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There Is No Such Thing As Content Shock

By , on September 23, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Hey everybody, stop what you’re doing. Are you writing a blog post? Save as draft. Composing a Tweet? Cancel. Working on a Slideshare? Exit.

Turns out that with every piece of content we all create, we’re contributing to a coming catastrophe: The Content Shock.

You’ve heard about the Content Shock, right? It’s the hypothesis that says marketers (and others) are making too much content and overwhelming consumers with it; from phrase-coiner Mark Schaefer:

This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock. In a situation where content supply is exponentially exploding while content demand is flat, we would predict that individuals, companies, and brands would have to “pay” consumers more and more just to get them to see the same amount of content.

Apocalyptic, right? Might as well pack up and go home? Here’s what I think:

There is no such thing as a Content Shock.

That is, there is no impending event or change that is significantly altering the economics of attention in a way that is any different from the ongoing challenges for any marketer to earn the attention of their audience. Let’s look at the Content Shock arguments one at a time:

Demand Might Be Finite In Aggregate, But Isn’t Close To Being Satisfied

The reductive argument about there only being so many hours in a day makes sense for a moment, though certainly content consumption trends in new places (all of us staring at our phones all the time) argue against it for the near future. But even if we assume every person is staring at a screen for the maximum amount of time they’ll stare at a screen, we can’t presuppose they’re all finding what they want or need.  I’m more than willing to bet that we have a lot of room to grow in efficiently connecting consumer demand to supply in content.

Competition May Drive Up Prices In Established Media, But New Media Models Will Continue To Emerge

There’s an argument that all this media creation will make it impossible for a small player with a small budget to compete with well-financed competitors for attention. But that just doesn’t sound like the world we’ve been living in for the past 15 years. A static universe of media consumption dominated by a few players? Sure, there’s still a Google, but there didn’t used to be a Facebook or a Twitter. And who knows what’s next. I’m willing to bet that new models of content discovery and consumption will continue to emerge, and that there will be opportunities for marketers to earn attention there.

You’re Looking At The Wrong Competitive Set

It’s very easy to focus on the marketers-creating-content angle if you’re a marketer who creates content. But, um, that feels a little navel-gazey, no? Like something that marketers who spend too much time tweeting at other marketers might think? It’s a big world. Lots of people are creating content: publishers, everyday folks, and brands too. That’s not going to slow down. But saying that this has some sort of differential impact on marketers presupposes that marketers are churning out things that people don’t want to see (as opposed to interesting and valuable things that will earn attention).

The rules of content marketing are the same as they’ve always been. Filler gets ignored, so create quality content. Pay attention to where your audience is consuming information. Be relevant. Have a point of view. And, uh, don’t sweat The Content Shock.



Categories: Industry News