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“Quality” Is A Moving Target In Content Marketing

Date published: August 02, 2018
Last updated: August 2, 2018

We live in an age of content overload. As wisely pointed out by Mark Schaefer with his use of the word ‘ content shock’ in his seminal post “Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy”, we have access to way more content that our human capacity to consume it.

And that doesn't really sound very good for any of us in the business of producing sharing and monetizing content, does it?

The theory leans on basic economic modeling to show that in order to continue to find “readership” we will need to invest continuously in the ‘quality” of content, which at some point will become un-economical.


But many other wise men and women feel otherwise. One of the best framed rebuttals to this argument,gave us 6 reasons why this is unlikely to happen.

The  biggest flaw appeared to be that the ‘content shock” theory treats all content as equal and that has never been the case. People gravitate towards niches and sub niches of topics, styles and formats that they find interesting and may continue to find deeper pockets of interest regardless of the bigger volume of content knocking at their doors.

For some this may be cat and mouse videos and for someone else it may be marketing cartoons. Increased quantity will also lead to increased choice and more selective reading within the category of interest. So as long as marketers are able to zero in on the right mix of theme, format and delivery, there is still room for tremendous growth!

Ok - But why am i bringing this up now?

The thing is that despite the criticism for the ‘content shock” theory and that the demand - supply explanation not being valid for ALL content; it is painfully true for ALMOST ALL content today.

Both arguments are theoretical but I find that the content shock is more rooted in the practical realities of producing an endless supply of ‘quality content” whereas it’s criticism pre-supposes a utopian world where marketers have the vision and foresight to predict human interests fast enough to leverage them.

Maybe the very business of what is “quality” in digital content merits further consideration.

  • Brands and their marketers everywhere are under a constant pressure to create even greater volumes of content to break through the very clutter that they have caused to begin with. This has led to what  Mark Prichard describes as a “crap trap” where brands are increasingly producing more and more content with marginal quality control.
  • The solution is to raise the bar on ‘quality” but one would imagine that we already know that given the painful lessons the Pandas and Penguins taught us. Then of course never before analytics access to tell us exactly how many people viewed or acted on our content and how. So it may be reasonable to assume that we are doing what we can do within the limitations of budget and resources anyway.

And yet content efficiency is clearly on the decline. And it’ time we accepted that “quality” is and always has been  nothing but a moving target.

Content that worked in your last campaign may not work today and what is trending right now may be old hat by the time we put pen to paper.

So while “ theoretically” there will ALWAYS be a performing sub-niche of relevance, identifying and monetizing that niche  will require a level of analytical agility that may not be possible even in quantum physics.

Don’t believe me? Maybe you need to brush up on the Heisenberg Principle.

In any case it demands a closer look at what is “quality” in content marketing. And why it simply cannot keep up.

For many, the very act of publishing is still seen as an end in itself with companies devoting considerable time and resources in blogging and tweeting and spread themselves thin when it comes to ideas.

[bctt tweet="But ‘quality content’ is not the same as “quality content marketing” and even the most Shakespearean prose cannot lift a poorly strategized campaign." username="relevance"]

And this is where we see the gap that “content shock” predicts.

Smart words have always been far cheaper than smart ideas and scaling content creation is easier that scaling content marketing. In their race to increase their digital footprint from 2 to 6 social profiles; 5 to 15 listings or tap fast multiplying consumer channels, companies have resorted to curating, recycling or simply repeating what they think works. Not necessarily skimping  on quality text (or images for that matter), but simply quality ideas to keep that text relevant for their intended audience, in a universe of near infinite choice.

And while people are gravitating towards and continue to read the things that they like but even the best of minds and budgets combined cannot really ensure the growing level of micro-segmentation and  distribution required to guarantee a “read” leave alone multiple exposures required for what they value as a “conversion”. 

Content is ultimately what content does and maybe we need to take a step back and re-evaluate default role we have given content marketing in our overall strategy.

And also, what we consider “good or bad content” from the framework of ‘response” and not some journalistic viewpoint.

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