The Fleeting Value Of Content

The Fleeting Value Of Content

Most content screams into an empty universe.

It’s nice to create content with the intent of reaching a broad and targeted audience, but it’s becoming harder and harder to do this. No matter how good the content is. Yes, the best content always rises to the top, but when the amount of content being produced rises exponentially and is being published at a frenetic pace, it becomes a lot harder for individuals to filter the signal from the noise. It’s a challenge that many of us lamented as Blogging became that much more prevalent and commercial in the early 2000s, and it’s becoming an even bigger challenge in a world where content is created in channels like TwitterFacebookYouTubeGoogle +LinkedIn and more.

Content is short. Content is long. Content is text, images, audio, and video. Publishing content is free.

It has come to the point where it’s no longer about publishing on a topic that no one else has covered (because it seems like every topic has been covered), but it’s now a world of perspective. What a grand world this would be if I was the only one Blogging about New Media, Marketing, Advertising, and Communications. What you get here is, simply, my own take on specific topics (and if you’re hungry for others, just look to the left and click on some of the links in my Blogroll or check out Ad Age Magazine’s Power 150).

This means two big, important things:

  1. Making money with content is very hard.
  2. Making your content resonate for a long period of time is very hard.

Being a publisher is very hard.

The Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article yesterday titled, Content Deluge Swamps Yahoo, that focused on how Yahoo (and other big online publishers) struggle to make money because, “As Web traffic explodes, Internet companies are struggling to profit off ads shown next to the articles, videos and other content offered to viewers. It’s a simple rule of any market. The more information that is created, the more the value is reduced. And despite attempts to woo spending with bigger, bolder, and more targeted ads, services that help consumers navigate that content, namely search, remain the big money makers online.” Strangely enough, I was reading this article at the airport having just attended Yahoo’s upfront event. What was Yahoo’s response to this challenge of more content equaling a reduction in value? Why, more content, more channels, and more content, of course. Don’t take this as a slight against Yahoo (it’s not), but this is how publishers (and this includes some Bloggers that I know, as well) react to this value reduction. They publish more in hopes of capturing or maintaining the audience that may be slipping away into other channels and – without really thinking about it – are simply adding more value reduction to all of their inventory.

Beyond the value, we’re not spending a ton of time with all of this content, either.

A friend of mine has been grappling with a conundrum: should they release their next book with a publisher or simply give it away as a free e-book? If you sell a book, this immediately limits the ability to get the story to spread, but if they publish it for free – in a world where free content is everywhere – will that guarantee that their thoughts will be valued, spread, read, and really thought about? It’s a serious challenge for many people who create content. The HubSpot Blog published a post yesterday titled, Shelf Life of Social Media Links Only 3 Hours, that looked at a new report issued by the URL shortening service, bitly. Here’s what they uncovered: “generally, links shared on Facebook, Twitter, and via direct sources like email or instant message have a shelf life of about 3 hours. This excludes YouTube, where people remain interested in links for more than twice that – 7 hours! And while you can expect that the majority of links will only remain interesting for less than 2 hours, others can generate a lot more interaction and clicks, lasting for more than 11 hours.” For a great visualization of this, get ready for your head to spin: Business Insider – Chart of the day: The Internet Has A Short Attention Span.

You’re doing great if your content can last 12 hours. How depressing.

Bloggers already know this. They post something that they think is ground-breaking, earth-shaking, and game-changing and everyone is talking about it everywhere… for a couple of seconds… for a couple of hours… and then everyone is on to the next thing (and that Blogger is already on the next blog post). It’s hard going if you’re really looking for your content to make an impact. We’re learning (as the world of content evolves) that it’s hard to create value for content when it’s not a scarce (or limited) commodity, and that most content has but a fleeting moment of time to get any true attention.