Dressed like a college girl, shy eyes and black hair, Kara Swisher is an inconspicuous person you might not notice at a Saturday night party. But listen to her for just a moment, and you likely won’t stop talking to her for the rest of the night.

Swisher worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she wrote the popular blog, “All Things Digital,” before leaving to start her own media outlet, recode.net, which reports on things happening digitally, especially in Silicon Valley.

She will tell you: “In a media company, there are a lot of people in the way,” preventing others from working. Her recommendation? “Don’t be lazy!”

Swisher and her small team are doing now what once was the task of traditional media companies in the past: becoming relevant by content.

Recode.net has a voice that people in the digital business cannot afford to ignore. Swisher’s statements have power. She’s an authority. And her business model is quite compelling.

Several times a year, she brings the market leaders of the technology segment together to share what is going on in the industry. That’s nothing special, but because of her authority, gained by the content she provides on recode.net, the highest ranked leaders come, speak, and network at her events.

The admission fee is steep: US$6,500. And the waiting list is long. What a fascinating combination: content + network = relevance.

This success factor can be observed very often in the digital world.

Forbes uses its big brand to let 1,200 authors, freelancers, and employees discuss important topics and create links between them with a social layer, to increase the users’ engagement in these discussions.

For companies that are interested, it’s easy to participate. The fee: US$50,000 a month to bring in someone as an official contributor (“brand voice”).

Or look at the business social network, LinkedIn. Business people organise themselves by personal or professional interests and deliver data useful for companies searching for new leaders.

Head-hunters pay a lot of money to get access to this data and save time when exploring human resources issues. It’s the some combination mentioned above: content + network = relevance.

That is what the traditional media companies have missed: seeing the audience as a part of their own content. Traditional media brands publish and let people react, but don’t involve them seriously in an exchange process. Readers, for example, can’t rate offers in classifieds.

Of course, newspapers organise panels and invite readers to join. But that isn’t a programme. Content + network = relevance is the biggest lesson we can learn.