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I've noticed a topic trend start to emerge from tech writers and mainstream journalists over recent months.

The Guardian and The Next Web are two of many publications that have featured articles about the overwhelming nature of online content, sharing their suggestions on how to make the incoming bombardment more manageable.

Paul Miller from The Verge has also returned from a self-imposed year-long web hiatus.

They aren't focusing on 'information overload' in the classic, bad sense of the term, these are people suffering from 'good information overload' and are struggling to know what to look at first. 

Think of it as like gazing into the night sky. The glittering stars all look amazing, but how could you ever decide which galaxy to visit first?

Social filtering does a great job helping to cut out the online crap, providing us with tailored content recommendations from the people and brands that we've chosen to invest our trust in, but even if your personal network is set up in the sweet spot, you might be drowning in a sea of potentially awesome links.

One of my favourite articles is Test of Time, a tale of ESPN journalist Wright Thompson coming from baseball-loving America to Lords, the home of cricket to experience a five-day test match.

It's a great piece of prose and you really should read it, but regardless of your interest in silly mid-offs and seam bowling, you probably won't. It comes in at a daunting 10,304 words, which at an average reading rate of 250 wpm should take you about 41 minutes to get through.

Thompson sagely surmises, "Test cricket is suffering from the same problem as I am: struggling to find space in a hyped-up world".

As a brand, adding another great link to your customers' inboxes and social streams is something you should be consciously concerned about. 16% of your Facebook followers will see your average post, and a link will get 50% of its clicks within the first 30 minutes of being posted.

Grabbing someone's attention online is difficult.

Our customers are rushing around a plethora of instantly digestible feeds, bouncing from one page to the next and hoping to be there at the beginning of the next big meme.

Too much content is often negatively described as 'noise', but noise isn't inherently a bad thing. I'll often stick Eulogy by Tool on full volume when the mood strikes.

The epic song is well over eight minutes long, unashamedly brash, with a guitar riff that could get an unsuspecting listener pregnant. If your content can have the same fertile effect, why not be noisy?

Content producers are often fearful of length and feel the need for brevity otherwise their audience will switch off, however, if it's a good enough piece of work to get through the filtration layers that your audience members have set up, longer duration can be a benefit rather than a detriment.

What's better, getting 10,000 unengaged views for a 90 second burst, or keeping the attention of 500 people for half an hour? Mathematically identical, but the latter gives you a much higher ROI.

Test matches and late 90s metal aren't two things you'd normally expect to read about in the same breadth but it reflects the diversity of what will appear on your customers’ radar every day.

If you want them to click, read, interact with and share your content you need to think hard about what will make it worthy of their undivided attention otherwise you're ruining their filter, which just isn't cricket.

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Published 16 August, 2013 by Danny Chadburn

Danny Chadburn is Content Strategist at iCrossing and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

17 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Andy Headington

Andy Headington, CEO at Adido LimitedSmall Business

Really good post Danny - I'm tempted to write a 5,000 word reply but won't :)

I think your observation now might seem a bit off the general view of some at the moment but might prove very wise in a year or two's time. I've noticed an increasing amount of bloggers highlighting the fact that the world we live in is becoming increasingly 'noisy' in respect that SO much content is produced each day. This is another good article I read on a similar theme - http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/article/4337/why-we-should-slow-the-fuck-down/

For those not involved in the industry I'm sure it's not quite as bad as those in it but this will become an increasing problem for anyone 'social' in the coming months and years.

What will become really important is social management. Even my small amount of followed accounts on Twitter pump out hundreds of posts a day which I struggle to keep up with. Until the social networks figure out better ways of filtering what we want, it is going to continue to be noise with limited cut through.

almost 3 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

Interesting. I think that actually this trend (too much choice, even 'good' choice) might lead us all into being happier about paying for content, even if it is aggregated. And it won't be because we think we can't get the content elsewhere or for free, necessarily, but just because if you've made the commitment to pay for something (however little) then that somehow makes it easier to say 'so that's the one I'll read then and I can just trust that it's good (enough)'.

In the early days of the internet I used to happily pay for certain niche email newsletters. Literally just an email newsletter.

I think now I might be happy to pay for someone else to curate Twitter and other (free) feeds on certain topics of interest to me in a similar way.

almost 3 years ago

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