Content Pollution

Forget global warming and pollution from greenhouses gases….

The pollution I’m worried about is “content pollution.”

There is an overwhelming amount of content created every day on this planet — far in excess of our ability to absorb it.

For instance, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter told me the other day that there are 200,000 books published each year.

That works out to 4,000 new books a week — 800 new books every business day.

With all that content bombarding the consumer, how can we, whether we are content writers or copywriters, hope to grab even a small slice of the reader’s attention?

One writer — and I have lost track of the source — says that content pollution means branding will become increasingly important.

Unable to read and consume information on which to base buying decisions, consumers will increasingly rely on brand preferences.

Yet something seems off here: despite content pollution, the educational approach to marketing — using content rather than sales hype to sell — seems to be growing and working better, not declining.

If it’s true that people have too much to read and not enough time to read it, why is offering a free white paper still a viable marketing tactic?


23 thoughts on “Content Pollution

  • Bob;

    If you will allow me to light a match here …

    The problem is not that there is too much information.

    Rather the problem is there too little relevant information.

    The age of “creativity” has been replaced by “copy and paste.”

    Where is the original, thought provoking information of yesteryear?

    Today, the mantra of too many writers includes words like repurpose and recirculate.

    Stepping off the box.


  • Bob,

    I have to agree with Mike. As our free time becomes smaller and more valuable, people have decided to use that limited amount of time to read material focused on the specific topics that are of most interest to us.

    So instead of reading newspapers or magazines that covered a variety of topics, we tune in on blogs, podcasts, or websites that address those very specific topics.

    Therefore the content world has been sliced and diced into literally millions of vertical markets, each with a limited but highly interested niche market.


  • Bob, you and I have had a brief email exchange about this, as it’s one reason I decided to take down old, outdated archived entries from one of my blogs early this month that served no purpose anymore other than to confound readers who find them through Google. So it’s clear I agree.

    I also agree that what you call an “educational approach to marketing” and what I’ve been calling “informational marketing” (and doing first for clients for many years, and now my company) is truly more important now than it has ever been. People want a reason to give you their attention that makes it worth their time.

    I don’t think informational marketing is the right approach for every industry or product. (People don’t, for example, need to be educated as to why they need underarm deodorant. I hope.) And it doesn’t have to be dull — information can be presented in an interesting way.

    But I do think it’s a marketing approach that is relevant, hard to do, and goes against the grain of the training of many marketers who prefer to shout “Look at me!”

    That said, white papers continue to be important — if they offer information of value whether or not you care about the product or service associated with them, rather than just a sales pitch.

  • Bob–Back in 1990, Neil Postman predicted where we were heading with computer technology, in a speech titled “Informing Ourselves to Death”!

    But when I look at the pile of books, newspapers and magazines waiting for me to open them, I realize I can’t blame it all on technology. It’s the curse of us info-junkies to bite off more “content” than we can possibly chew!


  • It’s not a problem that there’s too much information out there. It’s that there’s an awful lot of irrelevant and poorly written information out there. And because of this, the true innovators will always stick out for the right reasons.

    Authenticity and credibility will always give weight and impact to any piece of informative writing, whether it be marketing, educational, or something more light-hearted.

    The majority of problems arise in the foundations of companies attempts at building a relationship with prospects. Some shout, some beg, some cry, but if there is nothing of worth to be said in their literature (and fast), then it won’t get read. End of.

    But if you can teach without being too preachy, a white paper will always be an insightful and very powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal…

    The trick is knowing if it fits in with your target market.


  • As Michael Stelzner says, it’s hard to find thought provoking, original content. This is why I continue to read newspapers, magazines, and books outside of my area of expertise (versus blogs or Websites). The material is better researched, better written, and yes, more thought provoking.

    I just finished, “How She Does It” by Margaret Hefferman. The book gave me a whole other perspective on small businesses, small businesses owned by women, and why mega corporations will never “get it” when it comes to defining the true meaning of success.

  • Bob, I visited your blog for the first time today and you will see more of me in the days to come. I found your blog by “googling” your name after I finished reading your book “Blog Schmog”.

    Talking about “content pollution”, I was a victim to it a few days ago when I visited a popular bookstore. I was looking for books related to online marketing. I narrowed down my search to a few books including “Small is the new big” (Seth Godin), “Waiting for your cat to bark?” (Eisenberg brothers) and “Online marketing for dummies”(How could I miss that one?). “Blog Schmog” was one of the books I chose to browse while my daughter played in the store’s playscape.

    I read a few pages of all the books I picked up. But after the initial few pages, the writers lost my interest. I wanted plain tips; most book gave me graphs and statistics. After an hour of browsing through the “low on ideas, high on content” books, I started reading “Blog Schmog”. I could not put it down. Your ideas, your style and your opinions were all fascinating. The fact that I agreed with your overall thoughts about blogging added to my interest. I finished the entire book in one sitting. This was the first time I ever read an entire book in the bookstore (Sorry for not buying it, but I do plan to).

    My point is- Yes, there is content pollution and there is no way we can avoid it in this era of information overload. Unlike other forms of pollution, content pollution is really not unhealthy, save for the fact that it eats up time. However, almost every perceptive reader can wade through volumes of content to pick the content that is most valuable to him. Just like I browsed numerous books and finally picked yours.

    What do you think? (This question comes from a tip in Blog Schmog. Readers are more likely to respond if you propose theories and pose questions rather than state facts).

  • Gee, and here I thought my coauthor and I were very engaging in both our “Marketing Online for Dummies” and “Internet Marketing for Dummies.”

    Nishi must have found a different title. Or a counterfeit copy, I fear.

  • Hi Frank, I never thought I would get a comment from you:) Anyway, I picked the true copy and not the counterfeit one cause this was Barnes and Noble. Anyway, yours was just one of the bunch of books I chose. I am sure if I had bought it and read it from cover to cover, it would have made more sense to me. But at that point of time I was looking for something that could give me some quick tips within a couple of hours. If there is one book of the bunch I would buy, that would probably be yours (I work for an online small business). Believe me, I am not saying this cause I am talking to you. I think your book needs to be bought and read rather than read quickly at a bookstore.

    Anyway, the worst book of the lot was “Waiting for your cat to bark”. I came back home and I read some reviews on and I found many readers had the same thoughts. “Take a concept and beat it to death” seems to be the trend nowadays.

    I hope the Eisenberg brothers do not post a comment here saying I picked a counterfeit copy! Even if they do (Wow! That would be something!), my take on their book would be the same- It was boring! As for Seth Godin, I would just tell him “All marketers are liars” anyway!

  • The problem isn’t that there is too much information. The problem is that we don’t give it to people in digestible chunks.

    The other day a colleague was lamenting to me that he had “so much to read that I’ll die before I get throught it all.” At first, I thougt he meant books and magazines. But no! He had 400 ebooks in PDF format on his computer. 400! He’d been collecting the free reports that people offer as incentive to sign up for an email newsletter, plus he’d been buying ebooks, for about five years.

    How many has he read so far? About 20.

    His problem, like many busy adults, is that he gets intimidated by a 300 page book or ebook. He’ll read the first chapter or two, but never finishes it. Even worse, as we get older and need paper copies to read from (and take notes on), the cost to the reader to print out all those 300 page ebooks is quite high.

    Last year I started writing 20 page ebooks. If I could figure out how to condense topics into 10 pages, I would!

  • Interesting read (all comments). I have a copy of Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” book, and I see someone mentioned one I didn’t know existed, written by him about the internet. It all reminds me of “Future Shock” by Alvin Toffler, and what you are calling content pollution is just recycled “information overload”. The growing number of people with ADHD and the neurotic need to put EVERYTHING into bytes and text message format is symptomatic of the compartmentalization of our minds.
    Eventiually, there will be very few real people left (and will that be such a bad thing?)

    Edgar Ludwig

  • yet something seems off here: despite content pollution, the educational approach to marketing — using content rather than sales hype to sell — seems to be growing and working better, not declining

    the majority of problems arise in the foundations of companies attempts at building a relationship with prospects

    that blog » Content Pollution


  • Great post. I thought I was the only one that realized that we are having so much content pollution. So much material is being put out but impossible to keep track. Brand names are everything.

  • Surprised my commnet made it into your quoted blogs (above). I recently watched a video of
    Caroline Myss “Defying Gravity” and she talks about The Age of Reason and how we humans (many of us) grew into living only between our jaws and the top of the skulls, ignoing now spirituality [and I presume nature-ality]. Seeing a young man walk into a tree while he text messaged on his cell phone somehow made me
    feel the impending decrease in human existence, allowing nature to reclaim earth from man’s greedy ego one day (?).

  • Some typos – like the missing “r” in ignoing
    and the transposed “ne” in comment . . . anyway, starting to almost verge on “grouchy-and-cynical-old-man” syndrome, so I will shut up for a while and just read other people’s stuff.

  • After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service? Cheers!

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