The Content Trap

The Content TrapThe Content Trap by Bharat Anand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everyone discusses the importance of “content” today, which often refers to online content such as articles, blog posts, videos, etc. In The Content Trap, Bharat Anand is using the term more broadly, to include all types of products and services. The essence of the “content trap” is to focus on the quality of products and overlook the all-important connections that really matter in today’s economy.

Anand is a professor at Harvard Business School, which, as he describes in one chapter, focuses mainly on case studies to help students understand key principles. Anand uses a similar approach in this book, providing many examples of companies failing or succeeding based on their approach to the content trap. A good illustration is Apple, which alternately failed (when it focused solely on creating great products) and succeeded (when it shifted its emphasis to fostering connections with its app store). Anand also gives examples of newspapers and his own experiences at delivering online education at Harvard Business School.

This book is helpful not only to people in the business world, but anyone who wants to understand what drives the modern economy. Anand cautions against oversimplifying ideas such as “disruption,” another buzzword of our times. He emphasizes looking at all aspects of a business or technology to diagnose why it’s succeeding or failing. Otherwise, it’s tempting to try to simply copy a certain practice without understanding the wider context. He points out, for example, why the Economist was able to succeed with a seemingly counterintuitive strategy of charging high rates for its online subscriptions while other publications failed using the same approach. He also explores how the two biggest social networks in the world, Facebook and the China-based WeChat both succeed using very different business models.

Of course, as with any analysis, Anand is mainly explaining the past. It’s always easier to prove your point by showing exactly why something happened in ways that fit your terminology and outlook, whether it pertains to business, history or sports. No doubt, someone could take issue with some of his points and explain the same events with another theory. Still, The Content Trap makes a persuasive case that it’s important to look past content and make the effort to understand context and connections.

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