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Is Earth's Content Creation Pace Vastly Exceeding Our Content Consumption Capabilities?

Ken Gaebler

Stupid Cat Videos as Content Marketing Competition
When it comes to content marketing, your competitors are not who you think they are. Your real enemy? Stupid cat videos.

Here's my hypothesis for this blog post.

Simple math suggests that content creation is out of control. As a planet, we are combining words to create new content at an accelerating pace, a pace so fast that it's a certainty that much of our content will go unread, simply because there isn't enough human reading capacity out there to consume all the content we produce.

For Pete's sake, in the previous paragraph alone, which I just typed in 20 seconds, I created 58 words of new content. At this second, countless other people are no doubt spewing out content for public consumption at a similar pace.

I'll get to the math in a second, but here's a good analogy. Watch the classic "Lucy at the Chocolate Factory Video" below.

Lucy and Ethel are all of us -- the people on this planet who can read. (I know you are one of that elite group because you are here.) The chocolates are all the content we create. Yeah, it's just like that -- we can't possibly keep up and read all the crap we collectively write.

Simple Math for Content Creation and Consumption

OK, so how would one go about evaluating if we've got too much content for the number of readers on the planet?

A simple approach (too simple, some might argue) would be to figure out how much content we've got and compare it to how many readers we've got. Then, we'd ask: based on the amount of content available to each reader, could they possibly consume it?

Thinking back to the chocolate factory analogy, this approach is the equivalent of asking how many pieces of chocolate exist in the world on a given day and how many people can eat them on that day?

If I've got 7 billion eaters on the planet and I've got 28 billion pounds of chocolate available to eat, then, we've all got to be eating 4 pounds of chocolate a day to keep up. That would be 1,460 pounds of chocolate per year. Yikes.

OK, clearly that's way too much chocolate because your typical fat human (think borderline obese American) eats 4 pounds of food in total. So, to eat all that chocolate, we'd have to have an all-chocolate diet and not eat anything else. That kind of sounds good to me (can somebody go grab me a Snickers bar?), but it's not very practical.

The reality is we eat 11.7 pounds of chocolate every year, in the United States anyway. So, long story short, it'd be pretty stupid for chocolate producers to produce at a rate where we would have 28 billion pounds of chocolate available to us every day. Being fairly smart, and constantly being beaten down by the economic law of supply and demand, chocolate producers wisely don't make that much chocolate.

But what about content producers? Do we wisely produce the right amount of content for global consumption or do we massively overproduce?

Before we get to the math, I'll fess up that the content as chocolate metaphor is faulty in at least a dozen ways, mainly because when I eat my Snickers bar (is somebody gonna bring me one or what?), it's gone for good. When you read this blog post, however, it won't disappear from existence with small remnants eventually making their way into the local sewage system (you might argue that that's where this blog post belongs, but keep that thought to yourself, please). So, yeah, although we consume content, it's really not a "consumable" in the traditional sense of the word.

OK, the math. Let's start with the easy one -- how many readers do we have on planet Earth?

The global literacy rate is 84 percent, says my uncited source. There are roughly 7 billion people on the planet, but how many are of reading age? My quick research suggests that 10 percent of the planet is under the age of 5, so let's cut them out of the picture and say that we've got 6.3 billion readers on our orb. Multiplying that number times my 84 percent literacy rate statistic, we've got about 5.3 billion readers. Let's call it 5 billion to simplify things.

As of today, the world wide web has 3.8 billion pages.

I just looked that statistic up, and it's at this point that I realize my hypothesis that we have way too much content to read per person is not going to pan out. In fact, I have just changed the blog title above from the more conclusive "Earth's Content Creation Pace Vastly Exceeds Our Content Consumption Capabilities" to a more anemic "Is Earth's Content Creation Pace Vastly Exceeding Our Content Consumption Capabilities?"

Really? We've only got 3.8 billion pages of web content to read and we've got 5 billion people to do it?

No problem! If each of us were to read 76% of a single web page today, we can consume the entire web in one day. In fact, you can stop reading this blog post right now and you will have done your share.

Even if we factor in books and other materials that are not online, as well as gated web content, it appears that we still have more than enough chocolate eaters to consume our content chocolates. You can even add stupid cat videos and social media tweets and the like into the mix, and we've still got enough human capacity to consume it all -- without even breaking a sweat.

Bummer. While it feels to me like content marketers are polluting the world with too much low-quality, worthless content, I guess I'm probably wrong.

What Does All of the Above Mean for You If You Work in Marketing?

Despite the statistics above, nobody would disagree that, for marketers, there's an arms race underway for content creation.

You have to have more and better content than your competitors, right?

So, there is relentless pressure on marketers to build out content in order to raise awareness, educate the market, appease the search engine gods (God?), and generate leads.

If you are not creating content and promoting it, you are not in marketing. Publish or perish. It's as simple as that.

Now, you might argue that you don't have to worry about global content creation and consumption statistics.

After all, what's important is whether the niche audiences you market to are reading your content and finding it to be useful.

But the reality is you are competing against even those stupid cat videos, as in "Hmmm, should I read this white paper on email marketing best practices or should I watch the funny cat video that Aunt Suzy sent me?"

If the cat wins, you lose.

So, I guess the bottomline here is to stick to the fundamentals of content marketing and figure out a way to win against the cat videos.

Start with a good content marketing strategy that aligns with the business plan, includes detailed buyer personas and covers all your messaging objectives. Then, execute your content marketing plan and build content that your audience will love and adore -- as much as some people love to eat chocolate!

If you do that, nobody will accuse you of being a contributor to the global content pollution problem, when the time comes, eventually, that it is real problem and we actually and undisputedly have way too much content to consume.

Congrats, you've just consumed over 1,200 words of hot-off-the-presses new content. Now, add a few words of your own below by posting a comment. What do you think of my math above? Do you think we're creating too much content? Any tips or advice you'd care to share for other content marketing pros? Speak up.