I got this really good question from Michael Fergusson in response to a February, 2006 entry of mine titled Capturing Attention. Michael asked, “What do you think it will mean, when/if the volume of content being produced nears, or even outpaces the volume of content being consumed?”
I guess the first question I have in return is how do you define consumed? Is a personal diary written and hidden away ever consumed? In a way isn’t the production process in that case also the consumption process? If you are creating something for yourself than you are the consumer. While that answer at first seems like a cop-out, I think it gets at an important point. Mainly that in most circumstances the size of an audience is irrelevant to the producer.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d write differently if I didn’t think there was anyone out there reading this, but I’m not sure how much differently. A movie director creates the same movie for an audience of one as he does for an audience of one million. The size of an audience doesn’t really matter all that much until economics enters the equation. When that director has to pay for his film all of a sudden the number of people that showed up at the theatre becomes a whole lot more important.
With the internet, however, those economics have changed drastically. I have taken a no advertising stance on this website. That’s because I can afford the upkeep on my own. Because of that, the size of the audience of this site (which is quite small), really only matters to my ego. If no one reads an entry I write I will probably never know. That’s alright with me. Occasionally I get really great comments/questions that affirm my work here and fuel my intellectual fire. More often, though, that fuel is from within: I write this site because it’s good for me as a writer, as a thinker and as a marketer.
None of this is to discount the question, just to put a different spin on it. I think the real question your asking is about information overload. How do we deal with an increasing onslaught of information coming at us from every direction?
In the future, I think this is going to be helped along by the filters. Tools will develop, like some of those around AttentionTrust that will help us spend our attention more wisely. They will look at what we like and what we don’t like, compare it to the likes/dislikes of those with similar interests and make recommendations.
Check out my post What’s Next? where I specially address this issue as it relates to the newly created glut of consumer generated advertising. I compare it to blogging, where we’re discovering the it’s tougher and tougher to separate the signal from the noise. (As a side-note, it’s important to remember that one man’s noise is another man’s signal.)
In that article I conclude that, “The branding opportunities of the future lie in the filtering and repackaging of content. Companies that figure out how to actually help people spend their attention more effectively will be richly rewarded. Think about it, less and less onus is being placed on who created the content, while more and more is placed on where you found it. Just ask YouTube: It’s a destination, a repackager of content. Part of their magic is that they allow anyone to put a YouTube video on their own site. As a result their branding seed is spread far and wide.”
Hopefully my answer didn’t sidestep the question to much. Thanks for the interesting comment. Also, as a request, everyone out there, please comment. It’s nice to hear (or read) someone else’s voice here on occasion.