Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Newfangled works with independent agencies to create lead development web platforms for their clients.

Questioning the Value of Online Content

at 4:00 pm



Consider this an echo to my post from July on A Value-Based Content Strategy: I really enjoyed and appreciated Tad Toulis' Core77 post, No more feeds please! How abundant information is making us fat, which definitely touches on something I think most people are sensing- the overload not just of available information, but also the individual compulsion to create and consume more information. Anyone working in a web-related field, not to mention news and entertainment media, likely spends the majority of their time with an anxiety fueled by trying to simply keep up. Toulis compares this economy of information with industrial food, which can be simplified to a law of more is less- more calories, less nutrition, or more content, less value. He puts it well here:

"Fueled by social media sites and ever-cheaper devices, information production has continued unabated over the course of the present recession. To be sure, the widening array of voices that feed this dynamic and its democratizing effect are fantastic achievements, but undermining these accomplishments are the less admirable effects of a 24/7 media culture run rampant. Simply put, there's too much bad stuff out there; too many points of view and way too much noise. In our ever compressed lives, where tweets and posts compete tirelessly for our attention, this hallmark of contemporary life threatens to invite a pan-global case of attention deficit disorder the likes of which no Ritalin prescription could combat."

Questioning the value of content has been central to the thinking behind our own marketing and content strategy at Newfangled. We've been prolific in our writing over the past few years, but are now at the point that calibration and value are our primary concern, not frequency or volume. In my own experience online, I wish that those who operate primarily online (developers, designers, strategists, marketers, etc.) would come to the same conclusion, not just for my sake, but for their own, too. Keeping up with a realistically unsustainable pace of content creation is just not healthy, nor is it truly productive.

For a scientific take on this, check out what Jonah Lehrer has to say about the addictive properties of information.





Comments

Andrew | August 19, 2009 8:45 PM
The problem is that if you slow down your posting, you disappear. People have shorter memories now, so if you're not always visible, you'll be forgotten. I'mnot saying that's right, that's just how it is.
Blair Enns | August 20, 2009 12:18 AM
I'm glad to see this post, Chris. It aligns with the phenomenon that I've labelled, The Problem With Twitter:

I don't want to know what you had for breakfast, but I'm convinced your life would be improved if you knew what I had. (Two eggs over easy on toast, pretty much everyday. You're welcome.)

Experts write. But if you can't bring new insight, a new perspective, a fresh voice or a provocative prediction of the future, then you should probably pass on that tweet, post or article. I struggle with this too. We should all be assigned personal editors. My worst gaffes are in the middle of the night when I'm typing out a bright idea and my editor/proof reader is asleep beside me.
Mark Shipley | August 20, 2009 8:38 AM
Thanks for this post. Let's hope it's optimized ;) so many other find it useful.

Over the past few months, I have seen a marked increase in demand for information on how to deal with information overload. Each time I make my presentation, "How to get found on the internet", I stress the importance of taking it slowly, having a core message, listening to see what clients and clients to be are concerned with and developing content that enriches and/or enlightens.

Our blog at Wanderlust has gone through the metamorphosis you speak of. We started slow, got prolific for a while, but then found our posts becoming off strategy as we struggled to keep up with publishing deadlines.

Today, we're more intermittent. If we have something to share, a point of view or an insight into something our current and future business partners are interested in, and it follows our core message, we post it. If not, we go silent.

As my South of the Mason-Dixon Line parents taught me, "Mark, if you don't have something of value to share, please keep your mouth shut."
Chris Butler | August 20, 2009 9:01 AM
@Andrew, You know, I don't buy that. I follow many people on Twitter and Tumblr and it's the people who post infrequently, but with valuable insights and content, that I pay attention to most. When I see a post from that kind of person, I tend to set aside time to look at it. The other stuff is just a steady stream of info that I frankly take for granted- it's just going to keep coming.

@Blair Enns, Thanks for spreading this on Twitter! Your point on Twitter, though, is well taken. It's not right to post your personal trivia without sincerely being interested in someone else's. So, let's ditch the 'what I had for breakfast' meme and actually use Twitter to communicate. In other words, if you're not willing to read someone else's inane trivia, don't post yours. The same thing goes for professional writing- it requires you to read more than you write. And, yes, having a great editor/proof reader who knows you well and knows what you're trying to say, even when you aren't yet saying it well, is very, very valuable. Evidently you've taken that intimacy to the next level with your editor... not that there's anything wrong with that ;-)
Chris Butler | August 20, 2009 9:13 AM
Mark,

Your parents were right! I'm about to publish another blog post that delves into this territory, but did you ever read "What Got You Here Won't Get You There?" It's a short book by Marshall Goldsmith, a corporate coach who takes executives through what he calls “360 reviews,” evaluating people from peer feedback and identifying bad habits and traits that hinder growth. One he hones in on is the assumption of adding value- a tendency that executives (and consultants) have to always chime in on something, even when they don't realize that they are either off-topic or simply repeating an already voiced idea.

This is right in line with what you said about noticing that your blog got caught up in its own pace and went off point. We've been guilty of this too.

Thanks for reading,

Chris
Katie | August 20, 2009 12:06 PM
Hi Chris,

When it comes to things like Twitter, or blogging, I see the problem more as sharing too often rather than the "value" of what you share.

For example, I followed Guy Kawasaki for a day on Twitter. He posted pretty good stuff. 9 out of 10 posts were valuable, interesting reads. After 1 day I couldn't take it any more. He wasn't a person--he's a news ticker.

The industry leaders I end up following are those that mix in the personal/offtopic with the professional in a balanced way. If I can't get a sense of the person behind the information, it weirds me out.

So for me, it's not as much the type of information shared as much as the variety, personality, and frequency of what's shared.

Katie
Blair Enns | August 20, 2009 12:23 PM
I agree with Katie. Okay, I wasn't going to do this, but you guys have pretty much made me. :) This wasn't supposed to be for publication:

http://www.winwithoutpitching.com/social-media-sins

I hope you don't mind the link. I think it adds to this conversation. (I almost referenced Guy K in this article, Katie, but decided not too. It's more of a confessional of my own sins.)
Chris Butler | August 20, 2009 1:23 PM
@Katie, I'm with you. I've done the very same thing.

@Blair, Cathartic indeed! It was cathartic for me to read, and to respond to, which I have done right here:

1. On not using an RSS reader, I don't agree with you completely. I use an RSS reader and find it to be very helpful to me in terms of keeping up with a wide variety of subjects (not just web-related). However, I read actual books all the time. I don't watch television much (don't own one). I subscribe to podcasts. The RSS reader does not have a monopoly on my mind.

2. Yes, conventions not rules. I like to break rules, too, though I must admit that when it comes to games, they are what make them fun rather than chaos ;-)

3. On the value of not conversing- I fully agree. Sometimes you have to tune out external input.

4. You say 'never' to Facebook. I'm not far behind you. Getting ready to jump ship.

5. I follow a larger group of people on Twitter than you do, but agree with Katie about who is beneficial to follow. I prune my list often.

6. I do read the competition... sometimes. But I fully agree with William Deresiewicz who tends to quote Emerson as saying that you need to not travel all the time in other people’s opinions. Fully, fully agreed.

7. No, you do not need to post every day perpetually. Like you, I'll have bursts of posting, often following the trail of a new thought or idea I've come across, but if I don't have anything new to say, I'm going to say silent.

8. My trivia, not yours- well, that's just the human condition isn't it?

9. Nobody really knows anything concrete about social media. The term itself is somewhat vacant of meaning. Ultimately we're just talking about people + technology, which, as you point out, can coalesce into conventions, but forget rules.

10. You say there will be a backlash to all this full-time conversation. I say, yes and bring it on. I am not about the full-time convo at all. I am all about boundaries. I saw a post from a blogger I really like on AdAge talking about how the full-time convo was the way of the world and that agencies should adapt their 'open hours' accordingly. I had to keep myself from commenting because I would have been fierce. No. No. No. The work day, which began out of necessity due to available light, continues to be a good and necessary thing because people need rest in order to enable them to actually be productive when they are working. Ignoring that fact is foolish and prideful. So when other people are tweeting the night away, I will be asleep. But guess what, I'll be up much earlier the next day, rested and ready to actually do something.
Peter Bryant | August 20, 2009 4:13 PM
What if Twitter gave users the ability to determine how much they'd want to see from the people they follow on an individual basis? Then you could theoretically say "show me less from Guy Kawasaki," for example. They'd have to give you settings to determine what "less" means in comparison to showing everything, but it would be a start.

But saying that nobody really knows anything about social media seems pretty nihilistic- like "nobody can know anything really." That seems like a copout.
Chris Butler | August 21, 2009 8:03 AM
Peter,

I'd like a feature like the one you describe, too, because I want to be able to follow a long list of people but not have to see every update from everyone.

As far as what we can know about social media is concerned, I said that "nobody really knows anything concrete about social media," mostly because the term means different things to different people, and ultimately, what media isn't at some level social?

Chris

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