A vast cloud of blah

“I’ve recently been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jabber in the world: a vast cloud of blah I felt I was contributing to every seven days.

“If a weatherman misreads the national mood and cheerfully sieg-heils on BBC Breakfast at 8.45am, there’ll be 86 outraged columns, 95 despairing blogs, half a million wry tweets and a rib-tickling pass-the-parcel Photoshop meme about it circulating by lunchtime. It happens every day…

“Everybody talking at once and all over each other; everyone on the planet typing words into their computers, for ever, like I’m doing now.

“I fail to see the point of roughly 98% of human communication at the moment, which indicates I need to stroll around somewhere quiet for a bit.”

• Charlie Brooker resigns his weekly Guardian column

Proudly content-free for more than 150 years!

“WARNING! Harper’s Magazine is 100% Content Free! Everybody gives you ‘content’. But you’ll never find that in Harper’s Magazine. Instead, you’ll get literature. Investigative reporting. Criticism. Photojournalism. Provocative adventures. Daring commentary. And truth-telling as only Harper’s Magazine can tell it.

“Subscribe today and join the thoughtful, skeptical, witty people just like you who pay for culture, not content.”

• Full-page subscription ad, Harper’s Magazine, October 2009, cited here 

Buried in the brown stuff

“Do the math… Lots and lots more content. From more and more sources. From a pool of inexperienced content creators that are stretched to the limit. There’s only one conclusion: We’re all about to be buried in crap.

“‘Me-too’ blog posts. Three-sentence ideas pumped up into 36-page eBooks. […] Microsites full of the obvious disguised as the profound.

“This doesn’t just suck because we’re all going to be targeted by this drek. It sucks because the people we’re marketing to will start to raise their barriers again.”

• Crap: Why the single biggest threat to content marketing is content marketing, and how building a Great Content Brand will help you survive the deluge by Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners

An infinite digital toilet

“The informational ease of access that Google and the internet provide have made information into something like a cheap commodity.

“Remember when teachers started worrying about students citing Wikipedia in essays?

“Now we have a flood of even less-moderated information that gets recycled by people and websites until it becomes ubiquitous. Like an infinite digital toilet, the internet is playing host to its own form of redigested waste.”

• How Google flushes knowledge down the toilet by Bryce Emley

Content supply is exploding, demand stays flat

“Look at the two factors that impact the economics of content marketing — the amount of content available and the amount of content consumed (supply and demand).

“Of course the volume of free content is exploding at a ridiculous rate. Depending on what study you read, the amount of available web-based content (the supply) is doubling every nine to 24 months. Unimaginable, really.

“However, our ability to consume that content (the demand) is finite.

“There are only so many hours in a day and even if we consume content while we eat, work and drive, there is a theoretical and inviolable limit to consumption, which we are now approaching.

“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.”

• Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy by Mark W Schaefer

The good stuff always rises to the top

“Ultimately, the equation is the same as it always has been: Quality content will win, regardless of how deep the pockets of the company producing it.

“That quality content will spread more quickly given the application of savvy social marketing techniques.

“But the capacity for consuming content will continue unabated regardless of the amount of content available. For most people […] it’s as simple as this: I can stand all the quality content you can throw at me, as long as it’s about the stuff I’m interested in.”

• Six reasons there will be no Content Shock by Shel Holtz

The line grows blurrier

“The bizarre idea that web audiences might like to read something relevant and interesting rather than have a brand message forced into their eyes is anathema to the content marketer.

“Most people are at least tangentially aware that the average fun internet listicle is laden with sponsored content; but the line between meaningful online media and manufactured SEO chowder grows ever blurrier.

“This month on Australian blog mUmBRELLA, a ‘content marketing specialist’, defended native advertising on the grounds that it’s occasionally entertaining and not quite as viscerally terrible as slavery.

“It’s a common cognitive error amongst a class of people who no longer have a natural understanding of what ‘interesting’ means to the average web user.”

• Content marketing is ruining the web. Its decline will be poetic justice by JR Hennessey

People aren’t stupid

“It is precisely because the arrival of the internet saw so much of marketing devolve into a game of chasing numbers and algorithms (I’m looking at you SEO, as well as those Facebook marketers posting crap memes to drive ‘likes’) that true content marketing is trying to redress the balance back to offering valuable and genuine information that people actually want.

“It’s amazing how, if you just write quality content containing fresh information and ideas that the right people actually want to read, the search results largely take care of themselves.

“The good thing about content marketing is that it’s the reader’s decision to seek it out and read it.

“There’s no forcing of hands through digital trickery, no broadcasting a self-serving brand message to a passive audience, no attempt to turn everything into a thinly-veiled pitch.

“People aren’t stupid. They’re more likely to trust and follow a brand that doesn’t treat them so. Give them what they want and let them make up their own mind.”

• Jonathan Crossfield, commenting on JR Hennessey, above

Both laugh…

Robert: “Are we in trouble with content marketing? Does [Mark Schaefer] have a point at all with what he’s saying?”

Joe: “No.”

[both laugh]

• Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, podcast: Content Marketing: Dead Already?

Duck for cover

“If someone tosses three tennis balls your way, you’ll probably catch at least one of them and maybe two… but if instead they were to throw a hundred tennis balls at you, all at the same time, you’d duck for cover and catch none.

“And you’d probably emerge somewhat confused by the experience too. (Of course if someone filmed it and put it online you’d probably have some kind of viral hit on your hands.)”

Nurture the skills that lead to quality

“So how do you ensure you’re not adding to content landfill? Think what quality means in your content market.

“Quality doesn’t necessarily mean bigger budgets or expensive bylines. More often, quality is about providing the best answer to the question a user is asking or telling people something they didn’t know. It’s where editorial intuition and instinct come in.

“Businesses need to learn how to harness and nurture such skills – and trust their possessors to get on and do their thing.”

• Dan Brotzel