Content, Capitalism & Contempt


Yes, I am aware of the irony of publishing my thoughts on social media.

Over the last 5 years or so, brands (I include personal brands in this) have become slick, well oiled machines at creating content. Content marketing has become a ubiquitous part of any marketing plan and social media managers are getting more recognition for their public facing contribution to brands. If brands and people want to have a voice in the public discourse now - they need to have an audience online.

Through the efficiency of capitalist systems, we have made large content generating networks - where anyone, regardless of industry or profession - can post or respond to content or creative briefs. We now have long factory lines of content production. Professionals who advise on and specialise in, content. Managers of the factory lines of content. People responsible for pushing out the content. Measuring systems based on interaction with the content. You get the idea.

It’s been made efficient, and so far it, has been effective.

It only stands to reason though, that with the increase in availability of content, there is a decrease in value to the consumer. Basic supply and demand. In order to gain visibility, brands are told to: create content, build an audience, become thought leaders, and ‘own’ their niche. Gary Vaynerchuck is a huge proponent of this method of brand building. You’ll find this sentiment echoed in almost every ‘Build a Brand’ article and ‘Professional Career Advice’ column. For good reason too, because so far - it has been effective.

There has been talk of shrinking attention spans since the introduction of television (Fabozzi, 2002). The average attention span statistic of 8 seconds gets thrown around a lot, although there is a bit more context needed for this number. Our attention spans are more ‘task specific’ according to Dr. Briggs of the Open University.

We’ve got a wealth of information in our heads about what normally happens in given situations, what we can expect. And those expectations and our experience directly mould what we see and how we process information in any given time.
— Dr. Briggs, Psychology Lecturer, Open University.

So if we’re indulging in content rich sources, such as social media, we’re creating predicable patterns of consumption for our audience. So surely with the increase in content, are we not decreasing people’s attention span towards the content? A situation like: “I know what brand X’s content will be like, so I’ll keep scrolling”. Even if you’re making really relevant content, I don’t think you’re immune to the audience’s over-saturation.

I think this over-saturation and continual commercialisation of our attention from social media platforms is breeding contempt in audiences. In one day, I have come across articles on Content Obesity an app that ‘de-socialises’ instagram and a podcast episode about Shouting into the Void of social media promotion - all completely un-prompted.

We have a serious problem with “content obesity”, today. We are becoming overweight, even obese, on too much content. It’s actually got a lot in common with food obesity.
— Somi Arian, Smart Cookie Media

There must be a better way to engage with brand audiences. A way built around people’s needs for information and inclusion. There is a need for content makers to craft our content more diligently. To be more professional, responsible and accountable in our approach. While it’s not as easy as “quality over quantity” - it's certainly a start.