The Digital Big Bang and the Attention Conundrum


Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that I have built a copious body of work — writing and thinking — around conceptualizing, developing, and using valuable content to attract people, and not just search engines or artificial intelligence agents, as the case may be.

This blog is based upon mainly written content that I hope you find valuable enough to let it inform your thinking and doing. However, I am all too aware that you probably have time to scan my posts, and not comment (unless I write them in a way that gets you going, and I generally don't do that just to get comments).

The reason is that there are two problems with consuming valuable content:

(1.) there is already enough content out there to last us ages.

Secretly, I think that's why cloud computing was developed. Although not all content is created equal, unless you're bent on following the word from just a few, you will find amazing thinking and writing in many undiscovered places — sites with poor navigation, bloggers without gimmicks or strong marketing bones, etc.

(2.) last time I checked, nobody got their wish to have more attention span hours in a day handed to them.

In fact, the more intellectual the nature of your work, the more you probably find it hard to sustain strong attention, that of the comprehension kind, for long periods of time. Process information is hard work. The brain just needs a break, many breaks throughout the day. When I stress about ideas, I scrub floors, nothing like good manual labor to give the mind some rest.

All this engagement is getting to us. There are times when all you want to do is nothing. I would be remiss if I didn't tip my hat to Tom Higley for the digital Big Bang concept at this juncture, as things are just getting interesting.

Because not only there's really no money in content creation, organizations are really testing their limits with the activity, too. They're just not set up to be publishers of information — everything from the org chart to the product or service delivery floor, they both are rarely "just" content, says they are in for a master challenge.

Your challenge

Is ironically that of getting to keep up with generating enough really good quality content to attract and build your own community, formerly known as audience, and that of breaking through the attention barrier. Ah, the early days of social marketing pioneers, right?

It's a challenge because publishing currently falls to marketing and communications groups. And while new tools and technologies like those that make social networks and digital media possible, make it easier to share content, they don't have a machine you can crank up to populate those outposts magically, all legally approved.

Plus, maybe some brochure-ware has gone away, you still need to take care of PR, demand and lead generation, sales and channel support, in a variety of ways. Which include content generation. Only so many hours of attention in a day for this group as well.

Why useful filters rule

Going direct with social media currently means many places — networks, tools people use, digital spaces they gravitate to because there is something cool to do for a while… and they all need content, profile data with one-line bio, to get started and attract others.

The digital Big Bang is caused by both, more tools, more content, the more it all expands. Mainstream media was considered a useful filter because they took information and news, made editorial choices, and published often unique and vetted content people could get their head around.

By proxy, they came to trust the source of that information. Even as the source is perilously thinning on the editorial side while massively expanding on the commercial, interest-based side, people do cling on to this sense of checks and balances.

When I asked is Twitter the news system of the future? this week, I got several very strong reactions to the title alone. Leave mainstream media out of it, many said. They are the news system. Yes, and they are also on Twitter. But how do you filter them? I built a list.

It comes down to influence

A funny thing this about influence. Everyone's after it, either to have it or to leverage it. And very few take the time to understand how it works.

Not just mining the data. Because influence is a renewable resource. You can uncover and help amplify it by connecting people with shared interests.

If useful filters are the answer to the content sprawl and attention conundrum, influence is the key to identify who your useful filters are.


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0 responses to “The Digital Big Bang and the Attention Conundrum”

  1. Valeria, thanks for showing in-depth challenges related to the attention conundrum and recommendations through several good links to conquer pieces of it. I enjoy your rich content.

  2. Great post. But, how can there be no money in content creation? Isn’t content a company and brand’s story and its experience, acceptance and possible rejection in the marketplace? We might be seeing shifts in how content is presented and delivered, but websites, ads, brochures, trade show booths, news releasese, social network sites, etc are being developed and marketed and a key part of a brand or company story. There’s investment in time and money there. Am I wrong? Missing something? I usually miss, but interested in your take on this. Thanks,

  3. @Robyn – thank you for stopping by. Always delighted to be useful to you.
    @Kevin – that is actually the link to a post I wrote to explain what it means. Yet, since it’s a link, and there is only so much time in a day, many won’t explore it and just take the statement as the challenge it is meant to be. Fascinating, isn’t it? Of course there is money in content creation. However, organizations so far have not been ready to truly invest in paying for the best.

  4. Hi Valeria,
    I think filter systems and solutions of digital content will be a huge growth area over the next 12 months.
    Current social media filters are highly manual, but I do think there is value add in having a simple and semi-automatic approach to filtering out the volume of traffic.

  5. I consider myself very fortunate to have a job that requires me to read content throughout the day and offer my comments. Because I am able to allot work time to participate in social media (which I love), I am able to read intellectual content, which requires far more concentration, as well as light-hearted, more personable content. Indeed, the digital Big Bang has overwhelmed us all with far more content than we could possible consume (or would want to consume) and most of us don’t have time in our busy work days to root out these amazing thinkers and writers that you speak of. I think it is the digital boom that makes influence harder to attain. Influence can also be skewed by marketing agencies that have more resources to invest in SEO. I have noticed that influence is also beginning to be associated with trustworthiness as mainstream media is slowly being outmoded by citizen journalism. It provides us communications professionals with a great opportunity, but also a great challenge, as you point out. I think this trust will be eroded by the automation of social media, which Gartner predicts will make up 10 per cent of our online connections within five years. Yuck! In my opinion, to become thought leaders in online communications, businesses need to focus more effort on showing their human sides while creating quality content that engages its readership by striking their emotional and personable cords.

  6. You know, Valeria, some of us read this piece, hovered over your links, and heard voices say, “Oh yeah! I remember that one!” 🙂
    With regards to your comments, above, on the challenge, useful filters, and influence, I think the key to it all is empowering others. True success comes from helping others to be successful, in my opinion.
    How hard is it to develop useful content, if the only reason you create content is to help your friends help their friends and so on?
    Where we feel we have a purpose, we have a sense of direction. That sense of direction is a filter. There’s no shortage of historical/touristy sites along the way, but we press on regardless.
    There is no better way to influence someone than by sincerely showing them how much they matter. I experienced that first-hand right here on this site. POW.
    All of which explains why your blog is at the top of my list of “dailies;” feeds I read every day, no matter what.
    Is success really building an audience, a community, a business? Is it helping clients solve problems and make a profit? Is it being a thought leader in a chosen industry?
    Or is it knowing you helped one person discover his life’s work; his raison d’être?
    I say, if you’re making a positive difference in people’s lives, there’s no reason to worry about content, filters, and influence.

  7. I think about the shortening-of-attention-spans a lot. It used to be that people read emails (not merely skimmed them). I don’t even listen to the end of my voice mail messages anymore. After the first 30-seconds, I get the idea, then hit delete. As a content provider, it’s aggravating. I work hard to research, and synthesize, important info, only to find that my audience is over-saturated! But you know what? This challenges to be even better, more concise, more entertaining. Hey, no one said it was easy!

  8. @Tom – there are many who think automation is a good idea because they don’t have the time or don’t want to pay someone to do that. As we know, automation is flawed (e.g., sentiment analysis, scores that define influence, etc.). It can help with the process and work flow, and it will not rival human empathy and ability to adapt and build context.
    @Alexandra – your job is making you smarter about filtering information, which then continues to add to the value you bring to the table in terms of understanding what’s out there and how it can be channeled and harnessed. As I just wrote in response to Tom, I agree with you, automation is not the sole answer. Also because machines and software do not see opportunity that is non linear and that’s where it usually resides.
    @Brian – you gave me a big smile with your comment about remembering posts. We’re alike in that respect, I usually stun people when they realize I was paying attention to them, their ideas, etc. It’s a really useful trait to have, and it can definitely be learned. However, so many are just so into themselves that they cannot even imagine what that looks like. And I’m not saying it as a criticism, it’s an observation and a manifestation of the influences in their lives. It’s taken me a long time to figure it out, and now I accept it. Which is what makes the concept of empowering so difficult for most to understand. Businesses do need to worry about content, filters, and influence, because they often cannot get to “empowering”: it’s too daunting and squishy a concept, especially when it’s an entity driving the bus.
    @Dane – and we play into that by recommending one edit down, make things pity, etc. I still take the time to read in long form, maybe because that’s how I was brought up. It helps me expand my thinking and see things from different points of view that are not mine. And I certainly don’t play into the trend with this blog. I find that when we ask more of ourselves, we stretch.

  9. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Both from the perspective of the content I read, like this blog, as well as the need in our company to create meaningful content that’s going to get the attention of the prospects we seek. And hold it.
    It’s a job that’s getting tougher. I find myself frustrated that I can’t read, digest and transform into action all the content I’d like. I have too many interests. I’m too curious and want to absorb.
    And then I need to pull away – and do some of that manual labor in the form of home renovation projects. After a week with content and email and social media, it’s incredibly refreshing to pull away. Do something primitive.
    It’s also this challenge that excites me to push our team into creating better interactions. To make each communication matter. Rather than just another email. Sure we have a long way to go, but the journey is half the reward.

  10. In my business reality, content creation takes a good chunk of time in the form of semi-promotional material wrapped around projects to leverage on that in order to convince a potential client or whatnot. Content creation in the shape of blog posts or interesting articles to publish here and there is given priority regarding to our social media strategy, but I admit we’re still in the process of getting on top of that, since the general perception is that of a “less valuable” activity than actually writing projects. A justifiable shame.
    Regarding “content type”, for sure your blog falls in the category of “content you need a full awake brain to read and understand”, which is both a good and bad thing. Good ’cause it means it’s very valuable stuff, bad ’cause it of course attracts less people than a cookie-cutter blog could – but in the end, that’s exactly what you want out of this, I presume.
    I tend to comment here just if I really really have something to add to it, otherwise I prefer to just read. Nobody likes to have “Good post, keep on the quality content” comments clogging your stream without any value added to it.

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