Is content marketing dead? Content shock and what to do about it

Just a couple of years ago, content marketing was king online. If you ran a business and didn’t provide high-quality, free content through a blog, social media or some other avenue, you could consider yourself DOA.

But marketing professionals began to warn that “content shock,” also called content fatigue, was looming. This concept, introduced by Mark Schaefer in 2014, describes “when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.” There had to come a moment, pros reasoned, when content marketing strategies would cease to work because there was simply too much content.

It sounds inevitable when you consider that the digital universe has doubled in size every two years, and U.S. adults are spending a whopping 12 hours and 7 minutes a day consuming content.

Guess what? Content shock has arrived, according to some experts. These days on average, a website can count on about 0.5 percent of its content generating 50 percent of traffic – and about 60 percent of B2B content goes totally unused.

What causes content marketing fatigue?

There are several reasons why we experience content shock. Readers can only consume so much content marketing a day. Even though consumers are spending more than half of every day on screens, there’s just not enough time in a day to consume it all. Perhaps not even in several lifetimes.

Additionally, most marketing analysts agree that the majority of the content out there is of low quality. Content gets reframed, regurgitated and filtered so many times that it is no longer original or valuable. Marketers got in a routine of churning of content at high rates and are stuck in the groove of producing new content marketing daily, even hourly, in an attempt to stay relevant.

Is content marketing on its way out?

Of course there’s a strong counterargument to the theory of content shock.

Marketer Shel Holtz says the content shock doomsayers are simply the latest in a long line of people going back to Roman philosophers who have greeted every technological advance, from books to the printing press and mobile devices, as a certain cause of overload.

But it hasn’t happened yet, and Holz cites studies showing that most people love having a rich variety of content available and that increasing specialization means a lot of content is aimed not at everyone but at a niche audience.

Shock or awe? Strategies to combat content shock

Unless you are in a tiny niche with no competition and a high demand, it’s likely that content shock is impacting you. So what can you do to combat it?

  • Tap into Your User Base – Consumer-generated and socially distributed content cuts through the noise. For example, brands on YouTube routinely see 10 times more engagement on videos from their users versus videos they uploaded themselves. User-generated content provides social proof and peer validation to other consumers.
  • Do it better – Research what your audience wants and needs. Then focus on meeting that with unique and valuable content. This often takes more resources. It’s OK if you have to reduce your publishing frequency. A fire hose of mediocre content annoys readers while less frequent, more valuable content wins fans.
  • Explore partnerships – Working with thought leaders, influencers and respected companies and brands will expand your audience reach and add resources to your content efforts. That will likely lead to stronger content and more social sharing.
  • Go deep – Deliberately narrow your content methods. Identify particular channels or types of content that you will develop fully and excel at, rather than feeling you must simultaneously blog, podcast, produce video, generate white papers, develop infographics and content for six social networks.
  • Bonus – Following these strategies along with SEO best practices is likely to result in content that ranks highly in searches, which is your best insurance of getting read.

What are your strategies for beating content shock? As Seattle freelance writer, I help companies make sure their content gets read. Contact me to learn more.