The Death Knell for Quality Content?
Most of the content I consume on the social web is so bad, it makes me want to throw in the towel and go back to bed.
When I say “bad,” I’m not referring to typos, grammatical errors or technical glitches, but overall editorial quality. Things like top ten lists with only seven points listed (because the author just couldn’t think of any more) or provocatively titled posts that end up being hot air and link bait.
I wrote about this kind of content back in 2011, and theorized that, eventually, it would die out.
I’d like to officially apologize and say that I was wrong.
Crappy content has not only not died, it has flourished and continues to get read, retweeted and passed around faster than a bad cold in an overcrowded preschool classroom.
I think there are two reasons behind this…
1. A lack of time/interest in reading.
Folks don’t read very much and they are inundated with content each day. To manage the disconnect, many identify pre-approved content sources or content aggregators – individuals, tribes, groups and sites where they can go to get “good content.” Once they’ve vetted the source, I think they then feel comfortable passing along every piece of content that gets posted there (whether they’ve read the content, or not.)
2. A lack of skill in measuring.
Many companies still measure wonky, soft social media metrics, not really tied to business objectives. Who cares if the content they posted made their customers upset? If it got 72 hits that day — a 10% increase over the prior post — it’s a SUCCESS! All of the attention is on the short term payoff and not the long term goal.
This is the way of the world right now, and perhaps the future of social media.
And, if that’s so, I wonder if there is a role for content providers like me in this reality.
In comparison, I am a social media dinosaur.
I personally vet every piece of content that I share in every social channel. And, I put a lot of thought into the content I create. Because of these two things, I know I cannot compete with people who automate their participation and syndicate a stream of (hopefully) acceptable content 24/7.
But, I still feel like there is some value to be found in my approach, which can be best summed up in this little story from writer Loren Eiseley…
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
I am that man on the beach, throwing stuff into the abyss each day because I think it is worthy of saving. Every thing I tweet, post or share, I think, “It makes a difference for this one.”
Even if crappy content is cooler, easier and the ticket to more fame, I still want to believe that what I’m doing matters. This may make me provincial, idealistic, and yes, even a bit precious, but it’s who I am and how I’ve chosen to do business.
I will always throw starfish, even if I’m standing on the beach alone.
How about you?
Great post. I can relate to it a lot. I love that starfish story. “Crappy content” has not died out because the consequences are not great enough. It’s so inexpensive to produce content now, even if you are “failing”, you can keep it going — maybe sometimes without even realizing you are failing. Also, many strive for ‘quantity’ over ‘quality’, I think.
Keep up the good work! We all appreciate the thought you put into your own content.
I think you’re spot on about consequences, and wonder if that will ever catch up with people. It seems like you can walk around naked for only so long before someone proclaims that the Emperor has no clothes on. But maybe since the playing field is so crowded and noisy, people just don’t notice the naked ones.
Appreciate you taking the time to share and comment on the post.
Oh, I can so relate to this. In an industry (publishing) that’s shrinking and changing, we’re constantly pushed to do/tweet/write/create more and more, but not necessarily pushed to think about if what we’re creating is any good. And when other entities get the hits and the ads that we wish we had, it’s hard not to feel like it’s all for nothing. Strategy is so important, but when you don’t have the time or resources, it gets left behind.
That’s a tough industry to be in right now. I feel for you.
You’re right, strategy tends to get the shaft across the board in favor of the quick fix. But I do believe that the ones that do will have the chops to stick around. Sadly, I think many publishers won’t fall into that category. Seems like a lot of things I see are too little too late.
But again, what do I know? 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Amanda
There’s also the problem that “quality” is completely subjective. You and I might easily agree that a certain article is junk but even Google has extreme problems trying to judge quality of original work. If an idiot write a piece with bad/interesting grammar it’s virtually impossible to distinguish that from someone who is doing it on purpose (think Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye”) as a literary tool.
Good point. Most of what I’m talking about is highly subjective. So, if Google doesn’t know the difference and many people don’t use quality as their litmus test for passing it along, then maybe it really doesn’t matter.