Is there really too much content? Mr. T says no.

by Adrian Dayton
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Content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants. It’s not nearly enough to create a good piece of content. You have to understand how content spreads across the web. —Jonathan Perelman

Remember when you were a kid and there were exactly four TV channels to chose from? Most of the sitcoms portrayed white middle class families, while occasionally you had some token diversity with either a live-in butler from the UK, the Cosby family, or an alien from outer space (Alf)? I tried to explain to my 9-year-old son the other day that when I was his age, we had to wait for the right time once each week to see the television show of our choice. He was floored.

There were some great shows back then. But was that the golden age of TV? Was that the right amount of TV content? The thought is absurd. Today is the golden age of TV, because we have so many great choices—you just need to know where to find it. Content on the internet is the same way.

Earlier this year, Greentarget and Zeughauser Group put out their annual report on the State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey declaring, “2017: The Year of Content Overload.” So, are they right? Have we hit a breaking point? Is there literally so much content now that our brains and computers can no longer cope? The short answer is no, but the long answer takes a little more unpacking.

To the person searching for an answer to a tough question, the answer of which will make or break their business, there is never too much content. The quantity is meaningless to that person. All they care about is finding the specific qualitative information that will help them solve their most urgent problem. This term, “content is king” is thrown around so loosely, it’s almost as if people forget that meaningful content is king, content that solves a problem is king, content that is non-obvious and useful is king. A blog post about your office holiday party, with pictures of people opening their Secret Santa gifts? Garbage. It goes into the same category as many other pointless blogs, which have sprung up in every type of business imaginable with no clear objective, no clear message. Its almost as if people say, “Well, content is king, so we better write a bunch of stuff.” That’s not strategic, and it’s wasting your company resources.

If “content is king” doesn’t mean that as long as your firm has a blog you’re all set, then what does it mean? It means that if you have information in your collective brains that will make people’s lives and businesses better, sharing it will paint a pathway to your doors. Clay Shirky describes it best in his seminal book, Cognitive Surplus: “When we use a network, the most important asset we get is access to one another.” But this whole equation is ineffective when certain very smart people hire an intern or an associate or a content farm in India to write their blog. When they refuse to share their ideas for fear that their ideas will be stolen or their time will be wasted, the potential power of sharing content disappears.

There is a deluge of content that isn’t much better than spam. There are contrived blog posts created so that businesses can check off the “updated our blog today” box. Your clients aren’t impressed. What does impress them? Your meaningful and timely insights into how they can avoid risk, overcome difficult challenges, and make their businesses grow.

Now let’s talk about the noise issue. I’ve certainly never head anybody say, “The internet is awfully quiet lately.” There is no shortage of people, celebrities and politicians sharing their hot takes online. Most people are turned off by all this drivel, because they don’t want to hear it. They certainly didn’t subscribe to it, and unfortunately, most of them don’t realize how to opt out. To take some liberties with grammar, my take is “they don’t know how to Internet.” Here are three tips for these people:

  1. Unfollow the people on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter who share content that is not meaningful to you. In Facebook and LinkedIn, this is as easy as clicking on the top right corner and selecting “Unfollow Donald” (referring to Donald Duck of course). This has two powerful implications. First, you will never see content posted from that person again (and the best part is they will never know, since you remain “friends” with them). Second, the Facebook and LinkedIn algorithms learn from your selection and will tend to not show you similar types of posts in the future.
  2. Unsubscribe. When you get two newsletters in a row from a source you don’t care about, go to the bottom and hit “unsubscribe.” Life is too short to be interrupted by email newsletters you will never read. Don’t worry about hurting feelings; most likely the people sending the newsletters know they aren’t very good anyway.
  3. Most importantly, actively support the people who create content you care about. If you read an article you loved, share it. It takes two seconds and it’s the best way to send a signal to the author and the website hosting the content that you loved it and want more where that came from. By taking ownership of how you consume social media, the social media will meet you halfway and learn how to get you what you want.

In summary, there is a lot of content today, but I love the deluge of content. I can’t get enough of amazing shows, podcasts, articles, and insights into how to make everything better. Is it distracting sometimes? Absolutely. Can it be a waste of time? Sure. Is that the fault of the content? No way, the big question is, who is the boss? You are. This is the golden age of content and the golden age of distraction, so what is the cure? Strategy. Laser focus on what you want to accomplish and use the combined brains of billions to help you figure out how to get there. If you are tasked with creating content, make sure your content is helping your ideal clients solve their most pressing problems, so you aren’t just adding to the noise.

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Adrian Dayton
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