THE CONTENT CON-UNDRUM

THE CONTENT CON-UNDRUM

Written by Mark J Beard on 18-Apr-14

Web marketers generally accept the idea that “content is king. But is it a kingdom of a wise and benevolent King Solomon, or is it more akin to the indulgence and decadence of Louis XVI?

It is accepted (online) wisdom is that the more content a website has the successful it will be.  Yet conversely, web users seem increasingly less willing to read or view the content that is so carefully created for them.  Simultaneously online publishers (like Fairfax Media) are removing costly in-house content creators (journalist and photographers) and replacing them with cheaper, lesser quality syndicated sources – all in order to create more and more content.

More web-based content is not necessarily bad, it’s just that all businesses (not just those in the media) are seemingly forced to become content creators and publishers.  Again this also is not intrinsically wrong but where is the content tipping point? When it comes to content… enough already!?

Of course vested interest groups like us (Kreshendo) and other web “gurus”, search engines, social media platforms and web advertising platforms are more than happy to tell the average business that more content equals more success.  But we think I’s timely to question this “truism”, this dogma that bamboozles many businesses.

CONSIDER THE STAGGERING PROLIFERATION OF INTERNET CONTENT

When Google first began indexing (tracking) web pages in 1998 their count was 26 million individual web pages. Today Google is now indexing over one trillion web pages.   This aggregate total is evidently huge, but what about the proportional growth in web users? Isn’t that consistent with the overall growth in Internet?  Well, not quite.   

In 1998 there were 216 million web users and today there are over 2.7 billion users, representing a 978% increase.  Over that same period the number of webpages indexed by Google (in other words, a measure of the scale of Internet content) has risen 3846054%. (26 million to 1 trillion).

As shown in Figure 1.0 if we calculate a simple average of web pages per web user, we find that in 1998 there were 0.12 pages per web user. Alternately stated, in 1998 there were approximately 8 web users for every one page on content on the Internet (as indexed by Google).  Contrast that with 2013 where there are now 368 (Google indexed) web pages for every one Internet user.

FIGURE 1.0 – GOOGLE INDEXED WEB PAGES PER INTERNET USER

 

1998

2013

Difference

% Change

World Population

6,000,000,000

7,000,000,000

1000000000

17%

% Population using the Internet

3.60%

38.80%

0

978%

Total Web Users

216,000,000

2,716,000,000

2500000000

1157%

Google Indexed Pages

26,000,000

1,000,000,000,000

999974000000

3846054%

Google indexed pages Web User

0.12

368

368

306567%

WHY SO MUCH CONTENT?

Clearly as the Internet has come to dominate the way civilization functions so it is understandable that web user numbers would increase as would their demand for new content. Yet why the dramatic growth in content relative to the numbers of users? Why so much content? Why despite the growth in content do we sense that people read less?

The conundrum for contemporary marketers is that the practice of marketing is increasingly dominated by the Internet. Organsiations are compelled to create websites and an increasing variety of social media pages assets, either as the center-piece of their marketing or at the very least to. For a discussion of the role that content strategy plays in marketing communications please read our blog post Integrating Content Strategy in Contemporary Marketing Communications.

A significant factor in driving the content explosion has been the importance of Google’s organic search, since Google demands that those pages at the top of its organic search have relevant and regularly updated content – typically in the form of web copy. So web site manager have bought into that the more pages, with keyword rich copy a website has – the more likely that website will achieve page one status in Google search.

The Internet’s insatiable lust for content is not so much driven by users demanding to read more – since it is self-evident that people generally read less - but is driven by marketers who believe that more content means more likelihood of ranking success.   The problem is that this mentality does not correspond with the current minimalist web design trend, where copy is minimalized, choices are simple and buttons (as per the Steve Jobs design mantra) are good enough to lick.  The “content is king” mantra is also is undergoing an attitude adjustment at the hands of Google who have recently increased the weighting of video content as a factor in organic rankings – content maybe be king, but the importance of web copy is slipping.

HOW SHOULD DIGITAL MARKETERS RESPOND?

So like all things, marketers should begin with tough questions for the digital marketers, SEO gurus and content creators who promolgate content strategies and tactics. While the cost of content creation can vary in our experience (with Kreshendo clients) website owners often give greater attention on the creation of content for site launch and under budget on the cost maintaining content creation and curation workflows.

Digital marketers and website owners should respond with a carefully plan content strategy.

THE CONTENT CON-UNDRUM

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