More and more content is being created today than any other time in history. As of January, 2021, approximately 59% of the world has access to internet, which is an amazing thing. Naturally, with the increase in the amount of people using the internet there has been an increase in the amount of digital media content that is being created and posted online. This is generally a good thing, but there are side effects that most people are little aware of.
Content Creation is becoming a large part of our culture. Ask a few 15 year old kids what they want to do in the future, I am sure you will get at least a few of them say they want to be a “content creator” or some form of that (YouTuber is a popular one). This is an amazing thing as more people creating more creative content is a net positive for the world. This has helped us create an internet that is full of creative content about almost any topic in various formats. But it has also created a bloated internet full of fluff filler content making it even harder to find concise information about anything. You generally have to weed through a pile of SEO spam blogposts and YouTube videos before getting to the information you need.
The issue in hand is the fact that most of these content creation platforms incentivize more content over short but precise content. Google ranks blog posts with more content, YouTube’s algorithm ranks videos that are close to the 10 minutes mark (or at least that’s what the general consensus among YouTubers is). For this reason, content is pumped up with filler content, and a simple concept that can be explained in a 2 minute video gets stretched out to 10 minutes for no good reason. This is what most videos look like these days:
Title: (SOME SENSATIONALIZED ATTENTION GRABBING HEADLINE!!!!)
[0:00 – 3:00] Let me tell you what I am about to explain in this video. If this is the first time……. Like subscribe bla bla…
[3:00-5:00] (Sneaky Ad Placement) But first let me tell you about this amazing sponsor that lets you make websites when you don’t know anything about websites…. Or worse… this sponsor that shaves your man parts…
[5:00-7:00] Somewhat related content about the actual topic, with sneaky content snuck in to get people to like and subscribe so they can get more videos about related topics in the future.
[7:00-9:00] Repeat of the last 2 minutes, explaining the same thing in other words.
[9:00-10:00] Thank you bla bla… Here are some other videos I made that might interest you.
This whole thing could have been a short 2 paragraph blog post or a 2 minute video that gets straight to the point, but that doesn’t pay the same. And although there are new systems in place to help the user navigate this content, like YouTube’s video chapters feature, not a lot of people are using those systems as that would potentially increase the bounce rate and reduce the view time on the video.
Not just videos, there is a huge influx of blog posts that follow a similar pattern. Since Content Marketing seems to be the big thing for SEO these days, companies are creating blog posts on topics loosely related to their product, where they give out vague solutions to the actual problem in hand, and redirect user’s attention to their product that magically solves the actual issue. And since their blog post is long and full of content, that is what ends up getting to the top of Google’s search results, funneling users to their product landing page. You can find articles about almost any topic and from any perspective you want these days, where the goal is not to provide information about the topic but to funnel users to their product related to the topic.
Information discovery is getting harder and harder. Even 3-4 years ago, you could Google something and expect to find the thing you are looking for almost right away, but these days you will jump through 4-5 blog posts created by marketing firms and even worse, AI before landing on one that actually provides you with what you were looking for. Until the platform themselves stop incentivizing the content’s length and start incentivizing the quality and conciseness of the content, this is not an easy thing to change. However, there are a few things you can do to find the information you are looking for quickly in today’s age of content.
For technical topics like programming and math, I have found that it is almost always easier and faster to go through and read the official documentation instead of trying to find videos or third party blog posts. I noticed that I learnt a lot more reading Svelte’s documentation for an hour than watching a YouTube video about the same topic for the same amount of time. For other topics where you want to get other people’s opinion, its faster to search for the topic in online forums related to the topic like Reddit, Github Issues, Hacker News etc. I would still recommend using Google to find those by appending the name of the site at the end of your search query, or by using site:somesite.com search modifier. For things where you need to follow through a list of instructions, it’s faster to use websites specifically made for those use cases, like iFixit for technical repair guides, recipe websites for recipes etc. And as for huge topics that you want to understand in depth, nothing beats good ol’ books!
I would love to hear about how you find the information you are looking for quickly. Also, whoever comes up with a system powered by machine learning or something else that can filter out fluff from actual content is going to get huge!