Six Arguments Against Content Shock


content shock dylan

Today, I am going to address some of the primary responses to my recent post on Content Shock. In case you missed it, the main premise of my post was this:

The amount of available content is exploding, our human capacity to absorb content is limited, which at some point creates an “economic” pressure on the system that will require adaptation and shifts from current marketing strategies. As this crunch intensifies and the cost to enter and compete in this field increases, content marketing as we know it may not be an economically viable option for some businesses.

This seems pretty straight-forward to me … it’s not rocket science and I’m certainly not the first writer to point out the economics of content saturation and consumer resistance to it.

dentsu 1For example, five years ago, one of the largest ad agencies in the world, Dentsu, published a book called The Dentsu Way which pointed to research showing how overwhelmed consumers were creating a “shell” around themselves to keep from being bombarded by content.

Adding more content makes it more difficult for all content to get through the consumer’s tightening system of filters. Content in some form will always be part of a marketing strategy. Content marketing is not dead or dying as some have suggested.

But as rational business professionals, we need to deal with “what is” not “what we wish for.” So my style is to put the issues on the table and look at what we need to do about it in a rational manner. The post elicited more than 350 comments, dozens of phone calls and emails, and at least 500 related blog posts, videos, and podcasts so far. The vast majority of the sentiment has been, “yes, I get it” and even most dissenters haven’t denied the basic economic scenario I presented.

To all who have contributed to the dialogue, I thank you so very much for the gift of time and intellectual rigor you brought to the discussion!

Addressing dissent

Although every single commenter and blogger deserves an individual response from me, I have a business to run and a family to love so I thought I would do my best to address the major themes of dissent I have gleaned from the blogosphere at one time, in one place. Please accept this as my best effort to respond to your wonderful input and comments. There are six main themes among the dissenting posts:

  1. Great content will always rise to the top
  2. It does not cost any more to create great content so the economic assumptions are wrong
  3. The impact of Content Shock does not matter if you have properly identified a niche market
  4. As long as people have a need or question, they will find and consume your helpful content no matter how much of it is in the marketplace
  5. “Deep pockets” do not matter in the content marketing space, which provides equal access to all
  6. Technology will help us overcome the consumption side of content shock 

Now, let’s examine the primary dissenting views:

1) Great content will always rise to the top

The dissenters argue that the economic pressures I described don’t matter because “Great content always rises to the top.” If you are working hard in the marketing trenches you have surely discovered by now that great content does not assure success. Content that rises to the top and is discovered through search is a result of a complex cocktail that includes:

  • Optimization for search
  • Author authority
  • Site authority
  • Social signals
  • Distribution channels (paid and otherwise)
  • Promotion (paid and otherwise)
  • Brand recognition
  • Keyword competition
  • Audience size
  • Personal search history
  • Geographic relevance

… and yes, content quality. Today, “amazing content” is simply the price of admission to get into the game. You have to execute on many fronts to cut through the world’s information density and be discovered.

One blog reader summed this up nicely: “The people who claim great content always rises to the top are already in a dominant market position. For those of us starting out, trying to scratch out a presence, it seems that no amount of work gets us noticed.”

Lots of wonderful content will never see the light of day because the site owners don’t have the budget, resources, or ability to work on these other success factors consistently. The increased economic pressures caused by overwhelming information density will exacerbate this challenge for some businesses.

2. It does not cost any more to create great content so the economic assumptions are wrong.

Some argued that if you are already creating content, it doesn’t require any additional investment to create great content that would withstand the economics of Content Shock. For argument’s sake, let’s say you are offering your customers a free lunch to get them into your store. You have even hired a person who is dedicated to cooking up delicious soup for your customers every day. Your customers love this. In fact they can’t get enough. Life is good.

But then your competitor wakes up and realizes the advantage of offering free food to attract customers and hires an entire team of chefs who begins preparing gourmet steaks, salads and desserts — all for free.

Suddenly, you find that your customer visits dramatically drop. Most customers have abandoned your modest buffet for the competitor’s gourmet offering. You turn to your talented soup maker and say, “Look what is happening! We no longer need you to produce soup. We need steaks and epic gourmet food! Starting tomorrow, please start making epic food.”

Can your soup maker compete with a team of chefs, or are you going to have to bring in more talent? And if you meet the competitor’s standard, what will happen if the competitor ups the game once again and begins offering free dinner too?

In this little example, we see that “being epic” in a competitive environment comes with a cost. As the content arms race heats up in that market, it will neither be free nor sustainable for all businesses.

By the way, this does not mean the soup maker is finished. He can find new markets for his soup, He can look for new ways to deliver his soup. He can re-package his soup so people can consume it in new places. But this we know — whatever the strategy, the status quo is not possible or he will just lose customers. If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.

3. The impact of Content Shock does not matter if you have properly identified a niche market

The idea of Content Shock is a macro trend that is not equally applied to every business and every industry. There are lots of other factors that will determine when, or if, a market begins to reach content saturation. This is why I carefully chose my words that Content Shock would impact “some businesses.”

If you are in a true niche where you have a monopoly due to high entry costs, protected intellectual property, or some other unbeatable advantage, congratulations. You don’t have to worry about Content Shock. In fact, you probably don’t have to worry about content marketing at all. If you are in a market where your competitor is asleep at the wheel and is not working on a content strategy, congratulations once again. Make hay while the sun shines. And oh yes … there are still a lot of businesses still asleep at the wheel!

So I agree, dominating a true niche is the ideal business situation and a legitimate antidote to Content Shock.

4. As long as people have a need or question, they will find and consume your helpful content no matter how much of it is in the marketplace

This is only true if you are the victor in the content marketing war. Here’s what I mean. In a response to Marcus Sheridan’s well-written post about Content Shock, I used his famous swimming pool success story as an example of the limitations to content marketing in a competitive environment.

In the market for pool installation in Northern Virginia, Sheridan’s competitors are already firmly in Content Shock. They may want to be as helpful as Marcus and answer every customer question through blog posts and videos but it’s too late — the market is already saturated with thousands of pieces of Sheridan’s wonderful content. The competitor’s content marketing strategy would not be sustainable — they will need to hunt for something else to do.

I’m not saying content could not play some role for these businesses, especially if they innovate into new forms, new platforms, etc. By definition, answering questions and being helpful with content is not technically a strategy because there are no significant entry barriers for competitors.

Theoretically, anybody with equal resources can copy you. UNLESS — You flood the market with so much quality content (like Marcus did) that it is not economically feasible for your competitors to be discovered. Ironically, the only true competitive advantage you can create through a content marketing strategy is the result of ramping up your output to the point of content saturation and CREATING Content Shock for your competitors. For successful content marketers like Marcus,

Content Shock is not the problem, it is the solution.

 5. “Deep pockets” don’t matter in the content marketing space, which provides equal access to all.

I argued that in a highly competitive market, companies with the biggest war chest and the most resources can eventually overwhelm smaller competitors. Dissenters argue that great content is not limited to big companies and in fact content marketing can even favor the nimble little guy.

Of course there are always exceptions in business and everyone can point to their favorite “David” beating a Goliath. But the economics of content marketing are straightforward: Create lots of great content that can be discovered by customers and potential customers. If you can saturate your market, all the better.

Those with more money generally are in the best position to create more and better content, as well as pay to have it promoted and distributed. Will they always win? No. All things be equal, will they usually kill off the smaller guys? Yes. History bears this out.

Any company, of any size, can carve a successful niche in the digital space — that’s one of the things I love about the social web! But I think as a general statement, and all things being equal, the company with the most resources will eventually dominate.

It’s this simple. If you wanted to be in the best position to win, would you choose to have more resources than your competitors or less?

I actually have a lot of ideas about how smaller competitors can outmaneuver the big guys but it is unrelated to budget. For example, I think a primary strategy would be for a small company to focus on emotional engagement that leads to loyalty instead of content volume and lead generation. In this case, a small company would usually have an advantage over a large company … but more on that in another blog post!

6. Technology will help us overcome the consumption side of content shock

Dissenters argue that people have been crying out that “the sky is falling” on information overload for years. They say that not only is there no problem, new technology will help us filter content better and enable even more consumption of content. I would like you to consider this chart.

Content consumption trends

Can you see two important trends here?

1) Indeed, every technological innovation creates a commensurate increase in content consumption — radio, TV, Internet.

2) The available hours of our day are filling with content. In fact, accounting for eight hours of sleep, in America, 18 of our possible 24 hours a day are already filled!

I do agree that technology will continue to push consumption upward, most notably wearable technology and augmented reality. But we are already consuming content an average of 10 hours a day (in America). What is the upper practical limit? 12 hours? 15?

I don’t know that answer. One of the points I made in the original post is that we have been lulled into a false sense of security because throughout our entire lives, the amount of content we consume has always gone up. So more, more, more content has not been too much of a problem because demand was increasing too.

I’m not sure I can get my head around an argument that contends that content consumption will continue to rise unabated. There is a limit. It’s true that improved content “filters” would help us focus on better and more relevant content.

But better filters will not create more hours in the day and, in fact, will hasten the decline for marginal content producers. So the “filter argument” actually reinforces the idea that the status quo is not sustainable for some businesses and the costs will go up for those who need to keep making it through ever-tightening filters.

A conclusion

If you have made it this far and actually read the entire post, thank you and congratulations … I’m sure you are in an elite minority!

I wanted to conclude with a quote from Facebook executive Richard Sim who stated in December why the reach on his platform (how much content gets viewed) for many brands is declining year by year: “On a given day, when the average person visits their News Feed, there are an average of 1,500 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Pages will likely see changes in distribution resulting in a decline in organic reach.”

That is Content Shock.

How do we win in that environment? That is THE question for marketing professionals moving forward. This is not necessarily a time to be depressed or gloomy. This cycle of supply and demand has ruled every natural, human, and economic system from the beginning of time. It is what it is. Every business only thrives in the long-term by facing change head-on and adapting, adopting and innovating. I can’t wait to see what happens next. How about you?

Disclosures The Japanese company I mentioned, Dentsu, was a client of mine in 2013. The link to the book is an affiliate link. The blogger I mentioned by name, Marcus Sheridan, is a personal friend. The information in the graph was culled from a variety of places but some main sources include Global Web Index,, Carat, and Ross Dawson. Top illustration courtesy of Fan SIgn Generator.

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  • Steve Woodruff

    Mark – it’s interesting to consider your post here alongside Chris Brogan’s expressed surprise over the weekend that so many people (among his thousands of followers) were still unaware that he is now publishing an on-line magazine (Owner). Chris has an immense footprint and access to many eyeballs, but when there’s a change in message and/or direction, it’s not easy to displace the prior mental metadata and occupy a new space in the minds of our audience. The human mind can only absorb and retain so much information – then stuff just bounces off (the “shock” aspect). The biggest challenge in marketing will always be to identify and occupy the one pixel of space that people might allocate to us, and build our messaging and content in such a way that we are the “go-to” resource (as Marcus Sheridan has done). We can’t slow down the flood of content, so our primary way to stand out has to be FOCUS on every level of communication.

  • Kristine Allcroft

    Way cool of you to answer in this way! Bravo! Now, as far as content distribution goes, the concept of “content shock” has been around for a while in the way that you break it down. What makes the difference in getting through, in getting “heard” is, as it’s always been: networking! When content writers (sometimes a solitary lot with introverted personalities) decide to link up with, and have conversations with others in social networking they get a boost! We can’t ever forget the power of “social” in social media marketing. I believe you address this in ROI – relevance and a sincere desire to be helpful to others can make an impact where big money and an over abundance of content cannot. Many thank yous for your blog post and your teaching. Cheers!

  • Kristine Allcroft

    It’s not just the human “pixel of space” that matters – Google hummingbird demands that if we’re to compete we need to address the need to get the “spiders’ ” attention too. That takes a little different art and design . . .

  • Thanks for continuing the dialog you kicked off, Mark. You clearly hit a nerve — even if people don’t agree with you, they’re WORRYING about it.

    I still don’t see much of an answer to content shock in all of this, other than being way, way better at content.

    Deep pockets are always a big advantage but only if the content is good. If it isn’t, promoting it will just hasten the demise of your content brand.

    Smart can still beat Rich.
    Smart AND Rich wins every time.

  • The one part of the puzzle that I haven’t seen addressed is that the increase in content has changed how (and how fast) we evaluate content. I don’t really see that as content shock but just the changing evolution of how we auction our attention.

    The goal has and remains the same. Get noticed and be remembered. So it comes down to marketing. And the truth is that most businesses aren’t very good at it.

  • Excellent follow up, Mark.

    The bottom line is that the landscape is changing and brands need to figure out how to rise above the competition. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. I think it will be exciting to see how businesses innovate to break through the clutter in this new environment.

    I can’t help but wonder if it means we narrow our focus and “go small.” Focus on the RIGHT audience instead of a bigger one.

    Or, another approach is to publish less content, but with increased quality. That way, people will make time to read the few times you do publish because they know it will be good. interesting stuff to ponder, for sure!

  • Steve Woodruff

    Kristine – true. It’s a both-and situation. Google gets us to the front porch (for much of our audience). Then we have to get through the door and be invited to stay.

  • Coleen Mare

    Perhaps people stopped listening to Chris as he became this weird self-help self-portrait taker. There’s only so much dross people are willing to handle.

  • “Change is the only constant.” Adapt, adopt or face demise. This wild and crazy online world continues to make my head spin and I, for one, have taken the position that all I can do is all I can do. Produce quality. Be of service. Purge, persist and plunge on, trusting that there are those who find my words, experience, support and skills to be of value to them. It’s a noisy, noisy world and I’d like to think I’m speaking a bit more quietly, not screaming for attention, yet garnering it through listening well and acting in the best interests of those I serve and hope to serve. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Kristine Allcroft

    Smart, rich, kind and social . . . if one is always banging one’s own drum and forgetting to promote others one will be left behind . . .

  • Being human trumps all. : )

    I think there are lots of answers actually. Partnerships and influence marketing can help you “borrow” bigger pipelines. Atomizing content into smaller pieces might be a short-term answer. Understanding t=new trends in filtering. Primarily, I think the we need to be watching the next wave of tech — wearable and AR. What does content look like in that space? That is the next frontier.

    Thanks Doug.

  • You have my wheels turning on that one AJ. Interesting take.

  • Thanks Mark.

    I think you can even see how this happened when televised content exploded. First we had three networks and then there came cable. (Shazam!) Even then it seemed crazy to think that other networks could compete with the big three.

    Then Fox became the fourth network. But now you could add the CW, HBO, SHO, AMC, USA, TNT and a host of others to the mix. Even Netflix is getting in on the action.

    Content flourishes but it does have to fight to get noticed and remembered. But the ones that don’t find an audience are now quickly dropped. (Ironside anyone?) We and the technology we employ allow us to improve and speed that feedback loop of content.

    So now we get something like House of Cards.

  • Marcela De Vivo

    Mark, all of your points are exceptionally valid. An example of #1: I wrote a post and published it on my blog. It got no comments or social activity AT ALL. I later submitted the exact same piece to Social Media Today. It got retweeted a ton and I got some great responses across the blogosphere:

    It’s the exact same content, but since my blog doesn’t have authority or community, it wouldn’t have been read/found, regardless of the qualty of the content.

    I think at this point the focus has to move towards the idea of coming up with strategies to promote every content piece.

    My plan is to take every blog post and promote it on Facebook, Linkedin, and Google Communities/groups. In addition, I can do some outreach to let people know about my content. I can also submit to sites like to generate some views. Maybe I’ll write a response post with a list of strategies to promote content even if you don’t have authority 🙂

  • Actually the way House of Cards was produced, promoted, and distributed is a superb example of adapting to Content Shock.

  • Screaming doesn’t work any more, does it? : )

  • Not at all. Plus, it gives everyone else a headache 🙂

  • First of all, I hope you are feeling better!

    I think that would make a wonderful guest post. Of course if everybody followed your ideas, then we would have an even bigger problem : ) Thanks for the example and for sharing your wisdom Marcela.

  • Sort of. I agree about adapting but am not sold on the concept that content shock is something new.

    Plenty of deep pockets out there (looking at you big four) churning out some marginal stuff (looking at you Dads) which allows upstarts like Netflix to fill the gaps.

    But Netflix does understand that once they have your attention, they want to keep it. Binge watching seasons of content is a clear way to retain your attention and, by doing so for so long, increase the chances of it being remembered.

  • Yeah, I’ve got my eye on the horizon for the Next Big Thing, too.

    Whatever it is, I don’t think it will replace content marketing, but it will put it into a new context and create opportunities for the next early movers.

  • Gary Schirr

    Great summary! And now you have us all where you want us…. eagerly awaiting your ideas on how to deal with Content Shock!

    If this were Dickens day we would be waiting at the docks (as those readers were to hear about Pip).

  • Craig Lindberg

    Mark, I think you’ve already pointed the way for many of us marketers when grappling with the issue of a client’s content marketing strategy; carefully consider the context and terrain of their particular marketing landscape. It’s never a one-size-fits-all proposition and more so now than ever with some real content production juggernauts commanding their respective fields. As you rightly point out, is it realistic to expect to take well established high ground from a competitor when they are continuously carpet bombing with content. Not likely. The Content Shock dilemma I think will have alot of people especially in B2B rethinking how to retool conventional marketing tools like direct to establish connections with their audiences and grow relationships. As the cost of entry and supporting a content program grows, the more cost competitive and attractive it makes other options.
    Thanks very much for stirring the pot.

  • If I had you where I wanted you, you would be sitting across the table from me at a pub buying me a local craft beer. Truth : )

  • Absolutely! There is always a first-move advantage in this space.

  • Gary Schirr

    There is a good spot just up the hill here in Radford!!!

  • Chuck Kent

    As this discussion moves toward being an on-going show, allow me to suggest a great theme song (that I’m listening to just now): “Hope We Don’t Crash” by the Royal Bangs 🙂 I’m with Doug Kessler… smart and rich always win, and content has matured to the point where you’re going to have to be both to cut through. So what else is new? Marketing has always been a paid game, even when, as you’ve noted elsewhere, the payment was made in the form of one’s considerable time investment.

  • Ha! So funny. (and I am acutely aware of NOT turning this discussion into a career!!!)

  • Well said Craig. Nothing more to add other than “thanks!”

  • We need to do that.

  • These are both excellent points Laura and issues I am struggling through from a personal level. I am trying to do some smaller stuff (ironic that this was my longest blog post ever!!) and also trying to get ore focused. I am just interested in too many things it seems!

  • Adjusting to an oversupply in the market is nothing new but applying it to content and social media is kind of a new idea. Supply and demand is more or less self-regulating in the “real world” but what happens when the means of production are limitless and “free?” It’s a weird business.

  • Thanks for taking the time to contribute such an insightful comment Kristine.

  • It’s always interesting to actually talk to the people who read your blog. You assume you are connecting with them but the fact is, even the most loyal readers only see a fraction of what you write. Keeps you humble!

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  • Alan Darnell

    I can compare this to watching Super Bowl ads. The impact of the first view is always impressive, the the more you see the ad, the less impressive it becomes. We have to remind ourselves that Fresh Content always seems to win out in the beginning…not the end

  • Thanks for taking the time and courage to further the discussion.

    I look forward to hearing more of your ideas on point #5 where you say, “I actually have a lot of ideas about how smaller competitors can outmaneuver the big guys but it is unrelated to budget.” Those smaller competitors are many who make up the “some businesses” you refer to who are significantly challenged in getting their voices heard.

    There are “some businesses” who need more than to simply publish great (smart) content. Perhaps they need fresh ideas and a mindset similar to what Gladwell writes about in David and Goliath?

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  • The beautiful thing about the social web is that we can “tune” our experiences. We always have the choice to unfriend, unfollow, unsubscribe or generally ignore the content that gets in the way of our best experience.

  • You are exactly right Greg and that is exactly the attitude that is needed here. Gladwell’s point is that the “David” is never really at a disadvantage, despite appearances. There is some tactical advantage to exploit that has been overlooked by the larger competitor. Today, strategy must be viewed as an opportunity defined by time, space and speed … not something that is written on a piece of paper for five years.

  • Kitty Kilian

    OK. You are utterly convincing. The soup did it 😉
    It would by the way be really helpful if you would provide the source for your content consumption graphic.

  • The sources are listed at the end of the post.

  • Yes, and as Gladwell points out in chap. 3: “It’s good to be bigger and stronger than your opponent. It is not so good to be so big and strong that you are a sitting duck for a rock fired at 150 miles per hour. Goliath didn’t get what he wanted, because he was too big.” The key it seems is for the Davids of content marketing to figure out how to win at their own game…not play into the hands of others.

  • NikkiT531

    There is no doubt that content overload exists. I do however believe that quality content (in the form of text, images, and videos combined) will always prevail. Or at least with those consumers who truly desire to be informed when making purchasing decisions. Those building the shields you mentioned are tire kickers anyway.

    It is the junk spammy content that will find itself a dying breed. And as far as I am concerned . . . not fast enough.

  • Well said.

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  • I think you are partially right but even in our niches we are competing with all content to some extent for consumer attention.

  • You are spot-on with that. In fact, your article inspired me to think more on this topic and hopefully come up with a suggestion to fix this conundrum of content overload.

    I even Tweeted out about this post you wrote (to see even more feedback as you are clearly onto something)
    CN Studios [email protected] GREAT discussion about #content and #contentmarketing!

  • Kitty Kilian

    Oops. Sloppy of me.

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  • I’ve read your posts, read Marcus’ smart and well-reasoned rebuttal, a few others. Not much more to add except a TY for voicing some of my own thoughts. Points 2 and 5. Money talks, even if spent badly by people who don’t know what they’re doing.. eventually, if you throw enough of it around you hit something (and make too much noise for anyone else). The haves, have nots, those circling the wagons protecting their own. Then there’s the traction and gaming of all this, bringing me to point #1.

    I’ve thought it for years and lately been calling b.s. on the ‘cream rises’ platitude b/c that’s what it is IME, crap. See also, American Idol and anything at the movies or on TV these days. See also, the one ‘little engine that could’ self-published author who actually made it vs. anyone else. Who’s defining this quality? Really, is it the creme de la creme that’s getting play on YT? See also Marcela De Vivo who only needed the right seal of approval for the sheep to come running.

    We say one thing, do another – our dollars, likes, views, RTs speaking louder. There’s always been a vast gulf between popular and ‘critical’ success; no different in any of these echo chambers. I’m as guilty as the next person, paying as much attention to Buzzfeed as I am the NYT. IDK I think the shock to me is the more we connect, the more we filter and limit ourselves.. the more we consume, the less we know. FWIW.

  • Thanks for this exceptionally bright and honest assessment Davina. Always an honor to have you comment!

  • Dennis Shiao

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation you spurred, Mark (I call 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued”). Here’s my biggest takeaway from your latest post:

    “If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

    In other words, the soup maker may decide that she needs to start making chili. And you get a piece of cornbread with each helping. The chili becomes so delicious that people come not for the store, but just for the chili.

    So your store becomes a chili stand. And then you expand nationally. And your chili gets packaged and distributed in supermarket chains nationwide. That’s how, allegorically, you combat content shock.

  • Now you’ve made me hungry. I am definitely getting some chili tonight! Thanks Dennis!

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  • Yael Kochman

    I think that one of the possible ways to get a head in the content game is to bundle content. People want to get the full picture, which is impossible to give away on a single post, infographic, or video. but what if there was a way to bundle a few pieces of content together in a logical order and guide our readers through it? With Roojoom this is now possible. People read 5 times more content via Roojoom than they do any other way. checkout this example and try creating your own Roojoom to engage your readers and get ahead in the game

  • hosmersean

    I have found that there is no clear path yet to shake down about to fight “content shock” although I believe that it is growing almost exponentially from month to month. I am of the belief that concise, direct content will eventually win out against rich content. Give the information quickly to the reader and let him/her move on. Infographics, video, and pictures are great eye-catchers but “content shock” seems to take away from these staples of rich content.

    Integration and the melding of content forms is a viable pursuit, but in the end I believe the message might end up being lost in the muddle of content elements.

  • Hmmmm. An advertisement cleverly disguised as a blog comment. I’ll let it go this time.

  • All good issues to debate. I do think there is a place for smaller pieces of content as you say here. Thanks for the great comment.

  • John Wake

    Nice articles! On the other hand, new distribution channels will start the process all over again. Blogs stole time from newspapers. Facebook stole time from newspapers and blogs. Twitter steals time from newspapers, blogs and Facebook. Something new comes along like Google+ and some early adopters get a good response until content shock becomes overwhelming there too, and something new comes along. It becomes a bit of a treadmill where you have to keep running faster to stay in the same place.

  • Well said John.

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  • Carey Hoffman

    I see a couple of variables that need to be taken into account in evaluating your theory, Mark. First, you used the analogy of the experience of the formative days of television as a model for how the maturation of content marketing might play out. I think it’s just as instructive to also look at the evolution of another mass media, radio, and how it adapted and grew into an increasing age of specialization. The larger capacity of channels available allowed for more and more specialization, and still people found ways to make the medium commercially viable. (And, in the end, the corporations did end up winning by and large, but that’s a slightly different story. It was corporations coming in and doing what they do, buying a mature product and hoping to mine the already established value out of it.) The second point is also related, and that is that this form of marketing across the Web and social channels is still at a highly immature state of development. So much has happened to change the game in the 15 or so years that you used as a starting point for describing your experience, and there are no signs the innovation curve will soon be coming to a stop. Delivering targeted messaging to the right audiences, those who are truly receptive because it is info they need or have an interest in, is still a wide-open enterprise. It’s not hard to envision a Twitter spinoff that embraces this kind of specialization of message. There will always be a market for well-developed information, because there will always be someone with an appetite for it out there. It’s the evolution of the means of delivery and connecting that will soften the worst of what is being envisioned in “content shock.”

  • Thank you for the excellent and thoughtful comment here Carey. I have read it carefully but am not sure there is a new angle here that would really diminish or change the arguments I set forth here.

    Your first point is that you can still make money in a fragmented market. I agree and think this is covered under the “niche” argument above. If you truly do own a fragment and have erected effective entry barriers, yes I agree this is a strategy for some.

    I also think innovation, especially in delivery, is a possibility. This would be covered under the “soup” example I gave. Even if the competitor dominates by making gourmet food, the soup maker might survive by creating a new delivery system like home delivery or something. A very relevant point.

    I think you understand the issues very well and I appreciate the response. The main reason I wrote the article is because nearly every content-related piece out there right now is basically espousing a “cover the world with content” or “be amazing” mentality and we need to start thinking beyond that, as you do here. Well done.

  • Elliot

    Thanks Mark for bringing up this topic on Content Shock. Couple of points that Mark has brought up is definitely valid. One of them would be the use of technology to drive consumption. Technology has a key part to play not only in content marketing but in marketing as a whole. But for the sake of this conversation, I believe tech is will drive content production and distribution as much as it will drive consumption. The quality of content that we have produced have constantly been improving. With the help of keyword searches, blog content produced has been increasingly relevant to the targeted consumers. And just like what John Wake said, new distribution channels will start the process again. It would not necessarily restart the cycle, but the process will definitely start to streamline. Technology being a key player, it is still a variable that is highly unpredictable. Who knows what wearable tech we might see in the coming years or even months.

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  • Love the Super Bowl ad analogy Alan, and to expand a little…

    A key difference to the TV where we consume these ads is we “had” to watch Super Bowl ads over and over again, and as time went on we were less impressed…

    … on the Internet, with all the same content available and quite a bit of it is “quality” to some degree, we can change the channel (or ignore a channel altogether) much, much easier. 🙂

    Technology allows us to filter the channels AND the content much easier.

    It’s why, for the most part, Mark will be right on in his assessment of Content in my opinion.

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  • Well.. Big shock in front of your ‘Content Shock’ blog posts…

    But at thinking about it, I’m wondering if the digital content would not behavior itself in the same way literature hand writing had done. I explain. In the last 100 years, modern literature had produced a mass of ideas and books than a life would not allow to digest — except perhaps reading all your life, but it’s not a real life…

    Today, if you want to discover an author, famous or not, you go to a bookshop, offline or online. And you would have in one click all literatures from every country. By this way, every book is accessible.

    So what about the next ‘bookshop’ of digital content ? Why not comparing the future of a massive digital content production to what happened to world literature and the emergence of huge bookstores which all references ? Would Google be up to this challenge ?

  • I agree to a certain extent but technology cannot create more hours in a day. That is the main point. Technology may change the content or help us consume it more efficiently but it cannot increase the net amount we consume. That is the crunch. It will be more and more difficult to cut through the noise because our level of consumption must level off at some point, while the amount of content continues to explode.

  • In a way, you are proving my point. If there were only five books in the world, and people had time in the day to read them, we would all be reading the same five books, even if they are poorly written!

    But today there are 8 million of books on Amazon alone. So there is too much content on Amazon to consume. What are the implications?

    Only the very elite authors will be able to make a living from their content. Writing a book is not a sustainable living for most people.

    Writing a good book does not guarantee it will get read. So, great content does not necessarily rise to the top.

    The element of discovery is more important that quality. It is easy to be discovered when there are five books in the world. It is almost impossible to be discovered if there are 8 million books and the problem gets worse when there are 10 million books.

    One strategy is to to try create good content in a niche that has never been filled before or to create a new kind of content like a hologram book. Those are new ways to be discovered because you are doing something unique.

    So really the dynamics would be similar. Thanks very much for your comment.

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  • Emeric

    Hey @businessesgrow:disqus, I listened to the podcast about this and am reading through the blog post now. Another evidence that one response to the content shock is to diversify the channels on which it is distributed 🙂 My answer to that is to have started a video strategy leveraging our existing written content, I’ll keep you posted about the results of that initiative 🙂

    I have to say that I agree to most of your points. Great content is expensive, be it money or time. Competition makes it difficult for your content to emerge, definitely.

    But I would add my 2 cents:

    – I’m still discovering people delivering new great content I’ve never seen before and I read them religiously. The guys at GrooveHQ ( do an awesome job at that. I’m also amazed by how some startups like buffer get very creative with being über transparent about their business and get a TON of attention with that. Being creative with content can still do a great job, but you can’t stick with the old recipe.

    – Creating great content for your users or clients will always be essential. And they always care about it. If there is one case to defend the case of producing great content is to do it for your clients / users!
    – Not investing in content at all is definitely a wrong decision. It may be hard to succeed with a good content strategy, but it’s definitely impossible to succeed with no content strategy at all in most cases.

    – Content cannot be the only strategy you have to attract new clients or retain existing ones. Content makes sense in a mix of other marketing tools such as free tools (we invest a lot in that), educational resources (like videos and tutorials) and, of course, a unique service or product that serves a real need. Content alone is not the answer to all our marketing need, but in 2014, it is a piece we can’t ignore.

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  • For big ticket b2b tech purchases I think it’s not so much content overload as content vagueness – given the diverse profiles, cultural backgrounds and geographic locations of global purchasing teams.

    At least in Asia-Pacific, a lot of feet-on-the-street marketing required to nurture those relationships i.e. go see or at least call/video-conf with the prospect – especially important for incumbent vendors imo.

  • Good points Emeric and i don’t disagree. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Interesting perspective. I certainly believe there are geographic/cultural implications for the trends I discuss, Many thanks sir.

  • How do you think we can succeed in the era of content shock? Do you think pursuing a long-tail niche can help?

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