there's plenty of debate around what is king. the axiom of "content is king" was and is again at the top of the list. maybe it shifted away for a little while, but it's back. there's many contrarians to this though. a few of which i found in the comments of this ad age article today.
some counters to the mantle of content as king that i've seen
let me take a stab at retorting to each of these claims. make no mistake, they are all important and vital to the success of any type of content, but not the king.
first, there is nothing to distribute without content. second, great content can find or make it's own distribution whether through virality, or discovered pickup by distribution sources. this goes hand-in-hand with promotion as general ways to make people 'aware' of the content, but without something strong to back it up, it still falls short.
this is the one i could argue most for as a usurper to content. the consumer-centric notion emerged in the 50s or so when the marketing world turned around to be consumer-centric and we put them front and center in our process. What content does, is fill a role of value with consumers. It is what media outlets use to garner audiences and what brands use to engage them (directly or indirectly). What elevates content above consumers though is that content creates its own consumers. consumers don't always know what they want and great content is persuasive.
yes, it is an attention economy with so many companies and forms of consumables out there and brands fight for a lot of that. content, as a consumable, needs to stand apart and to do so needs to be interesting, innovative, relevant and engaging (sorry for all the buzzwords). when it is, it garners attention, so it begins with content. as a corollary, the distribution and promotion are the means to also fight for attention. lasting attention though is from killer content and consumers deciding to spend time with it.
conversations only matter when they are about something relevant and meaningful to a brand and valuable when they are positive. the chief way of doing that is to have good content for conversations to form around. without it, conversations are just noise, and the lack of them are opportunities. both are served by creating amazing content which elevates its importance.
i've already drawn promotion into the fray, but to add one more point, you can promote a piece of shit, but no one will buy it (ie. you can't polish a turd). the fallout of not promoting something actually good is risky business and potentially damaging. you can spend all you want to promote something less than stellar, but it's probably a waste.
if you broke it down into a logical pathway, you'll easily find that many of these are just subsets, fallouts or plugins to great content. but it starts with great content and so that inherently must remain at the top, the rest flows from it, but primarily, resources should be dedicated to building great content.