The Tiredness of Digital Content
Just before and over Christmas, I received over thirty e-newsletters from various people and organisations. Most looked really good – well designed with some intriguing articles, videos and links, many highly relevant to me. I didn’t read any of them. We are becoming so tired of content that, even when that content is compelling and excellent, we still sigh and dump it in the trash. Thought for 2014: Digital engagement is now less about excellent content and more about energy and addressing overkill and weariness. Even less is too much when it is still “something extra”. The digital engagers of the future will be masters of both silence, and choosing the exact right moment. And they’ll focus not on relevance and utility, but on energy.
What I’m suggesting is that, even when it is concise, relevant and compelling, it’s still meeting a resistance of content tiredness. I believe a content implosion has been taking place for a while now. Even “better” is simply “yet more” of “content overload”. Even clever metrics can be fooled by people who knowingly click but do not read. Even excellent content is now hitting the same wave of weariness created by crap content. It’s becoming about energy and many internal communications leaders simply don’t understand these new dynamics.
What I’ve picked up this year is that a number of dynamics come more into play. One is about smart timing of communication, which becomes more responsive in real time. Here a communication arrives in a way that enhances the completion of a task I am currently working on. Newsletters become adaptive and responsive in relation to dynamic task and work flow. Secondly content adapts in terms of media style. This is going to be a big feature in Google Glass. I arrive in a new city and can then access some augmented reality content. My preset and also adaptive “preferences” deliver targeted content in video, audio, image or text format in ways that adapt to where I am – whether I am sitting or standing, in private or public, whether time windows in my diary are tiny or long. Content will morph, not only around work task, but also location, stance and preferred media style. Finally, silence will be used more skilfully. One bit of content will not overlap with another. Inboxes will never clutter through lack of joined up communication. Also energy levels will become explicitly important to to time – one’s body clock. I, for example, am more likely to read a newsletter between 7 and 8am than just after lunch. There’s already evidence that actions are more likely to be achieved in a project team if they arrive onto devices directly after an energised, motivated meeting. If that meeting has dropped in energy and “tailed off” it is better to share those actions first thing the next morning. Content creators and senders will need to become smarter, and use smart algorithms to deal with content overload (the equivalent of paper overload or burnout). They’ll need to understand energy a lot more.