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Analyzing which content formats reach today's busy consumers.

Does anybody read?

Content and how we consume it has changed.  How can brands get – and keep – the attention of their audience? 

What content formats are compatible with our fast-paced lives?

From articles to audio, Clubhouse to TikTok, we take a look at what content consumers are craving, and how brands can adapt to best serve their audience.

Join our Zync brand experts as we discuss these questions – and more – in this week’s episode of #EverythingIsBrand.

Also available on:

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Recorded on April 29, 2022.

Transcript

Brad Breininger: 

Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s everything is brand. This week we want to talk about content and the angle that we’re coming at it from is asking the question – Does anybody read? Let’s discuss All right, so the reality is, is that most people don’t read long pieces of content anymore. And one of the issues that we have as content creators and brands is that we’re trying to put information out into the world, whether it’s to sell something, to highlight something to showcase something. And the other big thing is SEO and making sure that we can be found in search. So we are looking to create rich content and ways of getting that information out and really highlighting our SEO opportunities. But the fact is, is that people don’t read anymore, the world is very much used to sound bites and little snippets of information. Even news is being delivered in a lot of ways on Twitter, where it’s 140 characters or less, I think it’s a little longer now. But within that short little burst of information, and even probably one of the fastest rising social media platforms, which is TikTok. Their absolute maximum now is three minutes for a video. But really, a lot of them are much, much shorter than that. So the reality is, is that people don’t read or they don’t even consume big pieces of information in large chunks anymore. So what do we do? What’s the answer here?

Marko Zonta: 

The reality is that we generate so much more content now than any time in the past, like in terms of written content, or any other type of content, we just generate massive amounts of information now. And it’s not just professional writers, or anybody who is actually specifically generating content. It’s everybody, and anybody generates content now, so. So there’s just so much content out there to consume that to your point, Brad, earlier, we’re basically just reading headlines, we’re just jumping from one piece of content to the next, really nobody goes deeper into a longer article, or you know, a longer piece of information, unless they really have to. And even that it’s very much they’re scanning information, because they’re trying to consume it as fast as they possibly can. So I think that as much as content is really important for SEO and everything else. Brands still benefit from having long content, still benefit from actually generating the content to develop opinions or provide useful information. But it’s really more about how that content is actually distributed. And really knowing the audience in terms of when do they need to get that content, can we actually just kind of provide it almost in a layered approach where on websites, you give them a little bit to start off. And then as the interest grows, or they need more information, you start giving it to them in bigger chunks. So that’s definitely one approach. But then, of course, there are other mediums as well like video and stuff like that. So. So there’s definitely a lot of considerations when it comes to content.

Sasha Codrington: 

I think we’ll chat a lot about video and audio, maybe in the later half of this. But one thing I wanted to mention is there is a lot that you can do still within written to get people’s attention, I find just the format of the content has changed lately. So let’s say a lot of those viral LinkedIn posts, they have very short sentences with all of those spaces in between so that you can quickly scan or let’s say they’re trying to get across the few key points, they’ll have number one, it’s bolded. And then they’ll have an explanation below. But for some people they’re probably just gonna scan okay, what are the top three points, I’m not really going to dig into the details. So I’m finding that of course, there’s a lot that we can do in completely other formats like audio and video. But within written, I’m seeing that the formatting is changing, like you said, so that people can scan it. And then if they want to go into more, you can dive in there. And I think graphics come into that as well. I’m seeing a lot of graphics that are like big numbers, big stats, that kind of thing where you getting kind of the top level information at a glance. And I think largely people aren’t diving into what’s behind that.

Gabi Gomes: 

It’s a bit clickbait. It’s about grabbing eyeballs. It’s a bit disposable content, I would say. I think on the point of the content, yeah, I’m also seeing a shift in tone as well, right? We’re starting to see more casual, less formal, more conversational, which leads to more engagement, etc. The content on sites or whatnot, has multiple purposes of which one of them is the SEO, you need to become – you need to be seen in Google’s eyes as an expert in whatever topic or business that you are selling. And as such, you need to prove that to Google so you need to have content on various topics. Such a subject matter at cetera, right? Is that all digestible by the human? Well, maybe for certain subset of people that read a website cover to cover, but that’s a very, very small, small subset. It’s there for Google. Now, you’re right, that we digest content differently. I think what we’re starting to see is that the video and audio content is being consumed differently, right? I think often we and I believe YouTube is still the number two search engine in the world after Google. We forget that sometimes that after Google is YouTube, and that’s all video content. You got a question – you’re no longer reading, you’re going to watch a one minute video and good luck if it doesn’t answer it in 30 seconds, you’re out of there, you’re on to another video. But inevitably, I think it boils down to we’ve got less and less time, right? So if we can listen to something and learn something on the go on our commute somewhere on our walk somewhere on our bike ride somewhere, then we’re going to consume that that way – audio, if we’ve “Oh, leaky pipe, I need to know how to fix it” we’re grabbing a quick video to solve that problem. Because really, like, I don’t know, I don’t know, in terms of websites, the contents there, but the contents there so that you can be found on Google. Jer?

Jeremy Linskill: 

I was gonna say, I mean, I think we’re talking a lot about the different types of content. But

Marko Zonta: 

But at that point, Jeremy, it’s like you’re just, the thing that, I think is the most important thing, when, when dealing with whatever is to ask what kind of content is going to serve you best or serve your client best? Out of the gate, I think in the past, it’s always been the written word. And I think now once you know, a problem comes through the door, it’s like, okay, well, let’s, let’s take a look at this. Let’s talk about is that video, is that written? Is that audio? I think that that’s a big part of going forward. I think, you know, we’re trained, and it was always the word. And that’s not the answer anymore. I think now, it’s about looking at what you’re trying to do, and finding the right content for that message. It’s interesting, like you were saying, YouTube’s the number one or number two search engine. And, you know, I was thinking about that when I have a problem. Yeah, I definitely gravitate towards Google or to YouTube to find the solution to that. If I look at the written word, it’s much easier to scan to find something. When I watch a video, I can’t dive into the middle of I can’t find that moment in time that I was looking for, for that specific thing. So there are different solutions, different ways to find that information. And it can be easier depending on what you’re trying to do. So I think that that’s really important is to kind of take a step back and look at what the best approach is. you know, said that even with video, you’re actually trying to scan and you’re trying to jump right to, to what you need, right?

Jeremy Linskill: 

But it’s more challenging, right? To do that.

Marko Zonta: 

It is but that’s, you know, again, it goes to the fact that we’re all so focused on consuming something really fast. Just a couple of days ago, I came across this article that I read the headline, in a was five top reasons for something that I was interested in. And I’m like, okay, great, I start scanning that article, because really, what I was looking for are number one, and here it is in bold. Number two, here it is in bold, so I could literally scan those top five points. But the article was written in such a way that I couldn’t pick them out very easily. Like I was forced to read the entire article. And it annoyed me, I actually have to say like, it annoyed me, because I’m like, I don’t have time to read all this. And I kind of read through maybe a third of it. And then I I was done. Like I was just like, Okay, you’re wasting my time.

Jeremy Linskill: 

But I’ll make time if the content is good. Like, if you can get me in and I find value in it. I will make time to read something. It’s just there’s a lot of noise out there. Right. To your point earlier about, there’s so much content.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And it’s it’s not about just having time, it’s about wanting to use your time in thatt way. Exactly. That’s really what it comes down to. Right?

Marko Zonta: 

And that’s the thing, if you’re looking for something very specific, then you’re willing to invest some time – I dont know, if you’re looking for an instruction, or you’re looking for some type of information, where you zeroed in on something very specific, so so you know exactly what you’re looking for. You just need to find it. I think that then you’re invested. But if you’re just consuming content just in general, we’re scanning like we are all just scanners.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And I think brands have to be really cognizant of that. They have to be cognizant of the fact that whether you’re talking about the written word, video, podcasts or any sort of delivery mechanism if you’re not doing it in bite size chunks that people can get information quickly, then you’re not paying attention to what’s going on, you know?

Jeremy Linskill: 

Yeah, the point I was trying to make was, yeah, I think we can all agree it’s about small chunks, all that kind of stuff. But I also think it’s important to think about what type of content you’re using where, right, like, no matter what it’s just take that step back, there are different types of content, whether that’s, you know, audio, video, written word, visuals, all that I think it’s really important to kind of take a look at what is going to help best get your message across. I also think, too, you know, where I think, you know, I see a lot of issues with content is repetition. And what I mean by that is, like, you know, you may be using video graphics written word all as part of the same content piece, but using it so that it’s not all saying the same thing, but using it to its advantage, you know, the visual part using a graphic that’s not saying the same thing that the written word is saying that it’s not saying the same thing as the video saying, everything is being maximized for its value, as opposed to watching a video and then reading the dialogue directly below it and saying the exact same thing that I just watched in the video that annoys me, too. It’s like use those pieces to put together a stronger message, a full message, right? I think that that’s an important part of all of this as well.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah, Jer 100%, I think what you’re talking about there is integration, making sure that all of the different mediums are integrated with each other, as opposed to being individual delivery mechanisms. So while we talk a lot about having consistent messaging across all mediums, when you’re giving the exact same message across all mediums, it is annoying, it also assumes almost like the dumbing down of who you’re sending the content out to, I think we can assume that people are able to understand content and interact with content the way they want to. And so yes, you have to have really chunkable pieces of content. But to recreate everything across all mediums is just annoying.

Sasha Codrington: 

I would say that, if we’re talking about kind of recreating or integrating all the different kinds of content. From an accessibility perspective, it’s important to not just commit to one kind and kind of drop off on the others – so if you’re doing a podcast, you’re creating a transcript, if you’re creating a video, you have subtitles. So I think there is still a place for written content, there’s still a place to kind of duplicate the format’s of what you’re creating from an accessibility perspective. And that’s something that we’ve chatted about, as well is, of course, it’s great, we do this podcast and everybody can listen in. But we also always have the transcript, if that’s something that works better for someone who’s trying to listen in or learn from it. And it also means that you have that written content on your website as well. So there is some benefits in in recreating, but like you said, it is kind of a lot of work and commitment. So you have to be a little bit mindful of what’s going to work for your audience, and what’s going to make it most accessible.

Gabi Gomes: 

So I have a question, because we’re talking mainly about content as a form of education information. However, what about content for entertainment? So video has really, I would say that the entertainment side of things, be it TikTok, YouTube, whatever, has really kind of pushed that type of content. And I think we’re now kind of expecting it out of the information education side, because Entertainment has gone so far with that video content. Are we kind of seeing a blurring of the lines of content between that information, education, entertainment,

Brad Breininger: 

Well it comes down to commitment, I think, you know, like one of the most popular forms of entertainment right now is the limited series where no longer are you getting 22 shows in a season, basically, there’s anywhere between three and eight episodes of a show, and then it’s done. And it’s over. And perhaps they might do it again, at some point, but they may not. There’s no promise of that. I think that it comes down to how committed are people to the content. And I think that there are situations where people have to be more committed to content, like if you’re reading through a contract, or if you want to read a long novel on a beach somewhere, that’s one thing, but I think that those are rare and few and far between. But really, in the day to day life that we all have, we have less commitment to the kinds of information that either brands or organizations or even entertainment entities are trying to get us to engage in.

Jeremy Linskill: 

But is that also like more about being more efficient, like in the past, we’ve had to generate a corporate brochure that needed to be 24 pages, or all those kinds of things. And now it’s just building something for what it needs to be not what it should have been like. When you’re saying those limited series. It’s right you tell a story within whatever The time it needs to be told, not dragging it out to 24 episodes just for the sake of dragging over 24 episodes, I think we’re becoming a little bit more comfortable as a society in terms of just doing what needs to be done, and you’re not being judged. Oh, well, you didn’t go to 24 episodes. So obviously, you’re not a good show, let’s say, kind of thing. Right. So I think there’s a bit of that that’s happening as well as overall. Yeah,

Brad Breininger: 

I mean, I think that there’s efficiency for efficiency sake. And a lot of times, you’re right, there’s a lot of wasted time in a lot of these situations, whether it’s a corporate brochure, or a series. But there’s also value in a slow burn too like when it comes to content like, yeah, when it makes sense. Exactly. And I think that that’s what it is, is that our time has been wasted so much in the past that we’re a little wary of what we’re willing to commit to. So it goes back to this commitment. I mean, if you hook me, like with a show, like I don’t know, Game of Thrones, or something like that, where I feel each time that it is an experience that is worth my time, then great. But if you are just dragging it out, for the sake of extra episodes, or extra pages in your corporate brochure, and you’re not really storytelling, then no, I’m gonna disengage pretty darn quickly.

Marko Zonta: 

But I think a big part of that is the delivery mechanism in terms of, or how we consume that information years ago, I mean, you kind of had those shows, on regular TV channels, you got one episode per week type of thing, you have to wait, if you weren’t interested in that show, you would just kind of go along type of thing. Or you would get the newspaper delivered to your door, that kind of stuff. Now, the consumer, the user is in control of all of that, if you’re not interested in one show, you’re just gonna start streaming a different show, right? Like you’re no longer waiting for somebody else to push that to you. And they are kind of controlling how you’re consuming that information. We are kind of controlling how we consume that information, because there’s so much of it. And we have a choice, we have the tools that we need to make it easier and more entertaining for ourselves or whatever the purpose may be. Yeah, so that’s changed, I think a lot.

Brad Breininger: 

It’s also about options. And competition, too. Like before, on the entertainment side, you had three or four or five networks that you could choose from. And that’s where the content was. Now, there’s unlimited amounts of specialty channels, streaming services, networks, like it just the amount of content out there is so diverse, and across the board, that you’re not beholden to any one entity to get your information from. And I think that, from a brand perspective, and even a product perspective, there’s a lot more options when it comes to who you can hire. So if an organization is putting out a 24 page corporate brochure, there’s 12 other organizations that have much more manageable content that get their message across much more quickly, that you can choose from in every aspect of whatever the delivery is, whether it’s consumer products, whether it’s professional services, whatever it might be, there’s just way more options to the consumer. So it puts us in the driver’s seat. And that’s true from a content perspective. But it’s also true from a ultimately deciding who you want to engage with perspective.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 

And I think audiences have changed too, right? In terms of the buying process or decision making process. It’s not enough to read about a product anymore. I want to see it, I want to feel it. I want to know what everyone else is thinking. Right? So written content. I think it’s not enough anymore. It’s still needed to Sasha’s and Gabi’s point. But users are looking for more information in different mediums as well. I mean, to the point that we have hashtags, like Tiktok made me buy it, kind of thing right? Where, where people are showcasing their products and how seeing them being used by influencers have stuff like that made them buy it, right. So it’s a different world we’re living in.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And you know, going back to our original question, does anybody read – it doesn’t matter whether they read or not, you can actually be a consumer now and never read a thing. Like just by watching videos, looking at influencers, seeing a few headlines here and there, you can pretty much exist in the world without going deeply into any kind of product or any kind of content.

Jeremy Linskill: 

It’s funny, like, you know, just thinking about it, you know, if we’re talking even about reading now, if I look at my kids text messages and things like that, it’s all abbreviations. It’s all short forms. It’s all emojis. Like even that, you know, we’re talking about snippets of copy or breaking things down into bullet points. But it’s going so much further now like it’s, they’re not even writing out words like, they’re literally using a letter to represent a word. It’s crazy, we’re just getting faster and faster and shorter and shorter.

Brad Breininger: 

There’s actually this exercise that you can do and, I think you can look it up online, but they actually put a paragraph together where they eliminate certain words, and they only put like every second word or every third word or something. But when you read the paragraph, our brains fill in the blanks. So it’s amazing how much our brains can actually do, where it can evolve as we go. And I was blown away by that exercise, because there’s a lot that our brains are filling in where we don’t need to read word for word where we don’t need these long extrapolated messages or paragraphs, we’re able to really take in information in ways that we don’t even realize,

Jeremy Linskill: 

yeah, and I think there’s too, like, you know, there’s different types of content, there’s content that needs to stand over time. And then there’s content like dialogue that you’re just having at that moment that you’re never going to go back to. So if I, you know, look at my kids text messages, when they’re in the moment, and they’re in the conversation, they’re reading all these short little blurb things, that I think if they were to go back and try and read, even a day later, they would have a hard time deciphering. But because they’re in that moment, it just, it goes really fast, right? Those can be shortened down to letterforms. Whereas if it’s content that needs to stand over time, it needs to be spelled out a little bit more right for those kinds of things that people can go back and read it. And it makes sense later. So there’s even content in terms of time, it’s crazy.

Marko Zonta: 

And that’s a really good point, Jeremy context, right, like knowing what that content is for who the audience is, what in terms of time, like, where are they using it? How are they using it? Why are they using it? Right? So I think when you’re generating content, being aware of all those different, I guess, reasons of why somebody would be consuming that content, and adjusting it, according to that, I think is really key when it comes to content. So it’s not that that we can’t have long forms of content it’s just is it needed? And when is it needed? And to lead people to that content? Do we need to have a summary of that long content? Do we need to have a headline that, again, leads you into that it actually tells you exactly what it is. So it’s those types of in between steps, I think that are required if you need to have that long content.

Brad Breininger: 

Yeah. And I think what brands also need to realize is that they don’t necessarily need to put everything out into the world all at once. And that’s probably an exercise in understanding what the context for your brand or for what your messaging needs to be at that point in time. You don’t necessarily have to have everything available all the time. But you can almost do it in a more storytelling kind of way where you start with the beginning, then you come out with a middle, then you come out with an end. And and I think that context will help consumers or clients or whoever’s interacting with your brand, to really start to engage, because the risk that I think we all run as content creators and marketers is that if we disengage, it’s very difficult to reengage, it’s almost better to slowly engage in order to bring people into your messaging to bring people into your brand. And do it in a way that they feel like they’re not being inundated. And that they have the choice of how deeply they can go into your messaging.

Sasha Codrington: 

One kind of interesting example that ties into a lot of what we’ve talked about was Clubhouse. That was something where I think they were kind of on the line of my understanding of it at least was between entertainment, there was some networking and work in there as well. And it was, as Jeremy mentioned, it was a dialogue that was just irrelevant afterwards. There was no transcript of the conversations that happened there. It didn’t live on, it was just this conversation you had there and then, and then it disappeared. And that was something that was so popular for such a short period of time. I remember when everybody was talking about Clubhouse, everybody was in it. And then it completely disappeared. And I’m curious if that was maybe part of it was that those conversations, that dialogue was such a limited lifespan because there was no record of it. There was no kind of Cole’s notes that people could read and get interested in the different groups there. So that’s something that I’m curious about where it was a platform that went all in on audio and it didn’t actually last.

Gabi Gomes: 

I think they failed to find a way to monetize it. So there was a lot of deals happening within those rooms, on Clubhouse. But at the end of the day, like you said there’s nothing beyond that moment in time of connecting with somebody on there and that exclusive club. It didn’t go further like there was no way of extrapolating it from there.

Jeremy Linskill: 

I totally forgot about it. I like – It’s funny that you just brought it up.

Gabi Gomes: 

It was only a year ago eh? It was literally a year ago.

Jeremy Linskill: 

I think it was more that they couldn’t maintain the awareness of it because it was so exclusive. Right? So yeah, I noticed it, forgot about it. And they could never get me back like it was hot for a minute. So, I don’t know. But yeah, I totally forgot about

Sasha Codrington: 

Yeah, and I think shareability is a big one

Brad Breininger: 

But don’t you find like, a lot of things are hot for a minute. And then they die out. Like the things that that you just mentioned, like TikTok that’s something that is last are the things where there are multiple occasions to either interact, or there’s a much more mass market potential to them. I so easy to share. If you like a video, you can send it to all of think that along with wanting shorter pieces of content, we your friends versus Clubhouse, if you had a really interesting also have shorter attention spans. And that doesn’t just relate to content, it relates to how we actually interact with brands or messages or even platforms, like a lot of people, if they don’t continue to be excited by a platform or a brand or a direction they’ll disengage. conversation or something funny happened in the room, there was no way of sharing that and kind of broadening the network. So I think that’s a really interesting point is now we want that easy access content. But we also really want to be able to share it and connect with people through it as well. Yeah, the truth is, is that people still do read. So I think our initial question, does anyone read, I think people still do read. But our selection process is quite different. We are way more selective about what we’re willing to read, we want to be able to scan quickly and decide whether we want to commit or not. We have options available to us, there’s so much out there. And there’s a lot of noise, we also feel a little bit burnt in a lot of ways because we’ve committed to content and then we’ve been severely disappointed by that content. So so we’re a little gun shy sometimes when it comes to wanting to commit to certain content. So I think that people still do read, but we’re selective about it. And I think what brands and organizations need to realize is that if you are not bringing people in and making it easy for them, they are going to disengage and once they disengage, it’s going to be way more difficult for you to get them back. So keep in mind that when you’re putting content out into the world, yes, you have to meet your SEO requirements. Yes, you have to make sure that you have rich content that is meaningful, but you need to layer it you really need to invite people in in a structured kind of way. Don’t put everything upfront, tell your story in sections. Give your readers or your audiences the ability to choose what they want, make it easy for them. And in the end, it will lead to engagement and it will lead to you having consumers and audiences that are going to be interested in what you’re putting out there. So that’s this week of Everything is Brand join us next time for a new topic and remember, everything is brand.

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