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Content Shock

With the proliferation of search engine penalties, marketers are moving away from illicit online-marketing strategies and towards content marketing.  Gone are the days where buying links, getting listed on article directories, or forum spam can get your site to rank safely in Google.  In the absence of these cheap and quick tactics, companies are focusing on creating vast amounts of content — both written and visual, to improve their visibility in Google.  As a result, we’ve entered a stage of “Content Shock.”

A Great Shock

In early 2014, Mark Schaefer, author of “Social Media Explained,” posited that consumers will soon be overwhelmed with the flow of content dictated as one of the major tenants in what is known as content marketing. Readers will be unable to keep up with what the marketers continue to churn out.

In the article, Schaefer argued that content marketing is an unsustainable strategy because the supply of content will soon outpace the demand for it. With more and more marketers adopting a strategy hinged upon delivering content regularly: the content available will be expansive and unending, while consumers will still only have 24 hours to read it all. This, Schaefer argues, will lead to an overload of information, or “content shock.”

An Evolving Method

According to the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Content marketing, like all marketing strategies, evolved from more traditional marketing methods. Consumers, thanks largely to the convenience that modern technology now afforded them, had almost completely tuned out tried-and-true marketing strategies by simply circumventing commercials and ads. Viewers no longer tolerated the ads that they had put up with in the past, because they had options to do otherwise, leaving marketers with the simple fact that no one was consuming their ads anymore. More so, consumers now had the ability to pick and choose exactly what they wanted to consume.

To exploit this, marketers would have to appeal directly to the consumers, in stark contrast to the sweeping ad campaigns targeted at large demographics and veritable blanket statements meant to appeal to the masses.

Content Overload

Supply and Demand

The theory of supply and demand is perhaps the most fundamental concept of economics. Its simplicity allows it to be comprehensible to the average joe, but its scope is what garners it the title: “backbone of a market economy.”

What made content marketing so successful was its ability to communicate with consumers without selling. It was a subliminal sales pitch that left potential customers with the desire to learn more about a product; a result of consuming relevant and moving content. Sites had to develop their message to appeal to consumers by creating a repository of interesting content.

With the amount of content growing rapidly, the ability to consume the content stays the same, despite technology having enable users to consume it at a higher rate than previously possible. Simply put: there aren’t enough hours in the day to consume the content available, requiring another great evolution to marketing theory in order to appease a group of consumers that have become oversaturated with different subject matter.

Aftershocks

One of the most positive effects of the massive adoption of content marketing was its open market nature. Sites that developed great content could compete with other sites that may have had more resources available. However, supposing that consumers will grow tired with content marketing, Schaefer predicted that content marketing would produce three major changes to the method:

1.    Those with access to greater resources (i.e. big businesses) would triumph over those that didn’t have nearly as much, resulting in the price for content being driven-up considerable.

2.    Expensive content would make it that much harder for the smaller sites to recover from the content blitzkrieg. The necessity for quality keywords, competitor research, and method for tracking results require access to greater resources. With great content now too expensive for many sites, the overwhelming of the market by these larger companies would prohibit sites from entering the market and surviving.

3.    The surviving content marketers–as a result of their own oversaturation of the market, and the subsequent decline in content demand–will be forced to entice readers in different ways.

This, of course, will require more man hours, funds, and advertising, further limiting the effectiveness–and appeal–that content marketing once possessed.

Think About It

To revisit the parallel with supply and demand: content shock reflects a change in consumer demand. To an extent, readers have become spoiled by the amount of quality material available to them. Dedicated content marketers provide information that is useful and fun, but the fact remains that they will need to change their strategy in order to avoid the oversaturation that may come.

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This article was contributed by Nick Rojas, a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas.

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Sometimes I write these posts. Sometimes I curate them from other sources. Either way, I hope they are useful to you.

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