Time and time again, content influenced the course of the recent US elections. Because this is the age of content--of written words, of audio and video. Emails, web pages, instant messages, voicemails, video clips-content was used as a political tool and weapon more in the recent US elections than in any other. Senate candidate George Allen was caught on video. So was John Kerry. Rep Foley and Preacher Haggard were trapped by instant messages and voicemails.
What's more, the Web has become the national memory bank. Practically every piece of content is there to be googled or found on YouTube. Before the Web and the content revolution, things were pretty informal and denial was a reasonably safe strategy. No longer. The Web is rolling 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So much is being recorded.
Let's not overplay things. The army of liberal bloggers didn't do much for Ned Lamont, who was decisively beaten by Joe Lieberman. So, just because it's written on the Web doesn't necessarily make it so.
In this sense, the influence and power of the Web is more subtle. Actions-feet on the ground, knocking on doors, talking to people, spending big on TV-may indeed speak louder than words. However, recorded words and images-which, in essence, is what content is-are often becoming the fuel that feeds the action.
The implications are not just for the powerful few. Everybody who writes emails and blogs, or who leaves voicemails, needs to think a lot more about what they are writing and saying. The Web gives the impression of this informal, casual place, but that's a mirage. It's like a court of record, where everything you write can be used for you-or against you-at some future point.
Most individuals and organizations have simply not come to terms with the content revolution that has swept through our world over the last twenty years. There has never been as many people reading and writing, and videoing and viewing. It's almost like a right of passage today for young people to do a blog or make a video.
I publish therefore I exist. I publish well and my career will progress. I publish poorly and my career will perish. At the most basic level, think about people who are bad writers and spellers. When you get an email that is awfully written, it affects your opinion of the person who wrote it; and particularly so if it's the first communication you have received from this person.
There is so much pressure today to be reactive and impulsive. Barraged by emails, it's so easy to just stop thinking and just get as busy as possible. Busy is the new addiction, the new false hope, the place where people go who can't cope.
Think. Think. Think. In the age of the content record, you can't afford not to think deeply about the content you create, and the situations where you will be recorded.
What is written in haste, edited in panic (or not at all), will be repented at leisure.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.