Where Content Goes To Die

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Who amongst us is able to consume all of the content that we save?

Long before RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook and more, I was a heavy subscriber to email e-newsletters (in fact, I still am). But I no longer have the same habit that I used to have. I used to have a folder in my email called "To Be Read." This way, I could shuttle those many e-newsletter over to that folder and get to them when there was a moment to read. I never went back into that folder. That folder is where e-newsletters went to die. After a few months, I realized how unproductive that system was. Now, I take the time to go through each newsletter – as they come in – and bookmark the key articles. I’m definitely consuming more of the overall content, but many of those bookmarked articles also die an unlooked at death.

One little piece of data.

It’s amazing how one, little piece of data can wake us up to an entirely new reality. Forget the story you just read above and think about your TV experience. What do you think the percentage is of watched shows from people who use their DVR to record programs? The media has been told all kinds of stories: how DVRs are to blame for the challenge of television commercials and their impact. Well, how does this data point sit with you: 41% of recorded TV content is never watched.

Never watched.

Ouch. This was the news from Marketing Charts in today’s news item titled, Americans Don’t Watch 41% of Their Recorded TV Content. From the article: "Motorola Mobility has released its ‘Fourth Annual Media Engagement Barometer,’ containing some interesting statistics on TV and DVR usage. As noted by Nielsen, DVR usage has increased in recent years, leading networks to push for C7 ratings – and the Motorola study indeed finds that more than one-third of weekly TV viewing by Americans is recorded content, 17% higher than the 17-country average (34% vs. 29%). But, interestingly, of that recorded content, 41% is never watched, according to the study. The global average for DVR storage wastage is 36%… Nevertheless, DVR owners report spending more time watching TV than non-DVR owners. On a global basis, for example, they spend 7 hours a week watching films and movies, compared to 5.6 hours for those without a DVR."

Content wasted.

Consumers are inundated with choices. Their choices are highly-controllable (they can record, fast forward, delete, share, etc…). They’re, clearly, not getting to it all (not even close). And, while us Marketers get all excited about new technology, new platforms and new delivery mechanisms for content, we don’t (often enough) take a step back and realize just how overwhelming all of this choice and control can be. Imagine this: 41% of all content that people are actively recording, thinking about and interested in, they’re simply not getting to… and that’s just TV.

Folks, it’s official: we have a content problem. What are we going to do about it?


  1. Gosh, Mitch, I’ve been saying this forever. Its not a Content Problem. It’s an Overabundance.

  2. Yup – no surprise to those of us who work in the media world. We have long known that content choices are overwhelming for consumers. So much for ‘content is king’…there’s simpy too much good stuff out there. And too much choice is why brands will matter more than ever: we all need trusted sources to help sort through the clutter. (And by the way, the actual number of hours Americans watch TV – according to usage data vs. what people report – is more than 4 hours a DAY. That’s over 28 hours a week.)

  3. Another great post supported by data that demonstrates that content is not king, it became a commodity.
    Still too many people and companies are thinking that the solution of their lack of sales, lack of traffic or lack of (fill the blank) is more content. The media are particularly inclined to follow that path. The world can throw at them any problem and their usual response will be … “let’s create more content!”
    The problem is not that content is dead. Content is fundamental as the start of a sale, a connexion, an interaction. That’s why it is really a commodity it’s raw material…
    The metaphor is not about cemetery (life and death) or royalty it’s about macroeconomics: poor nations and rich nations. For better or worse we see that the wealth of nation is not coming from the raw material they extract from their soil but the capacity to transform these natural resources to create and manufacture complex product and artefact.
    While media are becoming third world countries, companies that transform content to create value added services are becoming the new rich nations.

  4. It’s certainly a reflection of the Paradox of Choice, but it seems to reinforce something that I’ve experienced with my own webinars when looking at attentiveness and responsiveness against live versus recorded participants for these training sessions.
    In short, those who attend live are 13 times more likely to respond to CTAs. I’ve been collecting this data from more than 500 webinars that I’ve held over 4 years (paid and unpaid). The numbers are so compelling that I simply will not record unpaid webinars for replay anymore. No matter the request, the numbers speak for themselves. Less than 10% watch the replays and, for those who do, they are 13 times less likely to take action.
    This study simply reinforces that “I’ll get to it later” is code for “never.”

  5. Mitch, Great post (and I had the same newsletter problem). I think the answer for marketers is a combination of 2 things – one you addressed in your huffington post column – write shorter content. The other is to write relevant, insightful content. We live in the age of the soundbite and tweet. We need to make our point – a single point – in a relevant way that can be consumed by those who care, in a quick manner.
    I am only paying attention to the messages that truly matter to me right now – I am to darn busy to just browse/surf. So talk to me about the value you are providing to me, about my problem and then tell me where to go to get deeper if I want. Don’t bury me with all the gobbly-gook up front.
    If I want entertainment, I’ll go back and watch what I recorded and zone out. But if I want information and insight, I want that fast, straight and on the rocks.
    Thanks as always for your insight.

  6. Now that the market is saturated, innovation will be even more important. Soap operas were a way to create interest and a platform for soap companies to advertise. A white paper on soap would have never worked. Great writing, innovative approaches and proof of moving the sales needle are essential.

  7. Oh wow, I just deleted my “Read Later” folder the other day as part of my move in to the new Mailbox app. I realized that most of that content was truly “out of sight out of mind.” Now I’m trying to cull action items or specific things I want to implement AS I read the article, PDF, ebook, whatever. I made an Evernote notebook just for those. Hopefully it will be a better way to glean useful info out of the avalanche of media coming my way.

  8. I for one am going to create more content!
    The death of one media form is the birth of another. People are still consuming, they’re simply doing it in different places. Youtube just announce they’re getting 1 Billion users a month – that’s huge!
    The so called Gen C doesn’t care about PVRs, read later folders or, and most importantly, long form content. They’re interested in short content they can consume anywhere, anytime and on any device.
    Storytelling is part of our DNA, we’ll always do it. There are more producers on more platforms than ever.
    The communication age quickly lead to content age, now we’ll see the birth of the IA agent age in the form of digital assistants.
    Too much content isn’t a problem, finding relevant content is. Smart agents are becoming a need not a want.
    But what do I know…

  9. I gave up on newsletters a long time ago, and moved to RSS and Google Reader. More recently I’ve migrated to the semi-automated curation tools like Zite (my favorite so far). When I like content at first glance, I store it to Pocket. Later (within 2-3 days), I read it more carefully on Pocket and if I really think it pertinent I store it in an Evernote notebook.
    I’ve come a long way since my TO READ folder on my desktop, in my mailbox and in my browser bookmarks.
    Regardless, I still feel the info stream I receive is not as clean as it could be, and also that I am missing out on possible interesting nuggets. And, there’s just way too much content out there for me to feel effective consuming it.

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