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latino-thought-makers-new-logoEarlier this week, New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg joined the legions of media watchers who see the Trump phenomenon as a case study in content marketing, not just a political campaign. It’s an interesting way to evaluate a 24×7  reality show brought to you by the entertainment company Rutenberg calls “Trump Productions, Inc.” And the analysis comes at a time when the value of content itself is getting a fresh look.  

If the last presidential election cycle was all about big data — with people like Nate Silver at the top of the pyramid — this may be the election cycle where big data is trumped by “big content,” which analyst firm Gartner recently defined as “content marketing with the power of big data to create precision targeting of rich content assets.”  

The only question on my mind: who wins? Answer: we are just getting started, and it’s too early to call. 

I recently spoke with someone who not only understands the value of big content, but who is actually on the opposing side of the anti-immigrant rhetoric. Actor, writer, and producer Rick Najera — whom I’ve written about several times before — has been producing content to change the Latino narrative in a variety of formats. And, if he gets his way, he will soon be distributing that content digitally to get the scale and precision that all smart content marketers want.   

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I’m betting Rick can do it for three reasons.  First, he’s a pioneer in cross-cultural theater, one of only three Latinos to have written and starred in their own show on Broadway (Latinologues). Rick recently launched a series of  talks called Latino Thought Makers (LTM), which leverages the power of live experience to help people engage more intimately with Latino leaders and influencers.  With three seasons at Oxnard College in California and other venues, he’s interviewed actors Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, Josefina Lopez, Luis Guzman, Danny Trejo, Lisa Vidal, Judy Reyes, Julissa Arce, Marco Antonio Regil;  journalists Ruben Navarrette Jr., Myrka Dellanos, Julio Ricardo Varela; Hispanic tech and social media leaders David Lopez, Vincent Marcus, Ana Flores; the Cesar Chavez family — thoughtmakers then and now — and many others, both established and emerging, in American life.  

As a former theater and events producer, I’ve learned to appreciate the power of place for public conversations. Done well, it combines the intimacy of studio interviews (like NPR’s “Fresh Air” has helped to popularize) with the emotional range of stage performance. Rick’s own experience in live experience brings power and professionalism to LTM’s productions.

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Second, Rick’s Hollywood experience brings polish to the video production of LTM. He was a writer for the popular TV show In Living Color, MADtv, and most recently for Hulu’s original Emmy nominated show, East Los High. The challenge with live experience — as I’ve learned over the years — is that you can only engage the people who bother to come see the show. The numbers are small, unless, of course, you can find a way to distribute the content outside the room, through video. But unless the content is compelling, it’s hard to compete these days.

The content does not need not be shocking, as we may be tempted to believe this election season. But it does need to be great.  Because, if the content isgreat, it may find a larger audience in the digital world (scale, precision, network effects).