Social Content

The Half-Life of Content & Real-Time Marketing

Over the last 10 years, there has been three fundamental shifts in content creation:

  1. Increase in content creation costs
  2. Increase in distribution
  3. Decrease in longevity of content

Items #1 and #2 can often balance themselves out (when done right, when wrapped in effective strategy, when blah blah blah).

Item #3, however is the challenge. 10 years ago, content was largely created by mainstream media or long-form bloggers (and, yes, I first started blogging more than a decade ago). This, combined with the increased usage and effectiveness of search engines created a period where content was frequently found, consumed and shared for weeks or months after it was created.

As time has gone on, social content creation and sharing, and raw information overload has increased (intersecting with less and less content being found/consumed/shared due to search engines) there have been three key impacts:

  1. The length of time content is likely to get viewed has shorted
  2. Everyone produces more content, because the longevity has decreased
  3. More content requires media buys to support it than ever before

The Half-Life of Content

All of these trends can be summarized in the Half-Life of Content, pictured below:

Half-Life of Content

Half-Life of Content

We can quibble about the specific periods of time, but it’s clear that pre the web content lasted for a long time (magazines, newspapers, etc). As the web became more popular, and usage increased, things stayed “reasonable” thanks to search engines. But social content + increased content creation means that even items like a tweet which used to be visible and useful for a day or more, are now just a flash in the pan. This trend will only exacerbate over time. The Half-Life of Content will, in fact, continue to degrade.

As a result, we are investing in not just more content but better content, because great content still resonates better than poor content:

Content Cost

Content Cost

This increase in content cost is fine, but ultimately leads to a significant increase in cost per day, and thus increases the required reach to achieve ROI:

Cost Per Day

Cost Per Day

What It Means

We are going to create more content. Content virality will continue to increase. Information overload will keep going up. As a result, great content + media to support content that starts to go viral will become the norm for any intelligent marketer.

But, what’s next? Well, besides better content calendars and content planning, and the intersection of content creation and media, we will need to more deeply integrate the outside of our brands (content) with the inside of our brands (culture) including tools, processes, analytics and entirely new ways of going from planning to content to conversion.

More thoughts on this soon.

How do you view the future of content?

Let me know in the comments belowww.

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