Should We Fear Content Shock? (Or Could It Actually Be a Good Thing?)

There is far more content available for consumption than time to consume it. That is not up for debate. But what is up for debate in this episode of The Lede is whether this idea of “content shock” is something to fear … or an opportunity.

In this episode, the fourth in our Hero versus Villain series, Jerod and Demian bring in Robert Bruce to discuss how much fear and loathing (if any) should be inspired by content shock.

They view it generally, as well as through the prism of podcasts — where the amount of content is not yet shocking, but certainly on its way there.

Listen to the latest episode and tell us what you think in the comments.

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The Show Notes



Should We Fear Content Shock? (Or Could It Actually Be a Good Thing?)

Robert Bruce: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free, 14-day trial at

Robert Bruce: Why would I want that in my room? I don’t think I have one. Demian, what are you afraid of?

Demian Farnworth: Nothing. Tacos.

Jerod Morris: Choosing himself.

Robert Bruce: Cold tacos.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back. You know with how I open the show every time, that at some point I was going to break down and a Welcome Back, Kotter reference was going to come out, and it finally happened.

Anyway, welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing brought to you by Copyblogger Media. I am your host, Jerod Morris, one of the VPs of marketing at Rainmaker.FM. I will be joined shortly by my co-host, Demian Farnworth, who is also the host of the smash hit podcast Rough Draft, as well as the chief content creator for Copyblogger Media.

In this intro spot last week, I told you about Rough Draft, Demian’s podcast, which is doing very well. I’m very excited today to tell you about The Showrunner, which is a new podcast that I am hosting on Rainmaker.FM, with Jon Nastor, who you probably know from Hack the Entrepreneur. It is a podcast about podcasting.

If you’ve launched a podcast, or if you’ve been thinking about launching a podcast, I think it’s a podcast that will be very useful, very informative, and hopefully entertaining and engaging as well. If you go to Showrunner.FM, you will find it. The first episode is out. It’s called “Why Right Now Is the Perfect Time to Start Your Podcast.” I’m as proud of this episode as I have been of any episode that I’ve been a part of. I hope that you’ll go listen to it and enjoy it, and I’d love to get your feedback on it. Again, that is Showrunner.FM.

This podcast is The Lede. We are now at the end of our four-part hero-versus-villain series that we started when The Lede came over here to Rainmaker.FM. It’s been a fun one. We’ve talked about whether authority is bestowed or earned, whether ‘choose yourself’ is legit advice or new-age phooey, whether you should really walk in the direction of your fear.

We end it today talking about content shock, this idea that there’s just so much content out there that now content creators will start to see diminishing returns from putting new content out there.

It’s a relatively controversial topic. We’ve covered it at Copyblogger. It was inspired by a post that Mark Schaefer  wrote. People have a lot of different opinions on this. Demian and I take it, discuss it, and of course, we bring in a special guest. You actually heard him during the cold open. He of the unmistakable voice, Robert Bruce, will be here to talk about it with us.

With all of that said, without further ado, here is my conversation with Demian and with Robert about the concept of content shock.

All right, Demian, so we are coming now to the end of this four-part series that we have embarked upon to start the new Lede that is on Rainmaker.FM. This is a series. This was your idea. I’m so glad that we undertook it because I think it’s been great. We’ve talked about authority — is it earned or given? We’ve talked about the concept of choosing yourself. We’ve talked about traveling in the direction of your fear, and is that really good advice?

Today we’re going to talk about this idea of content shock. There’s just so much content out there that there’s going to be diminishing returns now for content, to give a very brief and crude description of it. We’ll get into it a little bit more here in a minute. We’ve been taking opposite sides.

The sides that you’ve taken have been that authority is bestowed, that you’re waiting for someone to give you authority. You don’t like choosing yourself, and you’re afraid of traveling in the direction of your fear. My guess is that you’re going to love this idea of content shock because it’s something that disempowers you and allows you to rationalize sitting on the sidelines and not doing anything.

Demian Farnworth: Yeah, I’m concerned that people are going to think — if they’ve listened to the last three episodes — that I’m a selfish, belligerent, timid guru or something, which is a new anthem, but not a slogan for success.

Yeah, let’s start and go back in history a little bit. Last year, or two years ago, Mark Schaefer writes this article. He talks about this concept of ‘content shock,’ that we are reaching a point where there’s so much content out there that people are going to start just revolting by it. They’re going to be clearly overwhelmed and will start pulling away. They will start resisting and revolting. We need a way out of this.

I don’t exactly remember what his antidote to it was, but I remember that our very own Sonia Simone took up the mantle and said, “Okay, Mark Schaefer, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.” This was something that I felt, too, when I first read Mark’s article — that we’ve always been underneath or overwhelmed with content, with information, with distraction.

Case in point — there’s a book written by a guy named William Powers. The book is called Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. He opens up. In Hamlet’s BlackBerry, he’s referring to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He’s referring to the early 1600s — about 400 years ago.

He’s talking about the fact that even then, we were overwhelmed with information. There was no shortage of plays back then. It’s not like Shakespeare was writing plays within a vacuum. He had to write within a framework where there were other plays that were as famous. He had to build that. Sonia came along and picked up that mantle and said, “Here is the problem with that idea that there’s just too much content.” She wrote the article called “Surviving ‘Content Shock’ and the Impending Content Marketing Collapse.”

Mark’s position was this thing that we’ve built, content marketing, is going to disappear. It’s going to go away because there’s too much and gravity’s pulling it down. It’s just going to make a black hole. It just sucks into itself, and it’s gone.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, to be fair, he does conclude that article by saying, “Content marketing is far from over.” He says, “How and when the shock comes will vary greatly by business, by industry, by content saturation in a niche.” I think that his headline, “Why Content Marketing Is Not a Sustainable Strategy” is perhaps a little bit stronger than his ultimate point. I think there are some good points in there about how deep pockets are going to win in the cost-benefits flip and that kind of thing.

Here’s what I’m curious about. We’re going to bring someone in here.

Demian Farnworth: Who’s it this time?

Jerod Morris: I think we’re going to bring in Robert Bruce. Not because he has particular expertise in this, but just because I want to hear his voice. No, I’m just kidding. Robert does have expertise. There’s a question I want to ask him about this. We’re going to bring him on. Robert?

Robert Bruce: Yeah?

Jerod Morris: I should tell you, in the interest of full disclosure, that we’re recording right now.

Robert Bruce: I’m eating a taco. Is that all right?

Demian Farnworth: That is awesome.

Jerod Morris: That is definitely all right. We appreciate your interrupting your lunch to jump on with us. We are doing an episode of The Lede about content shock.

Demian Farnworth: Hey, Robert, just so I’m clear: you’re perfectly permitted to talk with your mouth full of food.

Robert Bruce: All right.

Demian Farnworth: Actually, I insist that you do that.

Robert Bruce: All right.

Jerod Morris: All right. We’re talking about this idea of content shock, which we all know well. Here’s the reason why we wanted to bring you in. There’s a lot of podcasts out there, a lot. There’s a new podcast cropping up all the time. Here we are. We’re starting Rainmaker.FM. We’re dumping all these new podcasts on the world. Aren’t you at all concerned that with this idea of content shock, that there’s so many podcasts already out there that these new shows, even if they’re good, won’t be able to find an audience?

Robert Bruce: No.

Jerod Morris: Thank you Robert Bruce. We appreciate you joining us.

Robert Bruce: Is that all you needed?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, that was it. Thanks, man. No, but if you would be willing to expound on that just a bit, we would appreciate your perspective.

Robert Bruce: No, I am not worried about it. I think that there might be something to it. I think largely it’s just a bullshit game talking about that — that there’s too much going on out there. Yeah, you can make a case for it, but there is always an audience for good stuff. Look at television. Look at radio. Look at movies. Look at books. Look at the numbers, the sheer numbers of things that are coming on to the market at any given time in all of those different mediums.

It’s the same online, if not even more so because of the nature of the open Web and because of the nature of people searching and seeking out new, interesting, useful stuff. No, I’m not worried about it. Is every one of these shows going to be at the top of the charts and have a million listeners? Absolutely not. Frankly, some might and will fail.

What we’re trying to do is reach a particular person with each particular show and each particular episode in a way that has worked for us in the past, but with a new medium. I’m not worried about it at all, no.

Demian Farnworth: Let me ask you a question, Robert. Clearly, we all have these visions like, “I want my show to be number one in iTunes in this particular category.” That’s not going to happen for every single one. We’d be lucky if it happened to one of them. We’d be very fortunate and happy with that result.

Can we operate within in the space of not achieving that? Could that content or even that podcast operate in that space not having achieved that, but fill a particular space and still be successful?

Robert Bruce: Yeah, completely. We want a big audience just like anyone else. That’d be great, but we’re not operating this particular podcast network and looking at each individual show in what might now even be considered a traditional way. By that, I mean we’re not basing the success or failure of any of these shows, or the network as a whole, on advertising, for instance, as revenue.

Brian and I will get into this more later, on talking about the nature of the network and the “business model.” To me, in a lot ways, it’s no different than If were dependent on a third-party advertising revenue model, it’d be a very different business than it is today, but it’s not. We create and sell our own products.

We put our name on all of those things and support them on our own. The podcast network, though, once removed from that, is very similar in that way that has been. That’s not to say we’ll never look into a third-party advertising model. To start, at least, the large play, the long game, is a content marketing strategy for the products and services that we produce and sell.

We don’t need to be number one in iTunes in that sense. We don’t need to have, again, a million listeners. Would that be nice? Absolutely. But we can operate on a much more targeted and therefore sometimes smaller audience base than someone who needs to make a certain number of downloads or a certain audience number week in and week out.

Demian Farnworth: You know, and I know, that there are many podcasts to choose from. It’s popular now, to sort of convince people to say, “Why you should start a podcast, why writers should start a podcast, why aerobic teachers should start a podcast.” Would you second that opinion and tell somebody to do that?

Robert Bruce: Not across the board. It’s really hard to do it well. I think there are moments that we’ve had that we’ve done it very well. There’s moments when, both with The Lede and with Rainmaker.FM, that things have just totally sucked. To produce audio on a high level and in a way that is compelling to people, it’s hard. It’s hard to do.

I think there are a lot of different markets, and topical markets, and on the brick-and-mortar side of things as well, it could be incredibly useful. I think in terms of production, and in terms of effort, it’s a bit of a step up from writing and publishing text to the Web for sure. Is it impossible? No. Then you also want to look at, are your prospects, your customers, your potential customers, and your audience interested in audio?

Look at things like that as well. You could produce the best podcast in the world on whatever — knitting. Maybe knitters, I don’t know, don’t care about audio at all.

Jerod Morris: To a certain extent, I think the idea is held out there like this thing that inspires fear. There’s so much stuff out there. A benefit may be that people may think twice about jumping out there. Stuff does have to be good. Like you said, “Good stuff will find an audience.”

Stuff won’t find an audience; good stuff will find an audience. Do you think that could even be a potential benefit, that it’ll make people think twice? If they’re going to get out there, they’re going to make sure that they have well-thought-out strategy, that they can do it well, or it’s going to be a lot easier for them to fail now because there’s so much content competition.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, I think people should think twice. I think people should think twice and three times about anything they want to do seriously. Not because there’s some kind of danger of ruining your reputation or anything like that, but because you really do want to produce the best media that you can. If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it all the way. That’s not to say that everything you do is going to be great.

When we launch Rainmaker.FM, the podcast network, it’s going to be bumpy. There’s going to be some hard times. I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be really good off the bat. We’ll see. It’s not going to be perfect by any means. To sit down and consider and do a cost-benefit thing on anything media production-wise that you’re thinking about doing, I think, is wise for your own sanity on one hand, but also, mainly, is it going to serve your business well?

In terms of the content shock thing, I wouldn’t be afraid of it. Again, if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well, to the best of your ability. The idea that, “Oh, there’s too much out there. There’s too much competition.” We know, you guys know, in any given market, competition is a good sign. If there’s nothing moving and going on in any particular market, that’s a bad sign. People just aren’t interested, most likely. Unless I’m misunderstanding your question, Jerod, that’s where I’m at on it.

Jerod Morris: No, I’m glad you said that. I wanted to provide the flip side to the question I asked. I think it’s good that this idea is out there. It will make people think harder and get a more clear plan in place. Where it can be a problem, then, is when someone who can do it well and does have something worthwhile to say, if they are hesitant because of this idea of content shock.

You hit on it right there — why you should still step out there. Don’t you also think that we overestimate how big our audience has to be to have an impact, even just to build a business around?

Robert Bruce: Totally.

Jerod Morris: Yes, it may be harder to build an audience of a million, but you don’t need an audience of a million, for the most part. You need your 1,000. You need your 10,000. The concept of content shock, if you have good content, is not preventing you from doing that.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, generally, you’re not looking for numbers. Numbers are always great, whatever. They serve all kinds of purposes, mostly around what people call ‘social proof.’ You’re not looking for numbers. You’re looking for the right numbers, the right people. If you have the right amount of the right folks that are interested in what you’re doing, you don’t need those millions or even tens of thousands.

If you look around on iTunes, in particular, take a listen to the business section, because I think it’s most applicable, number one. Number two, it seems like these hosts are willing to talk about these things more than other types of shows and types of hosts.

I’m trying to think of an example right now. I’ve heard things as I’m scanning through different shows –no particular show, nothing impressive in terms of being on the charts in any serious way. On one hand, you’ve got to take it for granted that they’re telling the truth. That’s hopefully the case, but in several different places I’ve been almost shocked at this show is not anywhere on the charts, but they’re doing just fine. Is that going to make you a $5-10 million business? Probably not.

Where is it that you’re starting? What are your goals? Who are you trying to serve? Again, it goes back to those same questions. No, you don’t need a massive audience to do business, at the very least to start doing your business and grow it from there.

Demian Farnworth: Hey, so we’ll let you go now. Thank you, Robert.

Jerod Morris: Thank you for joining us, Robert.

Robert Bruce: Thank you, gentlemen.

Demian Farnworth: You bet, buddy. Bye.

Jerod Morris: See you. All right. Thank you to Robert Bruce for joining us. We actually, full disclosure, emailed him about two minutes before we started and just said, “Hey, can you hop on a Skype call?” We didn’t tell him we were going to be recording. We appreciate him being a good sport and talking to us through bites of taco.

Demian Farnworth: He did say, “I’m eating tacos.” We said, “Perfect.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah, that’s right.

Demian Farnworth: As if he was going to get out of it. I like what Robert said. Let’s close on this. In other words, we just transition into talking about Authority Rainmaker. There are a lot of conferences people can go to. There are a lot of choices that are out, and they’re good choices, too. In essence, there’s content marketing conference shock. What should people do? What makes Authority Rainmaker different?

Jerod Morris: I will tell you what, there’s usually content shock at conferences. You have five or six tracks going at one time. The main benefit of going to Authority Rainmaker, as we’ve said, is that it’s a carefully curated single track with speakers who are experts and who are speaking about specific topics so that everything fits together. There’s no redundancy, but there’s nothing left out either. That’s the big benefit in addition to the networking and the parties and everything else.

Demian Farnworth: Exactly, the parties. Yeah, what people have to understand, like last year was and Jerod mentioned, it’s this single track. It’s speaker after speaker who is moving you down the path to building an audience, to building a business through content and everything.

Last year, I remember the only complaint we got was there was hardly any time to transition between each speaker. I believe we’ve accommodated that this year. Just so you know, that’s the idea. It’s a very focused business, which, again, it’s all practical — you could use it that very day. You could walk away. Again, the parties, the networking, the getting to know people — we’ve said this before, that’s where the magic really happens.

Jerod Morris: Yes. Go to and get all of the details. All right, everybody. Thank you for listening to this episode of Tacos with Robert Bruce. We’re glad you joined us. We don’t know what we have in store next.

Demian Farnworth: Another series.

Jerod Morris: Another series.

Demian Farnworth: We’ll come up with something.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. We’ll keep it as a surprise for everybody.

Demian Farnworth: Sounds good.

Jerod Morris: All right, man. Take care, Demian.

Demian Farnworth: Good talking to you, Jerod. All right. Bye-bye everybody. See you.

Jerod Morris: Thank you very much for listening to this episode of The Lede. We always appreciate it when you lend us your ear and when you give us your attention. We’re looking forward to creating some new episodes. As Demian said, we’re not going to reveal what those will be. We have some good stuff planned for you.

We hope that you will continue to check us out here on The Lede. If you like it, maybe share it with a friend to let them know. Let’s make this a bigger party, a bigger community here talking about content marketing and hopefully helping all of us improve what we’re out there doing to create better experiences for our audiences. All right, everybody. We will talk to you next week.