The Content Graveyard: How Much is Too Much?

This is a guest post from Jasmin Kirkbride. Jasmin is a regular blogger for BookMachine and Editorial Assistant at Periscope Books (part of Garnet Publishing). She is also a published author and you can find her on Twitter @jasminkirkbride

‘Content is king’ is a familiar adage in publishing circles, but as content marketing begins its apparent decline, that seems unlikely to remain the case.

Content Shock: reaching critical mass

Loosely, content marketing is marketing that involves the creation and sharing of content to acquire and retain customers. For example, a company or organisation might use a blog to answer customer’s question relating to one or more of their products, in order to draw them into a sale. So far, a solid marketing theory.

However, partly fuelled by the content marketing craze, the amount of content on the internet has started to double every 9-24 months. This has major implications for the efficacy of content marketing in the long term because, while there is an infinite amount of content we can produce, there is only so much we can take in. Once we reach this point of critical mass, where there is more content out there than can be consumed, the content marketing model falls apart in a phenomenon being referred to as ‘Content Shock’.

The purpose of content marketing is to engage the consumer to the point where they buy something from your company. You make a profit, but only so long as you are investing less money in creating the initial engagement than you are making from the sale. The more content there is, the harder this is to do. Five or ten years ago, you could write an article addressing a particular subject and only have to compete with a handful of similar articles, now you have to stand out amongst hundreds, if not thousands. Quality is not enough, your content needs to be forcibly made more visible – cue paid advertising, particularly on social media where content marketing is most popularly broadcast.

It is therefore no longer the company producing the highest quality content or that most relevant to the user that is most visible: it is the companies with the deepest pockets. In effect, we have begun to pay the consumer to view our content, defeating the point of content marketing in the first place.

What happens next?

Content Shock won’t hit every industry or every niche at the same time. As during previous digital revolutions, different areas will be hit at different moments. Some of us are already experiencing it, while for others it could be months or even years away.

There are things you can do to futureproof your content, however. First, make sure that you keep your content in chunks, so that it can be supported and understood by new sharing platforms. Second, rather than trying to create as much content as possible, make less content with more value. Put real heart into it, create content you believe in that will have a genuine value to the consumer. Whenever you write something, look at it and consider: does what I have to say need to be said? If the answer is no, move on to another topic.

What happens after Content Shock remains unclear, but my favourite theory, from Mark W Schaefer, is that an increased use of virtual and augmented reality devices will drive future marketing towards engaging the consumer in fun. Good news for publishers, as selling stories and taking them on adventures is what we’re all about! What’s more, the early adopters will be the ones who benefit most from this, so go chuck on your Google Glass and start figuring out how to get people giggling.

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