Thursday, June 4, 2009

Faux Content

Bad content is proliferating on the web like the newly planted mint in my garden. It seems that everyone is happy to share content freely with others, just not very good content.

Here are some examples.

I was invited to a virtual trade show recently. The good news is that the cost to me monetarily was zero. The bad news is that I was treated to a boatload of content for which I had absolutely no use. The presentation I attended was full of research that looked intriguing at first because it had a lot of interesting mathematical equations and research terms but ultimately it simply confirmed what I knew on the basis of common sense. (Not to mention the fact that the "presenters" were sponsors.) The vendor "brochures" contained the same stuff that I wouldn't pick up at a regular trade show, and the chat session I attended was full of questions like, "How do I turn off my pop-up windows?"

Then today while I was browsing Twitter, I was directed by a fellow Tweeter to a YouTube video that was described as "deeply inspiring." What the guy in the video essentially said was "Do what's right, not just what's expedient." Wow. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say something like that before. I truly was hit the stop button and check my email instead.

My final example comes from a well known technology website that offers "White Paper Membership." This was the most disappointing experience of all because after I reluctantly gave them my name and email address, what I received in return was a recent white paper that could have been written almost a decade ago. It was chock full of generalities and sorely lacking in specific examples and useful information.

I think part of the reason this content problem is starting to become more prominent is that we have begun to devalue "intellectual capital." We've operated on the assumption that you can get content for free for quite a while now and as "crowdsourcing" has gained in prominence we have become less and less willing to pay for content. I think that subject matter experts are now starting to realize that giving away a lot of content for free doesn't necessarily result in a sale down the line so they're pulling back on what they provide gratis.

Of course there are exceptions and daily I find things on the web for free that are fantastic, but I think what we'll see more of in the future are micro payments for truly useful content. I used to think that I'd never (or very rarely) pay for content on the web but I've been fooling myself that I'm getting something for nothing when in fact, I've been emptying my "time and attention" wallet to pay dearly for faux content.