The Anemic State Of Content And News

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You’re probably not reading this.

Still, there is a very strong likelihood that you have already shared this article. Even if you haven’t read anything but the headline. Sure, we all know the countless times that people share things like celebrity death hoaxes or an article of an event that took place years ago, but somehow made its way back into a Facebook newsfeed. Let’s not even begin to discuss how often “news” items are shared that are, in fact, articles from the parody site The Onion. It’s not that you can’t trust anybody, it’s that the vast majority of people that you follow – and that they’re connected to – have no kind of media training/knowledge, so they’re quick to hit the share button in an effort to be first, to look smart or… to simply share something/anything in a world where if you’re not sharing, you don’t exist.

Everything is moving faster and there’s much more of everything. 

Content marketing professionals would lead you to believe that the “cream always rises to the top,” and that the truly great brands who are leading the charge in content as media, are the ones who are creating the best, most valuable and utilitarian content (and, that you should do the same). When, if you really dig deep into the research, you will be faced with the sad reality that:

  1. It’s not always the best content that rises to the top, but rather the content that is boosted and supported with both paid media and hours upon hours of promotional push behind it. This doesn’t make it the best content, it makes it the content that the best efforts were laid against to push it.
  2. 60% of content that is shared is done by people who have not actually read the piece. So, always judge a book by it’s cover… or the headline, because that’s what gets the share, not the guts of the content.

6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new depressing study says.

That was the headline of a piece in the Chicago Tribune about ten days ago. Did you read the article? Did you share the article without reading it? Have you stopped to think about it? Did you speak to your marketing team about it? You should. It’s troubling. It speaks to a much bigger problem. From the article: “According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it. Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas.” You really need to read the article to understand just how bad this is. These researchers wrote super-compelling headlines and filled articles with “lore ipsum” text (i.e.: nothing), and it got more shares and clicks than most of the stuff that you actually found interesting and worthy of a share. And yes, it makes everything you read in an algorithm-based world skewed, blurred and less… real. 

You can control your content. You can’t control who does what with it. 

There are so many new (and frustrating) barriers to getting content to work (throttling of pages on Facebook, driving traffic to a corporate blog versus posting directly on LinkedIn, and much more). With that, it’s hard to make any content work in a world where people share (and don’t read) so blindly. It’s one thing to live in a world where twenty percent of your clicks are coming from those who don’t take the time to read the article, but sixty percent? Wow. That’s a hard number to swallow. What’s most interesting is that the news item above hit the feeds, and was nowhere to be found/discussed a few hours later. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it as well: even if you made it to the other forty percent, the half-life of your effort is also super slim. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more bullish than ever on brands that create content over screaming in a traditional advertising mindset. Brands are allocating more and more effort and budgets to this medium as well.

I’m just left wondering if they know, exactly, what they’re getting themselves into?