The breakneck pace of content creation online causes a situation analogous to filling air time on cable news channels. With so much smoke blowing, it can be hard to breathe.
My new favorite terms of the day are “pageload mercenaries and buzz merchants” –labels that belie the true objective of most content creation. The key difference between cable news and the internet is that cable news offerings are finite, and the internet is not. So where is more seat-of-the-pants opinionating and eyeball-catching to be found?
Some of it is breaking news that is important. A lot of it is breaking news that doesn’t matter at all.
Some of it is an earnest attempt at thoughtful dicussion. Much of it is repetitive and stale.
Some of it is expert insight. Most of it is me-too speculation.
Some of it provides useful takeaways. The rest take away time you can’t get back.
Recent studies have confirmed what most of us have assumed about television pundits for some time: They are horrible at predicting the future, many of them WORSE than chance. Yet news shows parade them everywhere, because they make for interesting, cheap and efficient segments with minimal production cost. It’s way easier (and more economical) to give the stage to an “expert” or “strategist” to brain dump on viewers at a moment’s notice, than it is to provide first-person reporting, objective research, and historical context.
Besides, do people really care about reporting that doesn’t include explosions, extreme weather, sports, court rooms or celebrities? In lieu of having any one of these to talk about, info-tainment programs (aka news shows) find some popular narrative to push.
Popular and juicy narratives are good for spinning flimsy ideas and pseudo-news into endless hours (or pages) of easily digestible content.
Online, we are subjected to these same narratives, as writers try to fill the SERPs with trending-topic content and keyword-sodden swill. Remember in November when Google + pages for business rolled out? The articles! Oh the articles. All of which said nothing at all, because there wasn’t anything there yet. Many of those first-generation articles are still getting in the way of useful and up-to-date Google + pages information. Such is the case with a great deal of social media and SEO punditry.
Will it matter? Won’t it? Does it yet? What should you do about it (based on my own thoughts and not much else)?
Look, this isn’t meant to sound like a screed against people working hard to create a name for themselves in an honest fashion. Well, maybe it is a long-winded complaint. Is that different? Really, it’s about the jumble of content that mixes the good with the bad. Just like television, where you are hard-pressed to find news without spin, an angle, or an entertainment objective, online, there is no segregation of content by validity. Google can’t do that, as hard as it tries.
You, hapless media consumer, must refuse to be overloaded. As Clay Shirkey so famously said, “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”
My idea of one good filter is to avoid the punditry and look for the research. Show me data. Give me industry news that actually matters. Teach me tricks, hacks and actionable insights. Heck, show me infographics. But don’t weigh in on Pinterest for the 4.65 billionth time this month, because I am not going to read it. Don’t let what’s trending on twitter and elsewhere through social media become important solely for the fact that it is popular. I wrote this article with blogs in mind, but the problem exists across all our cross-linked media platforms. Arianna Huffington makes a worthwhile point about it here.
If we can publish real content with real information for a wide array of blogs all day long, surely you can mange a niche or two.