A blog post by consultant Mark Schaefer (Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy) has been fodder for countless water-cooler conversations and online commentary since its publication a couple of weeks ago. Are consumers drowning in a deluge of content, and, if so, what does this mean for content marketing, one of the most rapidly-growing and promising marketing approaches of the last couple of years?
Call me a skeptic, with at least a portion of his argument.
I remember similar conversations about behavioral targeting years ago: is it effective or creepy? The conclusion many came to at a conference discussion was that when it's done well, it's very effective; when it's not done well, it verges on being stalkerish. If you're in the market for a new set of wheels, ads touting deals from local dealerships are welcome. On the other hand, ads making assumptions about your interests based on flimsier evidence can raise eyebrows: just because I'm a guy and over 40 doesn't mean I'm necessarily interested in baldness remedies.
Schaefer's thesis relies on the assumption that content marketers are approaching their trade with the same ham-handedness as those trying to sell me minoxidil. Churning out ever-increasing quantities of content hoping that they'll be met with users' attention isn't a workable solution as content marketing matures.
Instead, more effective targeting is what's in order.
New media visionary Clay Shirky addressed the topic of information overload at his 2010 Web 2.0 NY conference keynote (and in a subsequent interview). The problem, he said, is "filter failure," not information overload. And it's not a new one. Advances in the availability of content have depended on filtering mechanisms, and only when they're out of step with one another do we feel like we're being overwhelmed with information and data.
As I browse Google News and my Facebook feed, I'm reminded that the only reason these two very valuable sources of information are manageable for me is that I aggressively filter what kinds of information I want presented to me: topic, media type, and author all matter. Both also apply algorithmic filtering based on my prior behavior and that of other, presumably similar, users. Without that filtering, both Google News and Facebook would be unmanageably overpowering. The popularity of reddit relies on the fact that subreddits (communities) filter the most salient articles for the broader community.
The matter isn't one of casual chatter in our neck of the digital woods. Flite's platform makes streaming content—articles, images, videos, games and more—into ads possible. But we've long understood that relevance is critically important in delivering the sort of experience that reflects well on the sponsoring brand. And relevance, in the age of social networks, can change quickly.
It is precisely this challenge of making brand content relevant to consumers that Flite and SMG had in mind in developing CONTENT@SCALE. Marketing agility demands identifying and delivering relevant content—for the reader's immediate interests—quickly. CONTENT@SCALE allows brands to rapidly identify and use topically relevant content for a campaign from trusted publishers. Initial interest and performance has been impressive, and with good reason: brands are using the platform to make the content they present to users rise above the din.
Of course, CONTENT@SCALE isn't the only approach that will provide a solution to the tsunami of content problem that Schaefer warns against. But it is heartening to know solutions exist, and they work.