Content consumption is obsolete

Wither the Consumer, Part I: The problem is a matter of supply and demand

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👆Click here for the summary of this article👆

Background

Blogging and social media have spearheaded a revolution in the way we produce digital content, but the way we consume it remains the same, old, primitive experience it’s always been — still awaiting a Renaissance of its own.

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The macroeconomics of content

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  1. Positive demand shock:
    The demand curve may have its own outward shift (akin to the one the supply side’s already experienced), meeting supply at its new, natural equilibrium.
    Conceivably, this can only happen as a result of technological innovation that enhances content consumption either directly (e.g. biotech implant augments speed-reading) or indirectly (e.g. self-driving cars give us 2 extra hours of free time per diem).

“What follows digitization is deception, a period during which exponential growth goes mostly unnoticed. This happens because the doubling of small numbers produces results so minuscule they are often mistaken for the plodder’s progress of linear growth.”
Peter Diamandis (Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World)

Mo’ problems

In the meantime, the ripple effects from this disequilibrium are appearing everywhere, and it’s fascinating to see not only where these externalities are manifest, but also how consumers are adapting. While “the consumer’s burden” sounds trivial, the magnitude of both the economic and intrinsic waste is shocking: the time-suck; the manhours; the opportunity costs forgone in our personal and professional lives.

I. The DISCOVERY problem

Since there’s so much content out there, we waste a lot of time trying to find the right media to consume at the right time. For example…

  • Consumers spend more time searching for content (21% of the average day) than actually consuming it (20% of the average day), which is amazing considering how much time long-form video like TV/movies/streaming/etc. contributes to consumption…
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  • Content’s signal-to-noise ratio is weak, with only 22% of digital data even considered useful.
  • …utilization is even weaker, as we actually use only 5% of the digital data created.

II. The CONSUMPTION problem

Overwhelmed by content and neglected by innovation, consumers have managed the best they can by adapting. For example…

  • Our average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8.25 seconds (2000 vs 2015)…
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  • Consumers complete only 28% of a webpage on average…
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III. The RETENTION problem

Retention has two meanings. The first is mental capacity (i.e. cognition), wherein all of this noise makes it hard for us to mentally remember what’s important. The second is physical storage (e.g. cloud), in which all of our content is increasingly fragmented with no centralized repository for everything to be saved for future reference, making it a prohibitively time-consuming chore to retrieve or recall key artifacts. For example…

  • There are too many different silos in which we find and store our content…
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IV. The COLLABORATION problem

Peak content has changed our sentiment toward shared content. The mantra used to be “sharing is caring,” but now, given how inundated we feel, that altruism is overwhelmed by anxiety. Mobile notifications were once a facilitator, but they’ve become as tedious to manage as the siloed content they’ve subsumed. Even worse is that the correlation between social graphs and interest graphs is surprisingly low (i.e. who you know has little to do with what you like), so social media adds to the noise — even if it’s a better means of discovery than manual browsing.

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The need for real innovation

The earliest digital content imitated traditional, physical media. In fact, for a long time, destinations like newspaper homepages looked and acted just like their physical predecessors. That made sense too: We were all familiar with the metaphors, which muscle memory helped flatten the learning curve for early adopters.

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“When it comes to the future, the tricky part is less the ‘what’ than it is the ‘how.’”
— Ben Thompson (stratechery)

An example of demand-side innovation

I just didn’t want to waste everything I read, and once I had a way to save the good stuff, I naturally wanted — or in some cases needed — to share it. That was just the beginning. Now you can join the network where one person’s annotation is another person’s summarization, so you and yours can get straight to the point without wasting time or attention. Check out “Annotote”, your antidote to the information overload:

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All signal. No noise.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...” 👉 http://annotote.launchrock.com

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