Content Shock – What 24 Content Marketing Experts Think

Content Shock Definition Roundup  

24 experts define content shockEmbrace it or not, content shock has become a rallying point among content marketers.

Introduced on his Business Grow blog, Mark W. Schaefer defines content shock as the emerging marketing epoch defined when exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.”

Schaefer focuses on businesses and media entities. But, what’s missing from Schaefer’s discussion is the non-corporate generated content. This means personal content that we communicate in the form of conversations, text messages, email and social media updates.

24 Content marketing experts define content shock

Here is how 24 content marketing experts (not including Mark Schaefer) define Content Shock.24 experts define content shock

1. Scott P. Abel – The Content Wrangler, Inc.
I think that we’re putting the cart before the horse. This concept relies on a lot of assumptions. First, if we keep pushing content out at consumers using the spray-and-pray method we’ve used for decades (throw content out at the audience and see what sticks) then we may see some sort of diminishing returns. But, not everyone is that stupid. My crystal ball doesn’t conjure the same images as the content shock jocks. The future-prediction game isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. Remember Miss Cleo?

2. Bernie Borges – Find and Convert
Let’s face it, the signal to noise ratio in content marketing is out of balance. Sometimes, a shock approach to content can get attention and reaction. Shock can be accomplished in many ways including clever titles, thought provoking images and of course controversial opinions. Content shock has some risk. It can be more effective from an individual than from a brand. Consider the risk versus reward when planning content shock.

3. Michael Brenner – SAP and B2B Marketing Insider
I believe content shock is a myth for a couple of reasons. First, the economic argument assumes all content is created equal. Like widgets. It also assumes that demand is finite. Neither of these is true. Second, based on actual data, many types of content is ignored at a rate something like 99% or more. 99.5% of emails are ignored. 99.99% of banners are ignored. So there is an infinite amount of opportunity to take “bad” content and evolve it into something that something more than .01% of the world is interested in. Banners are actually a great example of the flawed thinking in content shock. As the banner ad dissolves into irrelevance, new forms of content that try to do what the banner ad did will rise up. So content shock may be possible for a channel or content type but not in the broader sense as in content = information.

4. Lisa Buyer – Author of Social PR Secrets
Just like we had the dotcom bubble and the real estate bubble, we will have a content bubble that will burst. Over saturation of content is already happening and consumption is starting to get blurry. Not all content is king and if you build content it does not mean they will come. People will begin to get burned out on all the content and content values will start to decrease, then some content creators will get sick of not getting results and the brands with the best content will be left standing.

This is why is you are working with a public relations agency, make sure they realize the days of generic press releases are already done, we are in an era of brand journalism.

5. Ian Cleary – Razor Social
Content shock is about the massive growth in the generation of content and the inability for your audience to consume this content.  This means that it’s very difficult for your content to reach your audience.  I don’t believe a ‘content shock’ will happen.  There is already far too much content for consumers and this has been the case for many years.  But what is happening is that there are more tools and systems now being built that help your customers find the best content.

6. Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide
At the core of Schafer’s argument is an implicit assumption that all content is created equal and requires ever growing budgets to acquire a focused audience.

The fallacy of content shock is that, with the introduction of every new medium and/or device we’re confronted with more information. But each time people develop ways to cope with the expanded delivery of information.

Don’t take my word for it. Stanford University professor, Itamar Simonson in his book, Absolute Value, states that information overload is largely a myth. “Most of us figure out how to find what we’re looking for without spending huge amounts of time online.

Further, this data doesn’t take into consideration that we as ordinary people create additional information in the form of emails, text messages, photographs and social media interactions.

To get your content marketing to stand out what is a marketer to do?

Start by avoiding a content quality fail.

Assume that your target audience is at least as smart as you are and provide the quality content they’re seeking. This means marketers must provide the 5 basic forms of content because you have under 10 seconds to capture visitor attention according to usability experts, Nielsen Norman Group. 

7. Andy Crestodina – Orbit Media, author of Content Chemistry.
I don’t believe that content shock exists. Of course, the amount of content produced is increasing exponentially and attention spans are not. But that just happened with television and the system didn’t collapse. I grew up with six TV stations. Now I have 600. My habits didn’t change but the industry adapted and it continues to thrive. People find the content they like and they consume it.

Still, the increased competition does make it more difficult depending on your niche. If the topic is crowded, it makes sense to find a more specific niche. If you keep looking, you can find sub topics with less competition. When times are tough, the best survival strategy is the leave early, go far and stay long.

8. Guillaume Decugis –
I understand why some people like Mark Schaffer are scared: content marketing seems to be a victim of its own success and as more and more companies publish more and more content, it becomes more competitive and could have diminishing returns. But as I’ve answered to Mark in this post, that’s no longer true if we consider the new models for content: while content marketing is about making your company a media, nobdy said you had to do it old-fashioned 20th-century style and produce all of their content in house. Look at BuzzFeed, Business Insider, the HuffPost or Upworthy: they’re all using a mix of creation, curation and aggregation and that should tell us what the future of successful content marketing is. 

9. Pawan Deshpande – Curata
Content shock is the state where content consumers simply lack the the ability to consume all the content that they desire or encounter. I certainly believe in content shock.  In fact, we have already reached content shock in many realms.

It can be argued that in most content experiences we have reached this state.For example, there are more YouTube videos online that I am interested in than I will have time to consume in my lifetime. Or, there are more interesting news articles online than I can consume in a given day.  Or, I receive more email newsletters than I have time to read.  It has not necessarily happened to blogs in certain narrow topic areas where content marketers operate, yet, but it will happen soon.

There are 3 workarounds for this:

  1. Create better more engaging content (which gets exponentially harder and expensive)
  2. Curate the best content on a specific topic and help consumers only focus on a finite amount of content that they can actually afford to consume.
  3. Narrow your content marketing focus to a smaller topic.

10. Barry Feldman  author of The Plan to Grow Your Business with Effective Online Marketing, a free e-book
I gather what Mark Schaffer wrote was a warning to content marketers (or would be content marketers) to understand the volume and noise of content in new media today makes it increasingly difficult to succeed. In my mind, it’s simply a challenge. Marketers must now plan and execute better if they want to realize the benefits of content marketing. I wrote a piece that said the real problem isn’t content shock—it’s content schlock.

11. Barry GraubartConnotate
I think this is nonsense. It’s not “content shock“, it’s simply the evolution of content. When moving pictures first emerged, a single shot, often following everyday life, was enough to get people excited. Over time, as more people began to make films, it took more and more to capture the interest of an audience. That brings us to today, where it cost more to film the movie Gravity ($100mm) than it will cost India to send a spacecraft to Mars ($75mm). So, as more people and brands seek to build an audience, everyone has to up their game. Ironically, that doesn’t necessarily mean more money. It just means better content. My 14 year-old daughter is a huge YouTube fan (as are most in her demographic). She’s not spending her time watching fancy brand-created videos, but rather follows about 100 individual YouTubers like Amazing Phil, Dan Is Not on Fire and others who most adults have never heard of. 

12. Nick Kellet –

There’s heaps of content today. This is not new. Standing out in the flood of content is hard and there’s no denying it.

Here’s how to maximize media effectiveness:

Media Effectiveness = Owned x Earned x Shared x Paid x Native 

The better you multiply and amplify your owned, earned and shared content, the less you’ll need to invest in paid and native media.Content Marketing-Nick Kellet

13. Arnie Kuenn – Vertical Measures, author of Accelerate
The term “content shock” refers to the notion that as more and more content is produced and published, people will max out on content consumption and content marketing will become far less effective. However, I do not believe content shock exists or is anything to be too concerned about, for a number of reasons. First, it hasn’t happened yet. Businesses have been producing content since the 1800s, and we’re still going strong. Though the way we create content and the means used to publish it have changed, the consumption of content has not. Next, even though there is a great deal of content published each and every day, people don’t consume the content that they don’t want to consume – period. Well done, useful content will always rise to the top.

14. Ahava Leibtag – Aha Media Group
Content Shock, or Content Fatigue, is the overwhelming publishing burden companies feel to produce valuable content on a challenging editorial schedule when they are not equipped to do so.  I also think that content fatigue is influenced by the lack of clear ROI between social media, content marketing and other digital marketing tactics. This lack comes from not having the right measurement tools in place, or not creating the appropriate expectations on the part of your senior team. It’s hard to keep up with a content pace that your company doesn’t support and many individuals feel fried from having to consistently think of new topics, write about them or create content to support them, and then distribute them to an audience that may or may not be listening.

15. Toby Murdock – Kapost
Mark Schaefer’s makes great points about the overwhelming amount of content being produced today and the user’s inability to consume it all, and his follow up post responds to many of the arguments against “content shock.” I agree it exists. And I agree that there’s more competition than ever for an online audience’s time.

Quality content and better targeting are the only ways to win in this world of information abundance. More than ever, it’s important to be seen a thought leader. Once you become known as a resource on a particular topic, your audience will come to you for information on that topic. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes quality content. But if marketers can focus on the unique value proposition of their business, frame those topics around the specific challenges faced by their buyers, then distribute that content strategically, that content is going to hit its mark.

16. Murray Newlands, co-author of Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals
I think of “Content Shock” as the filtering of poor quality content to free us to spend time on great quality content. If you are at an event and someone is telling a boring story, you politely leave and join an interesting conversation. Content marketing is great but just like most marketing trends, they are easy for early adopters and it becomes harder as competition grows. For the most part that’s a good thing because it increases the quality of the marketing. Why shouldn’t consumers demand high

17. Phil Paranicas – ThomasNet
Thanks to the increasing popularity of content marketing, more material is available than anyone can consume. The content shock theory essentially states that readers will get so overwhelmed that they will suddenly stop consuming. While this is a possibility, it’s not likely to come true. Why? Readers must still quench their thirst for knowledge, but will be more hyper-selective about what they consume as the content pool continually expands. This raises the bar for marketers – they will need to craft stronger, unique and extremely useful content. Good news – it’s not as scary as it sounds. To achieve these three attributes, marketers should hone in on sharing compelling stories. Genuine, relatable stories bring the content to life. But remember not to ramble. Like support material in a college thesis, the stories must illustrate the perspective or points being made.  When executed strategically, these anecdotes become beautiful music that rise above of the noise.

18. Adele Revela – The Buyer Persona Institute
If you can remember when “you’ve got mail” was good news and contrast that with the way you feel today about “junk mail”, you understand the premise of Content Shock. In the same way that any email was a cause for celebration so many years ago, our target audiences were once happy to find any content through their online searches, and marketers could produce content that would delight their customers without breaking a sweat. Content shock is the moment when our target audiences become predisposed to treat all content as spam.

Why is this surprising? If we talked to our grandparents, we would see a similar cycle with the telephone. It’s hard to imagine, but there must have been a time when a ringing phone was delightful, even if it came in the middle of dinner.

Remarkably, every one of us still finds it useful to have an email account and a telephone. So this is not the end of content marketing, but the beginning of a healthy expectation that the content we produce is actually useful.  Fortunately, your audiences will readily tell you what they want to know, and this is the information that positions marketers to be relevant and successful in every aspect of marketing.

19. Paul Roetzer – CEO, PR 20/20 and author of The Marketing Agency Insider
Content Shock is very real, but it may not be as far along as content marketers fear. The facts are:

  1. Brands are becoming publishers and storytellers, flooding the Internet with content in an attempt to capture their audiences’ hearts, minds and wallets.
  2. Consumers have a finite ability to consume that content.
  3. The barriers to success are much greater now than they were a few years back, specifically the ability to build reach and influence.

However, the majority of businesses still struggle mightily to devise content strategies, regularly publish high quality content and activate content throughout the entire marketing funnel as part of a closed-loop sales process. In other words, some brands excel at the art of content, but most fail at the science.

Our Marketing Score research, which surveyed 318 marketers, executives and entrepreneurs, shows that content marketing is the lowest rated of 10 sections evaluated, and out of 132 factors, 6 of the 10 lowest scoring factors come from the content marketing section. 

So while Content Shock may eventually impact every industry, the reality is that content marketing can still be a differentiator. It can drive visitors and subscribers at the top of the funnel, generate and convert leads in the middle of the funnel, and build customer loyalty at the bottom of the funnel.

Deeper pockets help, but by taking a more strategic and scientific approach, marketers can outthink and outperform, rather than outspend, the competition.  

20. Dayna Rothman – Marketo, author of Lead Generation for Dummies
I absolutely believe in content shock. In the past, there was information scarcity—where people had to search far and wide for content. They even had to contact sales to find the information they needed. Now, due to the exploding internet and mobile culture, there is an abundance of information. But, there is a limited amount of attention humans have. Information abundance equals attention scarcity. In fact, social scientist Herbert Simon was the first to discuss this concept writing about how in an information-rich world,  the wealth of information must lead to a dearth of whatever that information consumes, which is attention. But I think this concept speaks true for all marketing strategies—not just content. There is noise everywhere—on email channels, on social, in advertising, etc. It’s simply the job of the marketer to create great content that gets heard through the noise. It’s a fact that our customers consume our content at Marketo. Our content drives hard revenue numbers throughout our funnel. It’s true we create a lot of content, but we try to create content that appeals to different individuals in different stages in the buying journey. Not every piece of content a brand creates is meant to be consumed by every person. We want only people who find the content relevant to consume it—whether it be by role, location, industry, etc. So content will continue to grow, just like any other marketing channel, but it’s the marketers job to create quality content that people want to consume.

21. Neal Schaffer, author of Maximize Your Social
Seth Godin talked about attention deficit back in Permission Marketing in 1999. What you’re seeing in social media is an extension of that. After all, when was the last time you read every single tweet or Facebook post in your personal social media timeline? The introduction of native advertising just makes it more challenging for marketers to fight through this with organic content.

22. Angie SchottmullerThree Deep Marketing
The premise of “content shock” likely exists for marketers, but I don’t think there’s an impending doom of too much content that would overwhelm consumers. (If it were true, that would’ve already happened.) Traditional marketing has lost its credibility, and consumers have learned to tune-out irrelevant content. More irrelevance is not shocking; it’s ignored. That’s why search engines continue to play such a valuable role for the future of marketing. Both search engines and consumers are seeking the most relevant, credible, and value-added content they can find. On top of that, the content must be easily usable and fast-loading, regardless of viewing device, screen size, or connection speed. Businesses adapting for all five of those considerations (what I call the “Quintessential Optimization Factors”) will win. Fortunately for marketers, the current “supply” of truly optimized content is negligible with a low barrier to entry. More importantly, a “break-even” point doesn’t really exist. As soon as marketers think they’re providing adequate content (“supply”) that meets “demand”, consumers will raise their expectations. Time passes, seasons change, technology evolves, and audience priorities change. There is always a way to be more relevant, fresh, value-added, etc. Content marketing is a continuous improvement [optimization] cycle.

23. Russell Sparkman – FusionSpark Media
To the notion of “content shock,” I say “yawn,” because I think “content fatigue” is the bigger issue. First of all, the idea in Mark Shaefer’s Content Shock blog that there is more content than we can consume is nothing new. Publishers (and broadcasters) have faced this for eons, addressing the issue by producing highly focused content, oftentimes in niche publications (or niche channels). For example, standing at the magazine rack in the supermarket never stressed me out that there were more magazines than I could read. I was happy with the digital photo magazines and the mountain biking magazines that aligned with my interests, aspirations, wants and needs. In the publishing world, whoever best aligned with my wants and needs got my dollars. This same need for aligning content with interests for any hope of capturing audience is going to be forever true in the content marketing world, too.

Which brings me to my second point, which is that there is definitely competition within verticals, sectors, product categories, etc., to be the best content producer for marketing purposes. After all, whoever has the best content, wins. However, if “content fatigue” sets in, worthy competitors are likely to “take themselves out of the game” prematurely, thinking that content is too hard to fund, to create, to distribute and to measure.  Succumbing to “content fatigue” is far worse than fearing “content shock.”

Because here’s the bigger reality to face: What choice do you have?

Try asking yourself this question: In the absence of content, what else is there for marketers to do?

24. Kim Yuhl
Mark Schaefer’s article on content shock in January, there has been a lot of speculation on the demise of content marketing based on the sheer volume of content available. This might prove troublesome if: Every piece of content was marketed to everyone; People read everything without filtering for interest or need of information, and Great content didn’t win out in the end.

But since content is created with a specific audience in mind, the audience is fully aware of how to avoid content they don’t want to read and great content is what is shared and spreads across the internet, we are not in jeopardy of achieving content shock and certainly do not need not be worried about in such an alarmist manner.


Marketers, media entities and ordinary people will continue to create more and more content. Despite the fact that new devices will enable us to more effectively consume information, we’ll discover ways to more efficiently find the key information we want and need.

What’s your opinion regarding content shock? Is it a real phenomenon or link bait? Please add your comments below.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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