Why is there so much mediocre content?

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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.


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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 MEDIANOW!!!…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.


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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?

Fluff.

You prob­a­bly know the word fluff. A lot of peo­ple it to describe writ­ing, speak­ing, and media that kind of looks like con­tentkind 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…

  1. What does this piece of con­tent require?” What is the best way to con­vey, present, and com­mu­ni­cate what needs to be said?
  2. 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?

  3. 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.


Get Organized in 4 Days Click Here!.

[reminder]How do you eval­u­ate and improve con­tent you share and publish?[/reminder]

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