describe the imageIf you haven’t read Mark Schaefer’s controversial blog post, Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy, I suggest you do. Sure, it questions the very foundation of the content marketing doctrine, but it provides an interesting perspective we can’t ignore. However, I must say that while I agree with some of Schaefer’s general concerns, I disagree with his claim that content is completely unsustainable.

With that said, let’s take a look at Schaefer’s arguments and the counter ones to determine what’s really in store for content marketing.

At the heart of Schaefer’s concerns lies Content Shock, which he defines as the moment when consumers are unable to keep up with the massive volume of content being created. Even though Schaefer only applied the term to consumers, I’d argue that it also adequately describes the time when content is no longer an economical marketing strategy. Both very valid concerns, but let’s dig deeper.

Schaefer argues that the supply of content is growing at an expedited rate in comparison to the audience’s ability to consume it—a statement he supports with the fact that mobile has increased the average daily consumption of content by Americans by two hours a day. And this number is only expected to rise.

While I’d agree that content is already overwhelming at times, that doesn’t mean people no longer want it. As Shel Holtz argued in a rebuttal blog post, every person has a different content niche. Sure there’s a shiznit ton of content out there, but that doesn’t mean we have to pay attention to all of it. As with literature and news, we choose what we want to read. Are the options overwhelming? Of course— there are millions of books and thousands of news sources. But that hasn’t stopped people from reading.

Additionally, as Holtz pointed out, research has already confirmed this to be a pseudo issue. In 2012, Northwestern University released a study that found most Americans were not overwhelmed by the volume of news and information available to them. In fact, the abundance of information made most people feel “empowered and enthusiastic.” Additionally, people liked getting their news from a diverse set of sources.

Think of your own reasons for consuming content. I know that whether I’m researching a dinner recipe or trying to find out whether or not it’s okay for my puppy to eat ants, I feel that I’m able to get through life with a little more ease and a little less stress. And I’ll continue to rely on content to help with things such as wedding planning (I can’t even imagine the days of wedding planning pre-Internet), taking care of a baby, and more.

There will always be a need for consumers to be entertained or have their questions answered. And if being valuable to your audience is the ultimate goal, content—even a surplus of it—is only going to help you achieve that. How we obtain that information will probably change, but the core principle of content will remain intact.

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And then there’s the side of content that has every businessperson concerned: Money.

Although content is “free” to the consumer, Schaefer argues that it’s paid in the sense that it takes time for content to be created. Agreed. But he then goes on to say that the cost of creating content will grow to a point that it will no longer be worth the effort; only the wealthiest marketers will be able to succeed.

However, that assumes the biggest corporations are creating quality content—a statement that, as of now, is completely untrue.

And this is where the need for quality comes in to play. In order for marketers to gain the very consumers that make content valuable, they must produce content that is either entertaining or helpful. Over the last few years, we’ve seen companies spend millions of dollars on content/marketing/advertising campaigns that absolutely sucked. And then there were the small businesses that spent a miniature fraction of that and had tremendous success.

Contrary to what Schaefer suggests, money isn’t always the key to quality.

But of course, this is all based on predictions. Just as marketing has evolved over time, so too might content.

For now, I’m going to stay the course, wait until that happens, and act accordingly.

Image source: London Evening Standard