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The Coming of "Content Shock" – Should You be Worried?

blur Content | February 10, 2014 | Content

Is Content Marketing a sustainable model or is it about to reach saturation?

The last year or so has seen a flurry of businesses entering the world of Content Marketing – whereby quality content is created to help educate and engage customers, as well as providing tasty morsels for those ever-more discerning search bots.

Studies show that the amount of available content on the Internet doubles every couple of years, making it increasingly harder for content to be seen.

Where it Came From

In fact, Content Marketing has been around in some form for decades. Ads of old would often include useful advice or practical tips, which of course entailed using the product being marketed.

Since the Panda and Penguin updates at Google, however, there has been a growing market for quality content on the web. In the past, pages of iffy content stuffed with keywords almost guaranteed a high page ranking, keeping plenty of SEO sharks and content mills happily in business. Content was produced on the cheap and the quality was, with a few rare exceptions, pretty lamentable.

Nowadays, if you want your business to be visible, you have to produce high quality content that is read and shared; content that reads well, looks fantastic and is intriguing or emotionally engaging. If you’re running into issues with this, take a look at our article on how to ensure that your content is worth publishing.

Information Overload

In response, content marketers have become as ubiquitous as SEO companies, and now the Internet is flush with information on a whole variety of subjects. That’s not new. But the sheer volume of content available to us is, and questions are being asked about information overload.

It has led to a big debate on the Internet, too. Marketing consultant Mark Schaefer kicked it off with reference in a recent blog post to the coming of “Content Shock” – the seemingly inevitable saturation of marketing content and our limited capacity to absorb it.

Massive Expansion

Studies show that the amount of available content on the Internet doubles every couple of years. Given that there are already billions of pages online to choose from, it could be argued that we already suffer from information overload.

Quite so, says Schaefer, and it will be the big guys with the big money who have an unfair advantage. Whereas the big companies can splash their cash on SEO and other platforms to seed their content to the masses, the smaller companies that have great content on their site will find it difficult to get heard.

Not so, says fellow consultant Marcus Sheridan in his rebuttal blog post that takes issue with some of Schaefer’s claims. There will always be Digital Davids, he suggests, ready to slay the corporate Goliaths with their clever and nimble content. The money guys get lazy. But the startup has to be inventive to get seen, and somehow will be easily found in our daily quest for the interesting stuff.

Filter Issues

Another point made by the ‘What content shock?’ brigade is that people will naturally find ways of filtering the content they are interested in, no matter how much is out there. Schaefer counters this in a follow up blog, where he argues that filters just make it more of a zero sum game for the big companies who can spend to make sure their stuff gets seen first.

It’s certainly an interesting debate and will no doubt continue among those in the blogosphere for a good while yet. The human mind, after all, has always had a propensity to deal with information overload, and nature – along with business – will take its course in one way or another.

For now, it’s clear that content marketing does actually work when done well. But whether that’s enough to keep content marketers in business for many years is for the future to decide.

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