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Content versus Context?


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Joshua Bell & the Subway, Part II: An Experiment of Beauty and Context |  WDAV: Of Note

I recently stumbled upon a fascinating article from The Washington Post titled "Pearls Before Breakfast." It’s about this intriguing experiment where Joshua Bell, one of the world's greatest violinists, played incognito in a DC Metro station during rush hour. Days before, he had filled the house at Boston's Symphony Hall, where seats were sold for $100.  You’d think a world-class musician performing an intricate Bach piece on a $3.5 million Stradivarius would draw a huge crowd, right? Wrong. Hardly anyone stopped to listen.

This experiment got me thinking about the age-old debate: context vs. content. In the world of online communities, we often emphasize the importance of creating high-quality content. But Joshua Bell’s experiment is a powerful reminder that sometimes, context can matter even more than content.

Here’s why context can be a game-changer:

  • Audience Perception: In the Metro, people were in a rush, focused on getting to their destinations. They weren’t expecting a concert, so they didn’t recognize the brilliance right in front of them. Similarly, in our communities, if the audience isn’t in the right mindset or place to appreciate the content, it might go unnoticed.
  • Environment: Just as the Metro isn’t the ideal venue for a classical performance, the platform we choose for our content can greatly influence its reception. Are we posting in the right forum? Is the timing right? Are we using the right format for the platform?
  • Expectation: When people buy tickets to see Joshua Bell, they expect to be wowed by his talent. In the Metro, there was no such expectation. Setting the right expectations in our communities and marketing efforts can significantly impact how content is received. Are we building anticipation? Are we signaling the value of what’s being offered?
  • Engagement Cues: In a concert hall, applause, and engagement are part of the experience, reinforcing the performer’s talent. Online, engagement cues like comments, shares, and likes can create a similar effect. How are we encouraging and displaying these cues to highlight the value of our content?

So, have you ever created what you thought was amazing content, only for it to fall flat? How did the context play a role in that? Conversely, have you had content that exceeded expectations because it was placed in just the right context?

Ref: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/pearls-before-breakfast-can-one-of-the-nations-great-musicians-cut-through-the-fog-of-a-dc-rush-hour-lets-find-out/2014/09/23/8a6d46da-4331-11e4-b47c-f5889e061e5f_story.html

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