Top content marketer and blogger Mark Schaefer really hit a nerve (or several nerves, actually) with his latest article predicting the end of content marketing, leaving many marketing professionals quaking in their shoes and gasping for air.
I was one of (doubtlessly) many who, upon first read-through, was left seriously considering a change in career path. But it was a decision big enough that I went back to read the article again, and again - and again. Something didn’t feel quite right.
Introducing: Content Shock
Mark’s points have been covered quite extensively across several popular blogs, but this graphic provides a quick snapshot:
In essence, because of the incredible amount of free content being produced and made available online, Mark is saying that when it comes to content marketing, this is what is going to happen eventually:
- The eventual winners of content marketing will have the deepest pockets.
- The entry barriers will become too high for other businesses.
- The economics created by Content Shock will eventually drive many content creators out of business.
- The fact that it’s harder than ever to maintain an audience
The crux is this: Mark foresees that “this upward trend of consumption is not sustainable because every human has a physiological, inviolable limit to the amount of content they can consume.”
My Take: Humans Have Eyes, And They Can See
Now, I’m not going to go into the many rebuttals made by others. My take is simply that there might be a ton of free content available online, but - surprise, surprise! - only a small handful of this content is truly epic and actually of interest to readers.
Readers today are far more discerning as to which publishers produce content worth reading and which produce (pardon my French) crap.
Which is why Mark’s assertion that “every human has a physiological, inviolable limit to the amount of content they can consume” is nothing new at all. Humans know crap when they see it, and limit it accordingly - what they want is awesome content that is useful to them.
Consumers will always “find the time to research that which is important to them”, and one can never get enough of that (in part because there isn’t enough of that around right now).
This point made by Shel Holtz illustrates my point perfectly:
“The capacity for consuming content will continue unabated regardless of the amount of content available. For most people—as evidenced by the Northwestern study—it’s as simple as this: I can stand all the quality content you can throw at me, as long as it’s about the stuff I’m interested in.”
Hence, here are 3 things you absolutely need to do to avoid content shock in 2014:
1. Focus on your target audience
“Yet to read Schaefer’s prediction, you would think that everybody producing content is trying to reach everybody. While there is some popular content that appeals to the masses, most of what we read online is what appeals to us personally based on the work we do, our hobbies, and our interests.” – Shel Holtz
As the graphic above demonstrates, creating niche content allows you to focus on your target audience. Get right down to specific topics that would be useful to readers in that particular alcove.
There might a whole load of content available out there, but your target audience is only going to be searching for a tiny pocket of content - and when they do, you’d better be there ready to receive them.
Speaking of which…
2. Create epic, useful content
“We are a long way from the day when too much high-quality, Rainmaker-style content is being created. To repeat myself, there is not a glut of content that is useful, passionate, individual, and interesting.” - Sonia Simone
Make sure any content that you publish is, beyond a shadow of doubt, awesome and useful for your target audience. As BlueCompass argues, awesome content sits in between the preferences of your audience and the goals of your brand. It is utterly pointless if your content headline draws a click, but not the read.
Draw them in with niche topics, and wow them with attractive and handy content. This will definitely help with your content’s shareability as well, which brings me to…
3. Distribute your content
If a tree falls in Africa and no one sees or hears it, did it really happen? According to Mark, there are millions of proverbial “content trees” (just go with it) falling down and burying everyone under them.
I say that a lot of people have not seen or heard these trees fall. In other words, because there is only just so much space on a reader’s Facebook feed or Google first page, tons of content (some of them stunningly good) remain lying unread around the World Wide Web, just waiting to be found.
The solution? Actively distribute your content. Creative strategist Daniel Goodall has written about the relationship between owned, bought and earned reach. Don’t assume that, just because your content caters to a niche audience and is awesome, your readers will find you.
The amount of information that is being pushed out to people today is suffocating them, and it is your job to bring a breath of fresh air to them.
Chad Pollit suggests that you focus on earning media:
One of the best ways authors can get their content in front of the right audience is to build real relationships with the media outlets their intended audience consumes — earning media. These relationships can result in many different kinds of content distribution opportunities:
- News Coverage
- Editorial Coverage
- Guest Blogging
Business As Usual
To tell you the truth, these points are nothing new to marketing professionals. There is, ironically, a massive amount of articles out there that expound the merits of doing the three things I have talked about.
At the end of the day, though, consistency is key. Readership needs to be earned, and it is your job to cut through the noise on a daily basis and reach your audience. Have no fear – there will be no content shock, as long as business runs as usual.