By Nicole Yuen
We seem to go through peaks and valleys with information overload in our society. And the one who picks the short straw is the content consumer. They end up having to sift through a lot of bad content to get to the good stuff. And, combined with the fact that an average person’s attention span is about eight seconds, both content consumer and content creator are at a disadvantage because chances are good consumers may never even see your content.
To make matters worse, companies are realizing that creating and distributing content is good for business.
Case in point, DemandMetric says that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. Not only is content marketing more effective but it is more economical than traditional marketing.
But there’s a problem. What happens is that we get an influx of content, something to which Mark Schaefer, a globally-recognized social media strategist, refers to as Content Shock. Content creators push content out to the masses and they assume there will always be someone who will want to read it. Will they? Schaefer notes, “I believe as marketers, we have been lulled into a false sense of security thinking that this consumption trend will continue to rise without end.“
And, email is not doing us any favors. YesMail Interactive reports that while email is on the rise, the percentage of emails opened has decreased from 30.2% to 7.5% in the last year.
As a result of all of this, people are consuming online content very differently these days.
So, how can people maximize their time to consume the content they want when they want it?
RSS feeds and Their Alternatives
RSS feeds were used as a way for people to be able to stay informed efficiently. While they did deliver content for a specific topic, RSS feeds only sent emails when the exact words were mentioned in an article. This made it difficult to find other related results on the topic. It was hard to sift out the good results from the bad ones. RSS feeds would send emails to people but eventually, receipt of all this information became overwhelming for those consuming the content.
Then social media came along. With people having less time to go through countless emails, social media helped to deliver information that was easy to read. However, similar to the emails from RSS feeds, while social media at first provided information on a topic that people could use, it then evolved into too much information that the consumer had to hunt through to get what they want. So people were faced with two inefficient methods to consume online content – go to social sites such as Twitter and Facebook that offer too much content or consume content via RSS feeds, that don’t offer enough of the right content.
An article by Dan Nosowitz, titled “How We Read Online: Is RSS Due For a Revival?”, has sparked the interesting idea on how, in today’s digital media age, there is the revival of RSS readers. Ever since the Google Reader, there have been many sites that have sprung up that offer a better way for people to digest content. Dan points to the Digg Reader in his post. The Digg Reader “is a blend of the classic RSS input/output and its own algorithmic recommendation skills” – it combines social media with original RSS feeds. The Digg Reader also allows users to customize what they want to plug into their feed. This brings a much better alternative and gives the user the ability to decide how much social influence they want in their news.
In addition to the Digg Reader, there are a lot more tools available for readers as alternatives to the RSS feeds. Other sites such as Scoop.it, Feedly, Medium, Sway, Newsle, Klout, BuzzSomo and Buffer are similar to the Digg Reader. These sites represent the new use of RSS and in turn give readers the ability to choose what content they want and what they don’t want to read. Therefore, consumers are able to get the information easily without having to sift through a lot of search results.
In addition, thanks to the departure of Google Reader, many RSS readers have popped up that are more evolved and enable people to pick and choose feeds to their favorite sites to add to their reader to read at their leisure.
Opportunities for Content Creators
As a result of the content consumption evolution, those who create content (brands, bloggers, et. al) have some opportunities in front of them. First and foremost, they should offer people an RSS feed. Next, they should also consider these RSS alternatives and add them into their content distribution plans. Third, they have an opportunity to get to know their audience and create and deliver content their audience wants.
With companies and other content creators turning to content marketing, the ability to use these RSS readers and their alternatives allows them a mechanism to deliver relevant and useful content quickly and succinctly. It gives content consumers the ability to get to the content they want faster. Content has a better chance to be seen and read.
And, if you are delivering content to the right people at the right time, you will be able to get your content into their hands much quicker for them to take action on.
Sounds like a winning proposition.
Nicole Yuen is an intern at M4 Communications, Inc. this summer. She is a rising fourth year economics student at Willamette University.