Too Much Content: We Can’t See the Trees for the Forest

I recently received a comment on my post, 11 Blogs Every Small Business Person Should Be Following, that got me thinking about where content marketing is headed. Chuck Kent, who by the way is a brilliant content strategist and sociable guy, had one criticism on my list: Seth Godin’s blog. I’ve heard many people criticize Seth’s blog because, more often than not, there isn’t much substance to it. Generally, he writes 2-3 sentences with the intention of stimulating his audience’s thinking. Unlike many prolific bloggers and content marketers, Seth doesn’t make extensive lists or produce groundbreaking quantitative research. Typically, Seth leaves his audience with one simple, succinct, thought-provoking idea. And that is exactly why I think it’s so valuable

On December 5, I made a decision to clear off my to-read shelf before the end of the year. Okay, technically, there are hundreds of books on my to-read list, and I will never catch up. There’s just too much great stuff out there. However, of the books I’ve already purchased, I had 26 left to read. I’ve been reading like a mad-man and, although I have 12 days left, I only have 8 books left to read.

But, do you know how much I remember from each of these books? Not much. I can tell you about the general argument each one is making or the story each one is telling. I may be able to recall an interesting case study or conversation. But I would imagine that I remember less than 5% of what I’ve read–and this is all in the last two weeks!

Now ask me about a Seth Godin post that I read. The amount of what he shares that I can actually remember will probably be inverted. I may even be able to recite the entire post. Why? Because books are filled with many ideas, cloaked in elaborate narrative. Seth Godin gives us one simple idea.


Who among us hasn’t seen articles like this? Now, I’m not saying that these types of content aren’t useful. It’s great to have access to so much information. The more data available to us, the greater the reason we have for accepting an argument. Some of my favorite articles have been long lists of interesting statistics, reasons, tools, etc. Here are a few of them (yes, ironically, it’s a list of “list posts”):

List posts have been shown to generate a ton of traffic. People clearly want long strands of information. But why are lists posts so popular? The same reason, I think, that people read books. Because these posts provide more evidence for an argument. Think about it. You don’t care about each of the 9 ways social networking are misunderstood. You only care that social networking is misunderstood, and the “9 ways” simply serve as evidence for you to reach that conclusion. We remember the fact that social media can be used to deal with angry customers, that the online world is full of marketing myths, and that we can’t bounce back from anything, not the ways that we can use social media for customer serve, the myths that exist in the online world, or methods of picking ourselves back up. We remember the arguments; not the evidence.


As much as I love list posts and long articles with lots of research and data, I think the future will be about clarity. There’s just too much information out there. We want content that simplifies our options–not content that gives us more things to consider. I think we’re going to see more Internet memes, more photo quotes, more short videos, more Godin-esque blog posts, and so on. We’re going to see more “concept marketing” and less “content marketing.” We’re going to see a trend toward condensed information. We aren’t going to want the 47 reasons why. We’re just going to want the idea.

No, of course, I’m not saying that we aren’t going to want evidence. We will simply want to assume evidence. We’ll want quick insights from resources that we trust. Yes, we’ll want there to be data behind the claims. We just aren’t going to want to see the data. We just want the idea. We want the concept. We want something we can remember and act upon. So, my recommendation? Start making your content more concise. Give people ideas and make the data available upon request. In a world of ever-increasing clutter, simplicity is what will resonate more than anything else.

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