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Content Marketing Minds: Is the Problem Content Shock or Content Schlock?


ImageSometimes I think this column-writing gig Social Media Today gave me is too easy. This is one of those times. 

See, every journalist knows when a fire ignites and the wind begins blowing the blaze around, you gotta’ get your ass out in the field and report the facts (however boring the story may be).

Sometimes fires break out in unexpected places, like on a blog post from a content marketing professional. This is one of those times.

So I take you now to the scene of the inferno with correspondent Barry Feldman of Social Media Today’s “Content Marketing Minds.” Barry, things look smoking hot out there. What’s happening?

Mark Schaefer lit a fire. 

Arsonist that he is, author/speaker/consultant Mark Schaefer who blogs at, published “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy” a week or so ago and it torched all kinds of talk. 

Mark’s written more interesting stuff, but not more controversial. This is Mark’s Miley moment (forgive me, Mark).

What’s on his mind? He says content marketing, the hottest marketing trend around, may not be a sustainable strategy for many businesses. Mark writes:

“This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock.”

I think it’s kind of cool, actually. Oops. Sorry. Be objective Barry (and stop referring to yourself by name).

The Cliff Notes will have to suffice for now. Schaefer says…

  • Deep pockets win
  • The entry barriers become impossibly high
  • The economics will eventually drive many content creators out of business

Just another information overload story? 

We’ve been reading about information overload stories ever since the printing press came along and gave us the technology to effectively distribute information about information overload. 

Mark’s story could have been just another one, but it didn’t go down that way. Counter arguments came flying forth.

Let's hash this stuff out together. Use #CMMinds anytime to make comments or counterpoints, add your ideas and ask questions. I'm listening.  

Copyblogger’s Brian Clark retorted:

Harder does not = doomed. TV is harder now, and it's never been better. Encourage people to up their game, not wait for the mythical next thing.

Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi suggested a new title:

I would reword your title to be: “Content Shock: Why Content Marketing without Strategy Is Not Sustainable.”

Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners responded with a post, “After Content Shock: What’s Next?” in which he states: 

“For most B2B marketers, we’re not at Mark’s dreaded saturation point yet. In fact, I don’t think we’re even close. Because content isn’t one big ocean, it’s a million little puddles & pools, each addressing a specific issue for a specific audience.” 

“The bad news: Mark is right: The saturation is coming. The good news: Most marketers will still suck at this for many years.”

You got it Doug. And in the suck stream lies the opportunity.

Here’s Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone, from “Surviving Content Shock and the Impending Content Marketing Collapse.”

“We are a long way from the day when too much high-quality, Rainmaker-style content is being created. To repeat myself, there is not a glut of content that is useful, passionate, individual, and interesting.” 

Jay Baer of Convince and Convert offered, “The 3 Ways to Succeed at Content Marketing When Everyone in the World is Doing Content Marketing.” Jay wrote:

“When competition increases for ANYTHING (customers, attention, pizza sales, bird seed, real estate) smart players adapt and survive, and less-astute players continue to embrace the status quo and slowly dig their own graves.”

Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting posted on Google+

“As we enter 2014 we're seeing a flurry of posts predicting a soon-coming Content Apocalypse. The contention is that as more and more marketers and business owners hear about content marketing, the amount of content will continue to increase exponentially, until it becomes too overwhelming, and most of it starts to get ignored by audiences.” 

Response: Starts to get ignored by audiences? Most of it was, is, and will continue to be ignored. Why? It’s perfectly ignorable. I don't see anything new starting here. 

Shelt Holz of Holtz Communication + Technology wrote, “Six Reasons There Will be no Content Shock.” He said:

“We are mainly consumers of niche content.”

He also wrote:

“The capacity for consuming content will continue unabated regardless of the amount of content available. For most people—as evidenced by the Northwestern study—it’s as simple as this: I can stand all the quality content you can throw at me, as long as it’s about the stuff I’m interested in.” 

Q: Who really cares about content marketing?

A:  Marketers (only marketers).

When I last posted here on “Content Marketing Minds,” I pleaded with y’all to stop worshiping the king that isn’t. In my article, “Content Marketing Minds: Content Is Only King of a Fairytale,” I campaigned to have you recognize the customer as the true king.

Truthfully, I find validity in all of the points of view above from many of the marketers I admire most. But with all due respect, I also find a degree inanity to it all. 

Clearly, content marketing dwells atop the list of marketing tactics us marketers dwell on, but consider this simple take:

No one besides marketers gives a rat’s ass about: 

  • Social media marketing 
  • Inbound marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Search marketing
  • Remarketing
  • Mobile marketing,
  • Influencer marketing
  • Permission marketing
  • Referral marketing
  • Behavioral marketing
  • Data-driven marketing
  • Integrated marketing
  • Direct marketing
  • Public relations
  • Advertising
  • Your company 

Here's a downloadable and shareable version of the above:


Think about this when you do your marketing. 

We have too much of every media. Too much television? Of course. Too much advertising. Definitely. But we have too much of EVERYTHING…

What to drive… what to wear… how to exercise... There’s no end to this list. Will we stop eating when the grocery store has too many items to choose from? 

Mark Schaefer did us marketers a great service. He ignited an important conversation—but not a new one. The themes that emerged as a response were: do it smarter; do it better; focus on a niche; and focus on your customer.

Content shock isn’t the real problem. Content schlock is.


See that comment field below? Use it and get internet famous, please.

Join The Conversation

  • gonzogonzo's picture
    Jan 18 Posted 3 years ago gonzogonzo

    I agree that Mark Schaefer indeed started a necessary debate, and I actually agree with him that content marketing will reach, sooner rather than later, that point where it will be incredibly difficult to stand out. In fact, we've reached that point already, no doubt.

    Yet, I also agree with most folks saying that it will simply force marketers to adjust, and to raise the bar. Does that mean only those with deep pockets will be able to do so? Most likely not, but it will make that much more challenging for small and medium businesses to stake their claim in the busy "marketing" world, where we try to get our messages across.

    Do customers care about this whole debate? No, you're right. But they certainly care about getting the good, valuable information into their hands before deciding or purchasing. The challenge is for brands to ensure this communication in a cluttered space...

    Interesting debate, though. Keep it coming, folks!

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Jan 17 Posted 3 years ago FeldmanCreative

    Second the second. Kessler is always enlightening, but very entertaining too. Probably my favorite marketing writer.

  • greykite's picture
    Jan 17 Posted 3 years ago greykite

    Hi Barry 

    Overload problem is right ... why do we expect customers to understand what works and what doesn’t when there are still “experts” out there offering advice that ranges from crass to crap (to paraphrase Doug). A quick poke about in one of the more knowledgeable LinkedIn groups earlier today and lo and behold, there's a “Top Contributor” explaining how to “maybe move stuff around to optimize the article or blog, add key words, etc”.

    Laugh or cry? You tell me ...

  • greykite's picture
    Jan 17 Posted 3 years ago greykite

    Seconded Craig. The comments on Doug's article are worth the entry price on their own ...

  • Jan 16 Posted 3 years ago JLoSanFran

    I agree Barry. I think the biggest stumbling block to success for my clients is their own belief that their potential customers desire their message. After all, my clients spent a lot of time thinking up all the messages to support the product launch (or whatever it is) and they are convinced the messages will create action on the part of potential customers. Marketers have to understand, direct contact with customers isn't really "marketing" anymore. Messaging is for damage control not direct communication.

  • Craig Premo's picture
    Jan 16 Posted 3 years ago Craig Premo

    I like what Doug Kessler said, doing content marketing right is about developing content for audience niches. By extension, marketers need to be more exacting than ever in defining their target audiences, in order to avoid the content "black hole".

  • FeldmanCreative's picture
    Jan 16 Posted 3 years ago FeldmanCreative

    This commentary area seems so sad and lonely. I thought I'd be the first to raise my hand. Do you have thoughts about this overload problem? Is it a problem? Does your TV service offer hundreds of channels. I bet it does and I bet you only tune into a handful of them. 

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