content collage

There is a growing sense that Content Marketing is getting to be “too much.” That is, there’s too much “content” and too much “marketing” in the world. There’s even talk of a backlash.

Much of this feeling is really a young(ish) industry growing from childhood to adolescence. As the father of a 13-year old, I hear a lot of complaining.

But let’s admit something: the content industry has created a lot of content about itself. A lot of the content being generated is self-referential, about how the industry can get bigger, how content is “everything,” how to create content and what not to do. (I will acknowledge here that this is exactly what I’m doing but there’s no way around it).

The elevation of purpose

Image by Silas Reeves via

Image by Silas Reeves via

For years I’ve been speaking about the content marketing echo chamber. It’s a serious problem. The industry has its stars (as all industries do) and they go around and preach to the converted and then some of the converted start preaching as well.

It’s a circle. The last few conferences I’ve attended have felt very very meta. I’m talking about you and you’re talking about me and around and around we go.

There is another thing happening here as well. It’s what a colleague calls the “perils of brand journalism” and I call “the elevation of purpose.” What is the elevation of purpose? It’s that feeling that the more entrenched you get in your field, the more self-important you become.

And self-importance is something every content marketer needs to fear. When the content is not about the end user, or even the client, but about what you, the marketer, can do, we have a big problem.

As the content industry grows larger and larger, we see more and more content for content’s sake. As marketers, we start to take ourselves too seriously and stop thinking about, well, the world.

We stop thinking about how practical our work needs to be, that content is a service and nothing more. Last fall in London at the International Content Summit, I talked about the world having too much stuff. The great Dave Trott spoke about how the vast majority of messaging was useless, and worse, ignored.

The biggest mistake I see from content people is to start making their content about themselves. It’s not. All content needs to serve an objective. A business objective. But more than that, it needs to serve a purpose. Because there is such a thing as too much content.

Content fatigue

Real people are suffering from content fatigue. It’s why we’re hearing more and more about “context.” Suddenly Content Marketing has become Context Marketing.
Meaning all content is a function of the context in which it is consumed.

Imagine that! This is just creating new words and phrases for things that already exist (a practice the content industry has been spectacularly good at), for articulating long held truths in new and fresh and shiny and “100% improved” ways. Kind of like the idea of Columbus “discovering” America.

But words don’t solve problems. Or penetrate bubbles.

Quick: what is the ultimate definition of luxury? For many, it is freedom. Freedom from you and me and the world itself. Not just unplugging oneself but getting away from the noise of the world. All of it. From “everything.”

Now, who keeps saying that “everything is content”? Content marketers. If these same marketers don’t step out of their bubbles once in a while, they might never notice the fatigue, and their elevation of purpose will continue to drift higher and higher, until they have lost sight of the earth and reality.

Or, at the very least, of why they got into the content game in the first place.