Context vs Content, what is more important?





Bill Gates says: Content is King.

And I believed it for years. It is still true though, but only to a certain extent.

“Content” means the material that you can share with others.



I recently enjoyed reading “The hard thing about hard things” from Ben Horowitz. One thing I particularly remember is that when he built the culture in Opsware (his first company), he mentioned that profanity was important for his company culture but the tone has to be correct. So he made the example of “cupcakes”, it would be recognized as ok if he comments on someone’s cupcakes baking skills are good, however it would not be ok if he calls a male colleague “cupcake”.

I’ve been thinking about context meaning recently and the “cupcake” example is a typical case for contextual understanding. We receive different feelings based on the contextual understanding of the content, and that decides whether we like or dislike that piece of content under particular circumstances.

Content cannot be king without context.

If Bill Gates says content is king, then context should be the queen.

“Context” means various components in the content that influence how people perceive the content. It carries the purpose of the content.

Contextual understanding has a huge impact on our experience when consuming content, and that impact starts early, already when we are selecting movies and TV shows to watch. My partner asked me whether I want to watch Jupiter’s Legacy with him on a Friday night, I said I was not in the mood for that.

Then I started to think, when would I be in the mood for that? Almost never. The fact is that I have never been a superhero content fan. The feelings I get from watching superhero movies are so different from what my partner gets.


This makes me think that context is more complicated than content and that audience engagement should be built on more than just content.

(I will disregards content directly when I see it belongs to the Genre “Sci-fi”)

The why(in context) is at least equally important to what (in content)

Like the example I gave earlier, my partner loves superhero content because they are mysterious, they stand for fairness & justice, they stand for courage & power, and they also stand for freedom & making impossible things possible today.


The superhero movies connect with the values and reflect the feelings he wanted from the movies: positivity & inspiring.

Context understanding impact our moods, but it is so individually nuanced because it is influenced by various factors, just to name a few here:

  • Time of receiving content during the day (yes, unsurprisingly it actually matters too)

  • Culture background

  • Grow up journey

  • Education

  • Social status

  • Hobby and habits

  • Interests

And so much more…


I am not interested in superhero content but I definitely fit the target group in terms of reach, gender, age, education, monthly income and more.

But just because I am not interested in the superhero topic, should they not target me? Definitely they should, but in a different way.

Deep contextual understanding has to be built with more than just a few key words

Going back to the superhero movie topic, have I ever watched superhero movies and shows with my partner? Yes. We watched “Logan” together, as an example, and I really liked it.


Look at the imdb keyword comparison of Jupiter’s Legacy and Logan:

I would pass on both movies if I just look at the keywords; but I might pick up Logan if I watch the trailer and it is well produced and represents the feeling of the movie. Why?


Because the emotional feeling matters to us when we decide what to watch, even the trailers contain enough emotional impact.


I love dramas with a bit of darkness, I like the movies that show maturity, growth and strength. With Logan, the music “Hurt” by Johnny Cash brought me into Logan’s life directly, I feel emotional when I see the scars of his back, which tells the story of his past life, but then the story between him and Laura builds another type of emotion that shows his care, his grit and his kindness. And all of these emotions are built and presented with different camera angles, colors, lines, sound, music, movements, etc.


So it is not just a superhero movie for me anymore, I connected with it for other reasons other than superhero. I liked the darkness, I liked the grown-up pain, I liked the ballsy and spiritual meaning of the movie.


But none of these feelings are mentioned in imdb’s description, in fact, it is hardly mentioned in any description.


It comes down to the challenge in contextual understanding of the content today that exists in the entire media entertainment industry. We describe content on a superficial and very high level, content that someone has put their heart and soul into producing with great detail. We believe this is the key reason why some people say that 80% of the video content promotion isn’t engaging or effective.



Art of engagement - time series based analytics

Creating good engagement is an art.

We at Vionlabs have found the secret sauce to that art - time based analytics of the entire content from all perspectives: camera angles, emotions, colors, movements and much more.


Logan colors timeline:

Start End Credits


Logans emotional prediction using Vionlabs AI. Top graph shows the positive & negative emotions. And the bottom graph shows how stressful we perceive the scenes in Logan.



Our philosophy is to treat every piece of content with heart and science from every angle.

Based on this, we are able to deliver analyses of what a few keywords cannot deliver, we are able to draw conclusions that keywords can’t and bring a scientific approach to the human emotional understanding.


When we apply our philosophy and analyze Logan from different dimensions, we get different movie suggestions that match a specific dimension. For example, when we look at darkness and emotions, we found the following 3 movies from our database that can be comparable with Logan, which will increase my engagement with a platform that understands what ticks for me with Logan.



Serena (2014) Never Look Away (2018) The Girl on the train (2016)

Vionlabs list of similar titles when applying a few dimensions



Salt (2010) The Hunted (2003) Enemy of the state (1998)

Vionlabs list of similar titles when applying more dimensions



When we apply more dimensions together, the suggestions become more and more comprehensive in taking different factors into consideration, it feels like a human brain connecting everything not only from scientific approach, but also with heart. There is so much more to explore in the contextual understanding of content, and connecting it with what consumers want, expect, unexpected, like, dislike… We are onto something important and big, and the journey ahead is so exciting.


If you are here already, why let the power of contextual understanding go when you can learn more about it today? Check here that my colleague Marcus shared his thoughts particularly around moods, which is the key to engage your audience.

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