Pump up the Volume: the Hot New Debate in Content


Got content? Add more! Some of the smartest brains on the web now say the more content you add, the better. Is Jeff Bezos right, again?

We’re greatcontent so naturally we expect all content to be, well, great. The new debate is all about volume. Very high volume, like the amplifier in the movie ‘Spinal Tap’ turned up to 11. Web guru Steve Rayson tells us in a superbly researched blog post on BuzzSomo, via some tight analysis and nifty graphs, that whether we like it or not there’s going to be more and more content around. If you want to be seen, you’re going to need to be heard.

Jeff Bezos, the blogger and the new beauty of more

The new idea is that in a crowded market, loud is good. And loud means more content. Blogger Rayson has until now believed in content primarily driven by quality. The idea that less means more, like a classical quartet in a high spec minimalist home.

Now he’s been taking at a long hard look at the latest web strategy at the Washington Post. The Post is important because of two words: Jeff Bezos. The Amazon founder and all round web god bought what was then an ailing American institution three years ago.

One Bezos strategy for his new toy has been to pump it up. Loud. That’s 1,200 fresh-posts-a-day loud. Rayson’s analysis tells us visitor numbers are now up by more than a quarter. The posts might not always be long, but they’re new. Rather like Facebook updates, that’s compelling to frequent visitors.

Just a few years ago many deemed the Washington Post to be a redundant analogue relic, irrelevant in digital days. Now it could be at the heart of a new American revolution. One where the sheer number of pieces online could be key to winning the battle for readers’ attention.

Think that’s loud? Think again

Web guru Rayson goes further, analysing Google indexed pages. He comes up with an astounding statistic: that there’s been an increase of 29 trillion pages in the last seven years. Think every heavy metal band in the world playing simultaneously. For a lifetime.

No wonder Rayson now believes, “The future is more, not less content.”

He certainly makes a persuasive arguement. We also still believe that the content concerned can’t just be any old content cooked up by some autobots on their lunch break. Rayson concurs, suggesting there will always be a “quality threshold”.

There’s another reason for producing more and more content. More people want it. As Rayson points out, the number of internet users is hardly static. Whether it’s older users in developed countries or new young users in the developing world more and more of our planet’s population is spending more and more time online.

The potential viewers of, say, any one Washington Post page is increasing all the time. The challenge is giving them something worthwhile to read. If it’s nothing more than a snappy headline then that SnapChat photo they’ve just seen is going suddenly to seem a lot more interesting.

Strange times mean more eyes

We should take a break from the volume for a moment and assess what we’re looking at. Content needs to be about what people want to read. Simple to say, harder to do.

From Bowie to Brexit, there have been times recently when it’s felt like our planet’s been shaking. For Bezos and the Post, that’s gold dust. In tricky times, authority counts and the Post’s history includes Watergate and bringing down a US president.

It certainly helps that there’s loads more content to graze in the brave new Bezos era. There’s no doubt, too, that this content has to be the right content and not betray the trust of the Post’s readers.

At Amazon Jeff Bezos created a digital version of your favourite bookshop, one where everything was available without having to leave home. If at the Post he’s hoping to create the world’s favourite news destination, we’d humbly suggest that means keeping a constant eye on quality. The lesson is, don’t betray your brand by adding content that undermines its stature.

Niche is so now

Another key argument Rayson develops is whether niche content is a critical part of the future. Rather as the middle market in fashion is dying a death in favour of both high end and low budget clothing, niche content targeting particular consumers might just provide a key to greater revenues.

That’s not least because you can offer your advertisers a tighter, better defined market. If you’re writing about the burgeoning market in classic cars, then a private bank advertising finance to classic car buyers is an obvious advertiser. Will those petrolheads want more posts on classic cars? Certainly, and those posts will need to be of high quality in order to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Naturally more niche posts means more posts in total. Volume – quality volume we’d say – wins another argument. But who’s going to do all this writing?

We are not the robots

Full disclosure: this is a real person writing this, not a robot. Automated writing is already with us, in the reporting of the bare numbers of some sports results for instance. As demand for content increases, more robowriters are likely to find employment. Like Steve Rayson, we’d argue this frees humans to provide the real difference. The unique texture of a piece, the “why” beyond the “what”.

The appetite for more content on the web is undeniable. Jeff Bezos is rarely wrong. Pump up the volume by all means. Just make sure that what you’re putting through those massive speakers is a surefire hit.

Great is still good, whatever the volume.

Written by greatcontent writer Stephen

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