Stop Content Pollution


Charles Ansdell, Managing Director of Professional and Financial Services

The great content dilemma: Technology is transforming companies’ ability to publish. But should they?

Stop Content Pollution

Digital publishing technology probably seems a panacea for most companies. Finally, they have the ability to control messages – how and when they want. They don’t need to deal with troublesome journalists or commentators with an agenda to push.

The distribution power of new technologies is amazing. Social channels and websites can reach millions of customers. Email distribution is constrained only by the size of your database.

Moreover, companies can measure the impact of digital communications. They can see impressions. Engagement. Likes. Shares. They can show results on graphs and  Return on Investment in the boardroom.

How much is enough…?

The problem is, everyone thinks the same. Companies pump out millions of pieces of content every day.  Buoyed by impressions and reach, company (and social media) servers work overtime to reach their audiences.

But there is a limit to how much audiences can absorb. The average business user receives 116 emails a day; the average consumer, 99 emails.  Academics estimate we are exposed to between 300-700 marketing messages every day now with social media.

In other words, we all see a vast amount of online content and messages each day.

Automatic curation

So how do audiences cope with all this content?

They don’t. Evidence shows that most people ignore emails or content. Click rates hover at 2.68% on emails from B2B brands, going up to 3.57% for B2C brands – according to official industry sources.  Anecdotal evidence indicates lower rates. 0.07% is the average Twitter engagement rate for leading brands.

Most company content isn’t opened or doesn’t engage.

Why customers aren’t engaging with content

It may be that content is poorly targeted or irrelevant to the audience. 

But there is a factor of quality.  When given a choice of various sources of content, all the evidence shows that people go back to trusted sources. 

After near 30 years of the Internet, the BBC, Daily Mail and Guardian feature in the 20 most visited sites in the UK (most of the others are search engines and social media). Evidence shows that people have a very limited range of sites they visit.

Even if people visit rich content sites – such as Facebook – they may not be engaging with corporate content on it.

Quality, quality, quality …

The reality is, it’s difficult to get cut-through in a world where content pollution is rife. 

Companies don’t operate in a vacuum. Their content goes head to head with the best journalists and the finest publications. These are trusted sources and respected brands that are experts in building and delivering content.

The solution is, of course, in quality. Creating content that engages, challenges, informs and entertains is key. It also has to match the quality that people see in mainstream publications every day.

Content must:

  • Be original and newsworthy; 
  • Be visually rich;
  • Be pithily written;
  • Address issues that matter and;
  • Give ideas that work.

This is not easy. Most companies don’t have editorial teams or publication experience. They may not know what audiences want. They won’t have the strong audit and customer survey knowledge that newspapers have.

To address this, a key trend in the past five years has been journalists going in-house to companies to run “content” teams.

Stop content pollution…


Companies should continue to create and distribute content, but they should do less, higher quality content – content which is strong enough to be published in professional media.

A single piece of high quality content can:

  • Be reframed, recycled and repurposed for different media and audiences;
  • Be placed with trusted, mainstream media to reach a larger audience and benefit from the endorsement that brings;
  • Be chopped up for Twitter, or turned long form for LinkedIn;
  • Go in brochures and newsletters, or;
  • Comprise key ideas used for a CEO speech.

In a world of content pollution, the battle is for ideas and content that offer real cut-through. Only with this can companies deliver the content and messages that will transform how audiences perceive and engage with them.