What happens when content shock and shocking content meet head-on? It’s not pretty. Actually – it’s ugly. Very ugly. But first, what do I mean? Content shock, a phrase coined by Mark Schaefer, suggests that we can only consume so much content. He puts it far more eloquently than I can.
I agree with this.
In 2016 I consumed less online content than in 2015. Like most people, time is my most valuable commodity. The reality is that I don’t have the time to consume the volume I used to. Back in the day, I had RSS feeds and Google Alerts set-up to fire me all manner of interesting content. And some days, I’d spend time following one Google search after another until I found the content I was looking for.
Sometimes that search would reveal a content gem. Content that I loved spending time with. Content that I’d happily share and promote. Why? Because it earned it. It earned my attention and my support because it delivered on some level. In the last 12 months, I’ve found that a lot of the content I’ve consumed has left me feeling flat. Is that because my expectations are unrealistically high? Or, is it because much of the content I find is shockingly bad? Sadly, I think the rise of shocking content is to blame.
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Shocking content doesn’t need to be explained, you experience it every day. Whether it’s a poor piece of journalism or a blog post that has no point. Maybe it’s an article that draws you in with a clever headline that it fails to deliver on. Or, possibly it’s a video or podcast that despite its polished presentation, doesn’t showcase content to match. If you’ve never experienced shockingly bad content, then you’ve been very lucky.
There’s so much content and too much of it is bad. We’re living in a remarkable age where anybody can be a publisher. But as that wise philosopher Spider-Man once said – with great power, comes great responsibility. Just because you can fire off a blog post and publish it in a matter of minutes, doesn’t mean you should. You owe it to your audience to make your content as good as it could be. That doesn’t just mean proofreading. That means reading it as a reader. That means thinking and caring about your audience.
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Content Marketing as a philosophy of doing business is brilliant. I spent a large chunk of my professional career working in traditional marketing communications, so trust me, I know its merits. So I’m an unashamed fan. But I’m not blind. The greatest risk to Content Marketing as a concept is the CONTENT. Too many people are focussing their attention on attracting eyeballs. They chase the metrics. But it all counts for nothing if what they’re driven to is rubbish.
In many cases, it appears that the desire for eyeballs outweighs the desire to deliver value. And that’s dangerous, as it breeds cynicism and makes it harder for the many brilliant content producers out there to get the attention they deserve.
Content; whether it’s written, video, audio or a combination, should do one of three things. It should educate, entertain or make me think. Sometimes, it can do all three things. But, if it fails to deliver on one of these fronts – then it fails. Full-stop. End of story.
I’ve reflected on my relationship with content and on my own personal productivity. Undeniably, I’ve wasted time on blogs, podcasts and videos that didn’t deserve my attention. I’m going to be far more selective in what I consume in 2017. Don’t mistake this for arrogance on my part – it’s simply a case of self-preservation. I’m a one-man operation. My time is precious. If I consume as much as I did last year, I’ll not achieve what I need to in 2017.
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I want to spend time with content that –
- Helps me solve a problem.
- Leads with a story.
- Shows vulnerability and honesty.
- Makes me laugh.
- Challenges me mentally and forces me to think.
That’s not a blueprint – expecting a story that solves a problem, while making me thinking, that has me laughing tears of joy and sadness, is probably asking too much. It would also be just a bit exhausting as a reader if every post was like that, don’t you think?
When it comes right down to it, I want to see more heart and balls in the blogs, podcasts and videos I engage with.
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And, let me be honest. I’ve looked back on my output from 2016 and by my own definition, as outlined above, I think I was successful 50% of the time. That’s right. Some of what I produced was shockingly bad. Some of it was ‘meh’. Some of it was OK. The reality is this – some of my own output didn’t meet my own standards. And, some of it didn’t serve my audience as it should have.
Content Marketing represents the present and future of marketing. It’s a force for good. It’s a leveller. It’s unquestionably a good thing. I just know that I’ve not been doing it right, and based on my own experience, neither have a lot of people.
In 2017, my commitment is to put more thought into what I produce, reflect on what I’ve written here and work harder to produce content that I’m proud of.
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