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Digital Dog Days of Summer: Getting Burned by Useless Content

Monday, July 06, 2015
Grant Whiteside

It must be silly season again. Every summer we seem to get an influx of pointless ‘marketing’ stories that are neither interesting nor particularly relevant, but someone publishes them and we still often read them anyway. I don’t know if it’s because there are a lack of client wins, or the heat, or we’ve just become accustomed to drowning in useless content. It’s such a shame we don’t print this stuff; if we did, we would have had something to wrap our chips in for a month.

But before I’m tempted to dive in and shame a few of this month’s disasters, I’ll give you my research methodology. I started on Google and searched for “what to do when you run out of content ideas” and refined the number of results down to articles freshly indexed in the past month. I skimmed over the top 400 results before I lost the will to live. How many ’50 ways’, ‘100 killer ideas’, ‘5 steps’ and ‘what to do when you run out of content ideas’ titles do we need before we start seeing that the concept is now as ineffectual as it is painful to read.

So what is it about this growing glut of useless content? Where did the need for an obese diet of reconstituted nonsense come from?  Is it just because the vast digital real estate of the ‘internet’ simply needs to be filled, or is it more of a bi product of the SEO industry’s ceaseless generation of filler ‘content’ that helps web pages rank better for specific keywords due to ‘engagement’ factors.

Saatchi’s strategy director Richard Huntingdon summarised this quite beautifully by stating ‘Never in the field of human endeavour has so much crap sat on client servers to be consumed by so few’.

As marketing departments put their orders in for next month’s content and the KPI’s are set by number of articles rather than the number of readers or conversions, I’m beginning to think that this is all going to go belly up sooner rather than later. Paying for the distribution of opinion may well become the standard method of delivery as the quality of content is lost to power of the budget.

The irony is, I’ll promote this article on Linked In; it may fly, but it could easily be ignored and washed out by the tsunami of articles produced by proper writers desperate to get their well written pieces acknowledged by their peers as the channels to print continue to dwindle.

As chip wrappers from yesterday’s newspapers become less of an option and the use of polystyrene boxes for food consumption grows, so does our digestion of pointless digital content. If you can’t sleep at night you could always dig up the latest article on Disney banning selfie sticks, not because there is an alarming amount of selfies taking over the world’s bandwidth, but because there are growing safety concerns for Disney’s cast and guests… the next time I’m meeting Goofy, I’ll keep my selfie stick at home.

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