Do you find yourself lying awake at night worrying about the sheer amount of information that exists on the web?

No? It seems as though you’re not alone.

A recent study from Northwestern University has countered standard thinking around the ‘threat’ of information overload.

Generally accepted wisdom dictates that, with more information being churned out every second on the web, staying on top of all that content is tough.

That’s why attempts to ‘help’ manage information, whether through search or Facebook EdgeRank are seen as not just a nice to have but a vital solution in the securing the future of the web.

But the study, which was lead by Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern, interviewed 77 people from across the US and examined their approach to accessing information.

Give me more

It found that, rather than being overwhelmed by the amount of content available, respondents actually liked the fact they had more to consume.

What’s more, it appears we have adapted to the situation we find ourselves in, have developed better skills to help us cope and feel incredibly positive about being more informed:

“We found that the high volume of information available these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic. People are able to get their news and information from a diverse set of sources and they seem to like having these options,” said Hargittai.

Other key findings were:

  • TV was still the main way respondents accessed information but online news was viewed more positively.
  • Respondents were almost entirely enthusiastic about new media.
  • Trivial social media updates and opinion pieces from overly political pundits were sources of frustration when looking for information.

So what does that tell those of us working in digital PR and other areas where content marketing is increasingly important?

1. Content consumers are increasingly savvy

Those that reported difficulties with information were those with less advanced ‘internet skills’.

That tells us that we need to worry less about whether people will find our content. Create great content and they will come.

2. Quality matters

Perhaps an obvious statement, but it is worth underlining this fact.

Quantity is no longer a solution. The days of spewing out low quality content to help push search rankings just won’t cut the mustard. This approach has probably never ‘tricked’ anyone into consuming your content apart from search engines anyway.

Don’t post for the sake of it, post because you have something to say.

3. Make content easy to digest

I’m fed up of reading long, turgid blog posts that are hard to read and say nothing.

If you want your content to be read online (and this is even more important when it comes to mobile) then you need to write in a way that works for your audience. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to blogs. The web gives us the opportunity to create engaging content in a multitude of different ways.

Before you put together your next 100 page whitepaper, think about whether there might be a better way to present that information.

4. You need to provide more content (in certain situations)

This study shows that rather than feeling overwhelmed, we feel empowered by having more information.

I’ve written before about how providing the right content at the right time can significantly assist your sales funnel – whether B2B or consumer. When making a buying decision we increasingly expect content to be provided to help us. If content isn’t provided by the vendor (and even if it is) we’ll just look elsewhere.

Work out what information your customers need to help them buy and give it to them.

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