Content Acquisition, Miles Davis, and a Motherf*cker of a Content Strategy

Jazz icon Miles Davis is known for lots of things. Playing the trumpet. Cantankerousness. A mouth like a SAILOR.

I’ll bet that you didn’t know that he was pretty motherf*cking savvy when it comes to content strategy. Really!

While he wasn’t known for his razor-sharp technical prowess on his instrument, he was a great bandleader. He assembled some of the greatest bands, ever, in fact.

And he knew it.

In 1969, when he had assembled the band that suited his fancy, he stated that it was “really a bad motherf*cker.”

In 1970, his bass player left. Miles needed someone able to produce the content he couldn’t create on his own. Miles played trumpet. And some keyboards. But he wasn’t a bass player. A content gap analysis would show that a band as funky as Miles’ in the 70s could not be without a bass player.

Allegedly, Miles walked up to Stevie Wonder after seeing him in concert and said, “I’m stealing your f*ckin’ bass player.” And he did. Poor Stevie Wonder had Michael Henderson, his bass player, acquired.

Many companies produce some content, but have a need for other content to complete their online presence. It may be only a small portion of the content on the site. In some cases, almost all of the content is created by third parties.

There are times when the economies of scale make content acquisition a smart choice. There are lots of good reasons to do it:

  • Properly accredited content is not cheap.
  • A full-time content production staff or position might not be feasible.
  • It puts content creation into the hands of a dedicated specialist.
  • Frees up the staff to do what they do best.

This is something not to be taken on lightly. Miles didn’t acquire just anyone’s bass player. He acquired Stevie Wonder’s bass player. He hired a content creator.

Many content acquisition relationships include a pre-produced set of content, plus options to publish future content created. Delightful!

It can also lead unwitting contract signers down apocalyptic paths of frustration and insanity. Not delightful! This is important to note for several reasons:

  • Can the creators maintain their output level? Do they have a solid content strategy?
  • Does the content match the tone and voice of your website?
  • Do they provide the content in an easily-published format?
  • Do they provide the appropriate metadata?
  • Are your competitors using them, or a similar service?

The most important consideration when evaluating third-party content acquisition is this: The content still needs to meet your business needs/customer needs.

Miles didn’t hire two or three bass players. He hired one. He only hired a bass player because he had a need for a bass player. He didn’t hire a bagpiper. That brings up another point: don’t consider content acquisition only to take up space on your website.

Though it will be delivered to your figurative door, the content will still need attention It will need to be finessed and published. Curated. It will need to be incorporated into workflows and editorial calendars. The governance portion of your content strategy will still apply.

Finally, put a plan in place in case the relationship ends. The content producer may go belly up, the contract may expire, or you simply might choose to stop using them.

If there is a gap in your content, acquiring it from a third party is a proven method of creating a more complete online experience. Don’t fear it. Your website may work so well that Miles Davis himself may have praised it as, “really a bad motherf*cker.”

Miles in Vienna, Austria on November 3, 1973.  And yes, that is Michael Henderson on bass:

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