It’s the mantra of the entertainment industry: “Content is King.” Whether talking about movies, television shows, Broadway musicals, video games or books, the guiding principle has always been that compelling content is what will drive interest and, ultimately, sales. You could have the slickest marketing campaign, the coolest packaging or the most credible spokesperson, but it won’t matter a lick if your product stinks; marketing guru Keith Ferrazzi acknowledges this in his landmark book Never Eat Alone, describing a scene in the movie “Big” where Tom Hanks, a boy in a man’s body, completely negates the impressive charts, graphs and data a company puts out about a new toy by declaring that it just plain isn’t “fun.”

In my little slice of the entertainment industry, I produce live trivia parties. Going on the above principle, therefore, I should be focusing my attention squarely on my product, trivia, making sure that the questions are as solid and compelling as possible. A pretty Website, creative logo, even a fancy blog- all nice, but it’s just a package to enhance my product, which is smart, clever and fun trivia questions…right?

Actually, I don’t think so. Yes, of course my trivia questions are important, but I say that it’s not the content that ultimately matters most in entertainment – especially live entertainment – as does the overall user experience. In my case, it’s simply not just all about the trivia; quizmasters are not in the  business of writing the most fascinating trivia ever, in order to satisfy a market of die-hard trivia lovers. My job as an entertainment content provider is to do just that- provide entertainment. People want great trivia, but more importantly they want a great experience – a group event which is extraordinary, fun, memorable and impactful.

For experience creators and live event hosts, an excellent product means not only great content, but also strong skills in public speaking, audience engagement, comedic timing and overall event planning. I believe also that this theory extends well into other areas of the entertainment industry. In his book Performing Rites, for example, pop music critic Simon Frith talk about the 3 different variables in play when a piece is performed: the original composed work, the artist performing the work, and the actual performance itself. Whereas the original work may be considered the “content,” it’s not the only thing an audience will remember; the voice of the artist, how well it was performed, the sound quality of the venue and a host of other factors come into play, none of which have anything to do with a bunch of notes and lyrics written on a piece of paper.

Content is clearly an important factor in producing live entertainment. However, I believe that the overall experience of the audience matters most when evaluating an event’s success- thus requiring the producer to ensure that all of the other variables in play are correctly lined up, to deliver a memorable, impactful product.

Content or experience – which do you think is more important?