The infinite monkey theorem posits that if a monkey sits at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time, it’ll supposedly end up writing all the great works of literature. While it’s an interesting thought experiment, it has no practical application: for one thing, nobody has an infinite amount of time on their hands, and for another, who would trust a monkey with something as unwieldy as a typewriter?
All jokes aside, it is possible to discern a somber reflection of the way many businesses and organizations currently approach the content-making process within this hypothetical scenario. Despite being highly evolved and capable of strategic and creative output, humanity’s approach to content creation is reaching a Tower of Babel status. Driven by economic pressures and the status quo, most businesses create low value content that simply adds to the cacophony of competing voices in the marketplace, or they create content that’s not managed and operationalized in a meaningful way inside the organization such that sales and other teams are left not knowing where it is, what it’s for, or how to access it quickly.
The ever-increasing backlog of unused content living on innumerable sales portals and website storage bins, the predictably written copy, the twenty notifications you receive on your phone in a single hour: it’s called content pollution. It’s the result of disarray within a business’ “content house.”
What is content pollution and why should you care?
In simple terms, content pollution is any piece of content that goes unused and/or that fails to provide benefit for its target audience.
Pollution is easy to understand from an environmental perspective. We’ve seen dystopian-looking skylines shrouded in clouds of smog, and we are increasingly aware of the impact noxious gasses have on the planet. But many of us never stop to consider the consequences of thoughtless digital activity and output.
A single internet search – depending on device and time spent on the search – can produce the equivalent of 7 grams of carbon dioxide. One hour of video streaming produces 36 grams of carbon dioxide, and sending or receiving a single email creates 4 grams of CO2 emissions.
In addition to contributing significantly to carbon emissions, content pollution plays a disruptive role in the emotional and mental spheres of our lives. The average attention span is diminishing and anxiety is on the rise, as the human brain hasn’t evolved to receive vast amounts of fragmented information on an ongoing basis. The more consumers are inundated with subpar, impersonal content, the more guarded and anesthetized they become.
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The current content paradigm is ineffective
A recent immersive report into meaningful brands showed that 66% of consumers want more “meaningful experiences”. That same report found a significant erosion of brand trust, with only 50% of brands being perceived as trustworthy by consumers.
This significant decline in customer trust begins with a widespread failure to understand two things: the sovereignty of customer experience, and the power of content to make or break that experience. Creating digital content that successfully lands with a target audience is not something that happens by chance – it happens as the result of a total paradigm shift within a business’ ethical and operational frameworks.
Unfortunately, content has long been seen as merely a byproduct of what businesses need to produce in order to stay ahead of competition and sell their products. Rather than being approached as a crucial part of a business’s strategy and brand essence in its own right, content has been treated like fuel to burn so as to scale as quickly as possible. This linear way of thinking has led to an ever-expanding pile-up of digital waste that’s not generating meaningful experiences for customers and that’s actively harming the environment.
There are ways to reclaim the power of content as a force for good in the life of a business and its customers. The first step is to embrace a sustainable framework: namely, content operations.
The solution: build your content strategy with a sustainable framework
Content operations refers to the various processes, technologies, brainpower, and tools needed to strategically plan, create, manage, and share content across an organization’s channels. Most businesses have some sort of framework in place for their content making strategy, but they fail to achieve lasting results due to being stuck in the linear model of content operations as described above. In order for content operations to be leveraged to its fullest potential, it needs to incorporate a dynamic, sustainable approach to the content lifecycle. Rather than behaving in a reactive, “outside-in” manner, content operations can and should become inherently iterative, making use of every item of content in a variety of ways for as long as possible.
If the fundamental building blocks of content are created with this iterative technique in mind – what’s known as modular content or atomization – the content lifecycle of a business will start to provide the foundation for its entire process of creating, managing, and activating content in its smallest, most eco-friendly form.
It is crucial that a business be clear on what their brand essence is before they embark on a sustainable content operations journey, as the foundational story is what will carry each content iteration through a customer’s zone of resistance and engage them on a personal level.
There’s no need to leave the future of your business – and the future of our physical and digital environment – to chance. Unlike a group of chaotically productive monkeys generating nonsense, we have the means to both rehumanize and revolutionize the way our businesses approach content and its creation. We’re capable of turning something inherently neutral into something connective – which is to say, content that is useful.
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