The audience should analyse who the person giving the information is and evaluate the information given. Similarly, the promotion of experts in critical fields like health, and finance from the government level is the right way to move towards an expert-driven country.

Even while promoting such good initiatives, proper research and analysis must be done so that these efforts aren’t half-baked and misleading themselves. The advertisement involving Rachana, though an expert in her own right, could have been handled more carefully. However, this was a forward-thinking approach from YouTube and other stakeholders as it has become a need at this time where there is an overload of all kinds of information.

This above case is a reflection of the new world. An expert-driven world. This example shows how an expert becoming an influencer is necessary but that too needs evaluation and judgement from the involved stakeholders. Fake experts, scammers etc are rampant on the Internet. Thus introducing and promoting people with real expertise should be a priority.

With experts becoming the influencers, the content will also become expert-driven leading to a more educated and information-hungry audience. People who want first-hand information rather than narratives interpreted by journalists and writers will be developed.

Importance of experts

As stated earlier, the democratisation of information and social media access means that if an expert wants to share their knowledge, they will not look towards traditional media. They can just open an account on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok or any other social media platform. If I want to listen to what Elon Musk has to say about something, I would rather go to his Twitter and hear what he has to say
rather than read a New York Times article about what he said.

This need for experts to become influencers and reach the masses easily is connected to the business and marketing world. But first let me tell you a prophecy, “The future is going to be niche”. What do I mean by that? A company, an organisation, a content creator and even media will have to cater to niches and
build exclusive products and services for those niches. A lot, I mean a whole lot of money is to be made on niches.

Niche need not be limited in terms of the people it can attract. You can work in a specific industry or sector that can attract a wide array of people. A niche cannot be just something that you have to say. You have to be able to speak things that others cannot say or have not been able to say in that niche. One has to be able to provide information, products and services that others aren’t privy to.

Talking about how one can operate in a niche, it all comes back to the expert-driven media I was talking about. Niche is always expert-driven. One needs to be or needs to have access to experts. An expert in a niche will have way more knowledge and information than one who collects and curates information.

Taking the example of one of our own ventures, we run a channel on YouTube called Finance Factory where we talk all about Finance. How are we doing it? By using the help of experts. We collaborate with CAs, CFAs, Accountants and many other experts in financial fields. It is growing slowly but it is growing with an audience that is looking for the financial information that we provide.

Why do I believe this works? Think of this, if you want information on tech, would you visit a tech-exclusive website or a website with an eclectic collection of information? Of course, you are more likely to visit the tech-exclusive website as it will have more expertise and focus on tech than the website covering all types of topics. Similarly, if people want to know about information on finance, they will
more likely trust and search for those platforms with exclusive financial information. So, expert-driven niche content is where the future is, especially in terms of information and content.

I am not saying opinion pieces and writers for mainstream media will become obsolete. They will continue to have a place in the media but they will not be as prominent as before. People still want an interpretation about things but that needs to come from a credible source with experience and expertise in what they are doing. The writers and editors themselves need to be an expert in the fields
they write about. Otherwise, the audience might not take their opinions seriously.

Now, if you are looking to build in your niche, like I said earlier, it needs to be based on experts in that niche. Especially in the age of Generative AI, nameless and faceless articles will not cut it. Since AI has become so developed that it can create human-sounding articles, it’s necessary to have a face and a
name attached to articles. The credibility of the article or news piece comes with the writer’s credibility.

Changing world

Taking examples of movies, many people will watch the movie ‘Oppenheimer’ because of the filmmaker attached to it. Christopher Nolan’s movies have a cult following because of his performances and output in the past. Since Nolan is a credible director, his movies garner a level of authenticity that movies made by new directors cannot.

Moving forward, the credibility of an influencer, a writer is going to be very important. Nameless and faceless content, mass-produced with little to no soul is going to suffer the fate it was always destined to, obsoletion. Nowadays we talk about humanising content in marketing. That is going to be
essential in the world of automation and generative AI. Humanising content means building a human connection through content. It includes telling stories, building relationships, and interactions.

Authenticity is something everyone looks for in any product. Content and information are no different. A person has a greater connection with the content they consume and the information they receive if there is a human touch to it. Building experts with credibility as faces of content leads to the humanisation of content and information.

No matter what era we live in, we are humans after all. We love stories and we love stories being told to us. This is why we love to watch movies, read books and learn history. It’s all down to our love for stories, stories that are human.

Connections developed through genuine stories from authentic storytellers will make content the best version of what it can be.

To sum up all my tangents and how they are connected, humanising content and information by pushing credible experts in their niche is the way to move ahead. Once again, the future is niche, niche should be expert-driven, and so should information and content.

The fact we have to speak up about pushing real experts to the forefront is a testament to many problems that have been present in the media. The problem extends even more in Nepal. I will talk more about those problems in the upcoming edition of my articles here. Till then, these things that I learned on my journey to becoming an aspiring credible influencer from a curator may be of help to anyone looking to enter a niche, building platforms or even media.

The post The renaissance of expert-driven content in today’s information age appeared first on OnlineKhabar English News.

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