The Saturation of Everything: The Content Shock Phenomenon and What Businesses Should Do to Avoid Them
It is the nature of contemporary society that once a certain company came out with something novel that was proven to be a hit, dozens of other companies would immediately follow suit. There was a time when Taiwanese brown sugar bubble tea was something of a novelty but right now, I could name at least a dozen within my immediate vicinity. In 2017, battle royale wasn’t even a genre of video game with only PlayerUnknown’s Battleground being the only title in the market but fast forward two years later to now and it seems that there’s a new one appearing on the news every other month.
In 2019, there’s simply too much of everything and this fact can also be seen in the world of content marketing. It’s not enough that marketers have to compete with the Netflixes, Spotifys and Steams of the world; they also have to compete with other marketers. In the world of marketing, this has resulted in a world of oversaturation of content and for a business to have any chance of success with their marketing efforts; they’re going to have to come up with a way to properly cut through all of this noise.
The content shock phenomenon
The phrase content shock was first coined by Mark W. Schaefer, describing a situation where “content supply is exponentially exploding while content demand is flat”. I’ve experienced this first hand when earlier this year, I tried adding a film to my Netflix queue only to be greeted with an error because apparently, I’ve hit a limit on my queue. Netflix has been adding content at a rate considerably faster than my capacity to watch them and this can also be seen with my Steam library, which has been ballooning in size after each summer and/or winter sale.
This phenomenon has only been observed in the past five years or so because we’re now living in a time where technology has progressed up to a point that everyone could reasonably become a content creator. Anyone with access to a laptop or a computer could simply create a blog using any of the free services available and fashion themselves as a writer. Even game engines are now considerably more accessible that independent game developers have started popping up left and right.
Even though saturation is the complete opposite of a monopoly, they both have the same effect in that it prevents new businesses from entering the market. In a monopoly, usually the barrier of entry is so high that it’s financially untenable for new businesses to enter the market. While in a saturated market, the market is so dense that even if new businesses could reasonably enter the market, they’d be hard-pressed to make a mark unless they can pull off something really extraordinary or if the demand increases. Content marketing is now faced with the latter situation.
Overcoming content shock by focusing on customers
Sadly, there isn’t a lot marketers could do since this is just the card they’ve been dealt with but there are still a couple things you could do to try and overcome this content shock. One way of achieving this is by basing your content entirely on what you think your audience likes and/or wants. Last year, Cary Fukunaga, the American director who’s known for his directing work in the first season of True Detective among others, shared in an interview with GQ that during his work on Maniac with Netflix, he makes creative decisions based on inputs from the streaming giant’s algorithm.
By taking advantage of the truckload of data Netflix has on the habits of their users, Fukunaga was able to make Maniac in a way that takes into account the audience’s preferences while still making the minimum amount of sacrifice to his creative process. In the world of content marketing, it’s important to always remember to cast your ego aside and it should never be you, you and you all the time. Take into account what your audience is looking for and try to orient your contents around that while still sticking to what you believe in.
Focus on quality and uniqueness over quantity
One typical mistake businesses and marketers tend to make in response of this content shock is to try and game the system by simply flooding the internet with contents. The problem with this is that you’re simply adding to the noise, which would exacerbate the problem even more, and that you’re just essentially gambling with slightly increased odds. This isn’t the way to go and if you find that none of your contents are working, that’s a signal for you to cut your losses and simply head back to the drawing board.
Every single piece that went viral in the last few years did so because they were incredible, managed to capture the zeitgeist in such a profound way, came from a perspective unique to the author or any combination of the three. Even in this humble piece alone, I endeavor to include anecdotes from an interview I read once on Fukunaga and tried to draw parallels from the world of video game and television/streaming services to the phenomenon of content shock, a connection that I believe not everyone is capable of noticing. If you’re serious about overcoming this oversaturation of content, concentrate on creating content that could only be described as uniquely yours.