Why ‘content shock’ is good news for (competent) marketers

Published May 28, 2015

What is ‘content shock’?

‘Content shock’ is a fairly recent phrase used to describe the oversaturation of information available online and offline. It’s the sheer glut of articles, videos, photos, and infographics out there which users simply don’t have the time to find and consume – much less actively engage with – and the resulting pressure on marketers to produce content that stands out.

How does this information overload affect content marketing?

Marketer Mark Schaefer – who coined the term content shock in early 2014 – argued that the concept makes “content marketing as we know it” unsustainable. According to this logic, most marketing departments and agencies simply won’t have the capabilities to create enough content to generate ROI.

However: Truly great content is rare, so demand will continue to be huge

Schaefer’s concerns about information overload are valid, but they mainly apply to disposable content of negligible quality and limited consequence. Copyblogger Media describes this type of content scathingly:

We’re all familiar with the most overproduced form of content. It’s mass-produced, formulaic, and often cynical. It’s ‘content’ the same way that Keeping Up with the Kardashians is ‘entertainment’.

So what makes content great? And how will people find it?

If you’re concerned no one would notice if you stopped publishing social content, you’re probably doing it wrong.

To see if you’re on the right track, ask yourself: are you getting organic engagement (e.g. retweets, favourites, likes, comments) or do you rely on paid reach to give you views?  The latter strategy isn’t sustainable; as Michael Zimbalist said at Social Media Week New York, “Many marketers are obsessed with reach, often to the detriment of the quality of content. However, any brand can buy reach – attention is the only metric that cannot be bought, and it is fast becoming clear it is the most important.” Also consider if your audience analytics – do they match your target audience (e.g. by age, location, profession)? And do your content marketing activities demonstrate genuine ROI – do they have an effect on your business, such as generating new leads?

Copyblogger Media divides engaging content into ‘Conversiting’ (content that’s “just great advertising”) and ‘Rainmaker content’, which “serve[s] a business purpose in attracting a larger prospect base, bringing in leads, nurturing and educating those leads, and paving the way for a sale.” This type of content is original, thoughtful, and accessible while addressing (and sometimes solving) the audience’s problems.

Next week we’ll take a closer look at how to create great content and making sure it gets found – including what common obstacles stand in the way (and how to overcome them).


To learn more about content marketing, take a look at our tips for raising your content marketing game – and if you’re looking to improve your own content strategy, just get in touch on 01483 746 650 or email Hello@somethingbig.co.uk. Also keep an eye on our Twitter feed for more content insights!

4 responses to “Why ‘content shock’ is good news for (competent) marketers”

  1. Actually, I defined the term. But if you read the original article you are missing the point of what Content Shock is about. It’s not just about the glut. The glut is actually good for consunmers. It forces more choice and probably more quality. But it is a nightmare for marketers.

    It’s not simple enough these days to simply say “create better content.” Do you believe the best content rises to the top? Of course it doesn’t. To win today it requires a complex cocktail of solutions. For the past two years I have been obsessed with figuring it out and turned my findings into a book called The Content Code.

    Whether you spend more on better content, promote content, devote more to SEO or pay facebook to boost to re-gain organic reach, the point of Content SHcok is that it is becoming more difficult and more expensive to be a marketer, a predictable consequence of the glut.

    • Something Big says:

      Dear Mr. Schaefer,

      Thank you for taking the time to read, and comment on, our blog. Thanks also for clarifying that you had actually defined the term ‘content shock’; we’ve updated the article to reflect this as well as several of your other points.

      We fully agree that the challenge of content marketing isn’t just about actually creating great content (which we’ll tackle in this week’s blog), but also about making sure the content is disseminated through the right channels so that it actually reaches the target audience.

      We have found your articles on content shock and content ignition very thought-provoking and look forward to reading your book The Content Code.

  2. […] week, we discussed the implications of ‘content shock’: the overload of information which makes it increasingly hard for marketers to produce content […]

  3. […] previously written about content shock,the information overload which can make it hard for your brand message to reach your target […]

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