There’s a lot of content on the web right now. Even though there’s enough to watch and read for weeks, new content is guaranteed to show up in the next 24 hours. I’m afraid though, that most people aren’t giving content-making their all.
Yeah, I know there’s some pretty amazing channels on YouTube and some great blogs available for free—but, in terms of new content being published and posted, there seems to be more mediocre new content than good new content.
If this were untrue, you and I would probably have more time, energy, and focus because we wouldn’t have to sort, filter, and skim so much.
Do you know what I’m talking about? You click on an article…and you’re not sure that you’re going to read the article, you’re just checking to see if it’s worth reading.
You choose to read some, and not others. We testing to see if the content is good or not. Nobody really wants mediocre content. We want thoughtful, honest, authentic content that challenges, informs, and entertains us.
My story: creating content in elementary school
As a child, I was a content creator and I didn’t even know it. In 3rd grade, I signed up to be a contributor to a local newspaper written “for kids, by kids.”
At first, I submitted a 200 word article, but months later decided to submit one of my silly cartoons, not realizing what would happen next.
Drawing was something I enjoyed in my free time, but I didn’t think I could “do anything with it.” My style was somewhere between Charles Schultz and Bill Watterson. Eventually, I made my way on to the front cover of the newspaper, than again, and again, and again.
A children’s newspaper really isn’t that big of a deal in the big picture, but I loved creating drawings that would be seen by the local community. I took it seriously. It didn’t feel like work. And it didn’t hold the same level of anxiety that I’m often faced with when thinking about what kind of stuff to put on social media.
I didn’t realize I was creating content. (Something that’s now really important in my career!)
As a young content creator, I had a high standard for myself and wanted to grow as an artist—so I tried new things and experimented. I had a small circle of feedback, and it was not instantaneous. This kept me pretty focused on creating the final product—instead of getting caught up in people’s opinions or what others were creating. I used to say things to myself like…
- What could I do to make this better?
- What would serve this story?
- What if I tried this instead of that?
- How could I make this more clean/tidy?
- *Is this easy-to-understand?**
I’m afraid, however, that in recent years, my personal standards to make the best content have been dulled and need to be sharpened.
[shareable cite=“Josh Mitchell”]My personal standards to make the best content have been dulled and need to be sharpened.[/shareable]
I think the “dullness” is a result of needing to get GET FRESH CONTENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA…NOW!!!…combined with my bad habit of having to check social media to see what people are up to.
I’ve caught myself checking social media for no reason—and I hear a loud screaming voice in my head to put my own NEW up.
I’m not arguing for slow content delivery—but I wish content dictated the posting schedule, rather than the urgency-to-post dictating the content.
Why is there so much mediocre content? Answer: Urgency
Urgency-to-post often dictates content
Too often, the urgency-to-post something—anything—dictates the level of effort put into a piece of content. In other words, if something needs to go up this week, meeting the deadline may be prioritized, instead of putting more effort into the content’s specificity, length, depth, and easy-of-use.
This leads to a lot of content going live, but honoring the deadline at the expense of the content.
Don’t get me wrong
Schedules are good. Deadlines are real. Without them, stuff wouldn’t get done. I’m not saying we abandon deadlines, but we should thoughtfully consider the content first—then determine a schedule and deadline that honors the content creation.
Content should dictate the schedule
When we allow content to inform and dictate the schedule, we’re not caught up in the urgency-to-post, but instead, thinking about how to make the content better and how it can truly serve people.
For example: Edited videos take longer than a simple photo. If you’re wanting to create a good video to share with people, it’s not going to happen in 5 minutes. The urgency to “just get it up online,” and misunderstanding of speed might compromise the level of effort that’s needed to make that video what it needs to be. So you might cut corners and rush it…which honors the deadline, not the content, or the user of the content.
We hold content to a HIGH standard
When people talk about content, and say “I’ve got some great content for you,” they’re holding it to a HIGH standard of excellence and value.
If someone’s content stinks, is it really content? It may not be something you’re interested in, but if someone has “bad content,” is it worth being called content? Some content might be incorrect or poorly reported or presented, but I don’t usually use the term bad content…do you?
Bad content = fluff
What is the opposite of content?
You probably know the word fluff. A lot of people it to describe writing, speaking, and media that kind of looks like content—kind of sounds like content…but there’s nothing inside! I sometimes refer to this as “empty content.” It has the smell, appearance, and maybe the same FONTS as the good stuff, but it’s just…not.
We dismiss & delete fluff
Do you want more fluff in your inbox or newsfeed? Didn’t think so. Yet lots of fluff will be created today for you and I to sift through. We want the good stuff and nothing but it.
Yet, on the other hand, we’re not interested in stuff that’s too heavy.
We resist dense content
If we hate fluff, then the especially hate the DENSE and complicated. Have you ever tried to fix your printer or wireless router only to find yourself frustrated, confused, and helpless? We search for content on “printer not connecting” to help us solve the problem—but too much information displayed in long paragraphs of complicated words has the same effect as fluff content—where’s the X button!
Putting more effort into content
The question myself and others should be asking when creating content is…
- “What does this piece of content require?” What is the best way to convey, present, and communicate what needs to be said?
“Who is this content for?” Who is the user of what I’m going to make. What are their problems? Does my content medium make sense for their world and environment?
“How can I best serve the content and its user?” How can I be sure what I’m saying serves the user?
Creating content isn’t new
Creating content is a buzz word these days if you have a website or business social media account. But before digital social media, people still created lots of content. And even thought there was plenty of mediocre media being published and circulated, I feel like there was more “better content back” in the day. (I’m sure that because of the internet there is much more mediocre content in numbers now, than there was before the internet.)
Back in the day…
I don’t want to false romanticize the past, but think about it: It used to be that in order to publish a book, you had to work really hard at finding an agent, writing a killer proposal, and dealing with rejection until landing a deal. And then you had to write a really good book!
Today, however, anyone who wants to distribute their writing can do so without the aide of a traditional publisher. They can purchase a $150 laptop, create a free Google account, and write their entire book in Google Docs, export as PDF, and post on Facebook for people to read.
This is a miracle.
The landscape has changed—except we’ve eliminated the gatekeeper. It’s good because gatekeepers made it really hard for really good people to publish their work—and now that’s not a problem. It’s bad because we’ve lost a layer of reviewing, editing, and challenging and…excellence.
I’m not saying that everything published pre-social media was amazing, but there was a more rigid, systematic way of improving or raising the bar of someone’s work.
This job is now left to ourselves as content creators.
Self-editors, schedulers, and standardizers
The blog you’re reading right now was not edited by anyone else except me. I wrote this on my laptop and read it out loud a few times fixing stuff that was confusing or misspeleld. Oops. Just kidding. That was on purpose.
Before, more PEOPLE were involved in the process of getting content shipped—which made it easier for the less disciplined people to make their stuff better.
Today, there are more self-publishers and self-content creators than there are TEAMS of people creating content together. Because of that, we’ve lost the additional human interaction of challenging one another and pushing each other to go further and do better.
What I’m saying is if you are a creator of content, your self-discipline and standard of excellence directly impacts the content you choose to publish online. No one is stopping you from creating the best content you can create.
[shareable cite=“Josh Mitchell”]No one is stopping you from creating the best content you can create.[/shareable]
In closing, here are 2 takeaways to avoid mediocre content:
1. Don’t think of yourself as a content creator.
Instead of think of yourself as a creator of content—actually be immersed in the content. If you write about food, think of yourself as a foodie, not a content creator. Do what foodies do, not what a content creator does.
A foodie is obsessed with ingredients, their role in contributing to the meal, and the process of getting the final result prepared. Sharing that with the world is an incredible honor.
A content creator thinks of him or herself as a content creator. They have a deadline. They’ll take anything that looks and smells like food. Throw a quote on it set in Helvetica—and move on. That’s miserable.
2. Let the content dictate your level of effort, not the platform, deadline, or schedule.
When you decide the deadline first, you may be more likely to rush the content, rather than giving it the time and attention it deserves.
Let the content dictate how much effort is required to make it really good—instead of justifying the level of excellence because you didn’t have enough time.
[reminder]How do you evaluate and improve content you share and publish?[/reminder]
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