The Digital World prepares for Content Shock

By Victoria Galloway | 04 Mar 2014

Content marketing is hoisted onto the digital scaffold… but too soon?

"I believe as marketers, we have been lulled into a false sense of security thinking that this consumption trend will continue to rise without end. That is simply not possible. The Content Shock is coming and I believe we are beginning to enter the danger zone now." - Mark Schaefer, Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions

Mark Schaefer, current maverick of the digital space, has left us all reeling in angst and worry from his latest blog post. Despite 2013 signalling the rise and rise of content marketing, proving that there was some fact behind the buzzword, Schaefer has cut the head off our digital prince. That didn't take long. His blog piece categorically states that content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for businesses. Yikes!

Schaefer, conscious of his heinous betrayal, backs his opinion well, stating that like with any economic position, supply will simply exceed demand. We're talking the content equivalent of the X-Factor/The Voice/Britain's Got Talent combination. The TV consuming public were simply saturated with warbling and it imploded leaving the media jackals to fight over the remnants of Susan Boyle. The good news is that we're done with the singing. The endless singing.

Back to content. Schaefer is suggesting that there will soon be so much content being produced that our consumers won't have time to digest it all. We'll have to pay them. Schaefer argues that we already are using a simple cost/benefit model. Add up the hours spent making the content and convert that into time versus how many people are reading it. He argues that there simply aren't enough hours in the day for all this content to get consumed, so only businesses with the deepest pockets who can produce the most content will win. But the content shock is thus: the content production trend is not sustainable. Covering the internet in your content will only make us all work harder for very little economic benefit as it will be inconsumable.

While this prediction might be true, Schaefer offers no suggestion on how he thinks professional content producers can move forward with this.

I see a few small problems with his content shock analysis. Primarily, information overload isn't a new theory in the slightest. Schaefer seems to blame his worries on the rise of mobile consumption. It's mobile's fault that we're over consuming. I'm not sure it is as I only read what I want to via mobile, it's actually a really good filtering tool as you can tap into what you specifically want to read.

We're all attuned into scoping out what interests us and are naturally selective. What interests me doesn't interest you, you or you so we select different media outputs. Schaefer's content shock theory assumes that we don't filter and conjures an image of what I've called 'content frustration', where you can't find the type of content you want to consume. We've always niche consumed, cutting out the noise as we see necessary.

What I think the content shock, should it happen, will ensure is that content will have to become even more defined and audience specific. Schaefer tells us that content producers will be working harder but doesn't say how.

What is clear, however, is that audience definition and correct positioning are becoming ever more paramount.

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