In 2017, an estimated 1440 WordPress posts were produced every minute around the world, 300 hours of video were posted to YouTube, and 7 million Snapchat videos created. It’s now thought that over a third of Fortune 500 companies have blogs; the average blog length is around a thousand words and takes over three hours to write.
That’s a colossal amount of content being produced annually, and a colossal amount of time spent making it. Do we really need this heavy volume of content? The stats are confusing. Brands that crank out more than 16 pieces of content each week tend to get far more traffic and leads than those producing fewer than 5.
Orbit media found that blog posts got longer from 2016-2017. These facts suggest that more is better. Yet according to a large survey from 33 countries, at least 60% of all content is described as having little or no impact on its audience. It’s merely internet “clutter”.
A poll by Greenfield Belser found a paradox was at work in the content area. Only 50% of those people it polled said that the content marketing they received was helpful to them – yet 90% of those sending it to them said they intended to create more of it.
This indicates that content marketers may be wasting their time, and planning to waste even more of it whilst boring their audience.
Audiences do seem to appreciate content that brands have taken greater care to craft. Orbit media found bloggers spent 26% more time writing their posts compared to 2016 – and more of them were spending more than 6 hours on a single post.
Those that spent longer writing their posts were far more likely to report getting strong results from their blog strategy. It seems spending more time on content creation really pays off.
Bloggers following a formal editing process with one or more editors were also much more likely to report strong results compared to those not following such a process. So content creators are taking more trouble to create their content and generally, that seems to be paying off in terms of results.
Sharing without reading
The fact is there’s simply too much content out there, much of it not saying very much that’s helpful and many doing it in the wrong format. There are far too many e-books being published that could have been a blog post, far too many food blogs rehashing the same old recipes, far too many bland corporate blogs that make vague points and don’t evidence their findings.
Consumers of content are also partly responsible for this avalanche of content. There’s strong evidence from a number of sources indicating that many people don’t even read the content they like and share online.
Whether it’s because the sentiment of the headline reflects well on us on Facebook, or it’s business-related thought-leadership that would look good shared to your LinkedIn, we can’t resist promoting content before we’ve even bothered to read it. We’re all complicit in promoting polluted content online.
So what’s the solution? Perhaps the surprising answer would be to make content more expensive, both to create and to share. People tend not to value what they get for free. They share content without reading it because to do so costs them nothing.
They tell their office junior to bang out a blog post because it costs nothing to add another WordPress blog item. There’s too little investment in the process to put much thought into it. This free and easy approach results in a lot of junk content, ill-thought-out, unplanned and with little creative effort.
We’re not going to reverse the trend of content being free and easy to produce, but perhaps we should try to imagine that this is no longer the case. Brands would better value their content if they paid more to produce and publish it. They’d devote more time to it, plan it better and we’d have a more robust editorial process.
Very little digital content goes through a proper editorial process, yet it’s shown that this seems to improve how well it performs. Implementing a more formal review process, perhaps using the many technological tools available to support this, would probably help improve results.
Many firms are already outsourcing some of their content creation – in fact, only 25% do it all in-house. But outsourcing to non-specialists may not be the best approach if you’re to really target informed content at an audience seeking insights from their area of interest.
Instead, it may be more valuable to try a pair-writing approach, where a content creator works closely with a subject matter specialist to create highly technical content that offers real insight into the field.
You may also find your content is better received if you target your audience in their preferred language. Bringing in language skills and cultural insights may also be a worthwhile way to create more relevant content for your specific audience.
You may also achieve greater success by becoming more niche and granular. Too many blogs are written about the same topic, polluting channels with repetitive themes and advice.
Becoming much more specific to your audience, location, language, and industry can help content perform extremely well with a small but highly engaged audience if they know it’s written for their exact needs.
Content will hopefully remain cheap to produce, thanks to low-cost and easy-to-use tools such as video editing. But to really get the most out of your content, try to imagine it’s a much costlier endeavor than it is.