How much web content is added to the Internet each day do you reckon? Well, the amount of information that Google processes each day would fill a stack of paper which is one million kilometres high – 20,000 terabytes worth. That’s a lot of content. And it just keeps on coming. Every minute there are 3,000 photos added to the web, 40 hours worth of video on YouTube alone and six completely new Wikipedia articles created.
Content is being added to the world wide web like never before.
Much of that content is repetitive – saying the same things we already know, or simply repeating material. Indeed, you can search for one piece of content and find it repeated in several places elsewhere on the web.
It didn’t used to be this way before the Internet. True, content would be repeated but it was not easily observable. The odd press release might get included in more than one newspaper or magazine, but you would never be able to realise it. Besides, in the “olden days” the media did not just reproduce tons of content without it going through some kind of editorial process.
Nowadays, though, newspapers, magazines, radio and TV have slashed their journalism budgets and as a result vast amounts of content are simply getting republished without any journalistic scrutiny.
That issue is revealed in a recent report from the Pew Internet Research Center’s work on TV journalism. This study has found that weather, traffic and sports results now account for 40% of airtime in many TV news stations. Furthermore, newsrooms have significantly fewer journalists working in them, with the lowest numbers of staff since 1978. Not only that, because there are fewer journalists around, TV news reports are now shorter than before with story length now being half of what it was only six years ago in 2007.
At the same time as these cutbacks in traditional media, the PR industry has grown substantially in the past few years as has the widespread use of PR materials in media of all kinds.
And that does not appear to be good. According to the Pew Research study, 31% of people have stopped using news outlets because they no longer provide the kind of news they are interested in.
What seems to be happening is that as the news media business cuts its purse strings it has to rely on PR and lobbyists for its content. And that means we see repetitive material as well as obviously biased and unedited content. In other words there is more content in traditional media which is easy and cheap to publish or broadcast, but which fails to satisfy the audience.
People want real news – not weather, sports results, traffic, endless interviews with pundits or PR puffery. In the “olden days” of journalism, this was all kept in check. Not any more – and as the research shows, we are not keen on the current way news organisations produce their content.
It should be a lesson to us all on the web, especially bloggers. It shows that people want original material, they want content that they cannot easily get elsewhere and they want content which is not biased and simply PR puffery.
So if your website is full of material that other people have produced, if it lacks originality or if it is just full of PR junk, you could well be driving people away – much like traditional media is losing audience thanks to its focus on reducing journalism in favour of cheap content.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+