The Future of Content

How Marketers Can Break Through the Noise with Quiet Content

While we content creators can be great at attracting our readers’ attention, most of us fail to keep it for very long.

The reason? Our digital universe is polluted with noise.

Yeah, I know. You’ve heard it before. And you’ve heard the solutions, which often revolve around making your content more useful, more compelling, more targeted. While these factors are important, they fail to pacify the fragmented feeling readers (myself included) get when consuming content online.  

Apparently, I can thank my diminishing attention span to the devices on which I’m reading this content. They are, according to The New York Times, fundamentally changing the way my brain is wired. In fact, the brains of kids growing up with these technologies “are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” says Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

So what is the content marketer to do? The first step is to stop thinking about your content and to start thinking about your reader. What kind of experience do you suspect is going to facilitate the most focus and attention in the digital sphere? Maybe it’s not a gimme. Maybe a more quiet, calming approach actually stands out amidst the content cacophony. What does that mean exactly?

A quiet content experience…makes me want to curl up in my chair with a blanket, not just to consume the content I’ve found, but to indulge in it.

For me, a “quiet content experience” is one that makes me feel as if I’ve finally arrived. One that makes me exhale. One that makes me want to curl up in my chair with a blanket, not just to consume the content I’ve found, but to indulge in it.

Here are some great examples of content that dampens the noise, and grants readers some space to breathe.

The New York Times’ Interactive Stories from Sochi

These brief interactive pieces feature stories behind the Olympians at Sochi—and are simply delicious. The copy is succinct, the design is clean, the interactive feature is fluid. Every aspect of these articles serves the overall narrative, and they’re a joy to scroll through.

Medium

Medium is a website that hosts thousands of crowd-sourced stories. While such a platform begs content chaos, Medium is anything but. The reason? Besides its beautiful design, Medium’s success lies in its organization and user-based curation. Instead of date and time, stories are grouped into theme-based collections. You can “follow” collections that interest you (much like Pinterest boards) and populate your reading list with selected material.

Instead of other curated sites like Reddit or The Huffington Post, Medium feels like a de-cluttered office. It exudes a kind of energizing absence.

Squarespace

If all websites followed a Squarespace template, the Internet would be a much better place. Squarespace is easy to use, easy to navigate, and promotes human-friendly, image-heavy interactive UX. This is a company that clearly values calming content experiences, which is why they made our list of top fifty content marketing brands. As touted in their first ever T.V. advertisement, “A better web awaits.”

Facebook Paper

Paper is Facebook’s new alternative to its much busier standard app. Paper’s distraction-free layout transforms pesky News Feed updates into beautiful, interactive stories. I love Paper’s customizable interface, its organization and its full-screen design, featuring the images and videos you and your friends share.

A key component uniting all of these examples is that the design and copy work together effortlessly to create a fluid user experience. If we hope to create similar experiences, our writers, designers and engineers need to start collaborating much more intimately. From the very beginning of our projects, the design should support the copy and visa versa. Only then will we contribute to a cleaner, happier online experience.

Liz O'Neill Dennison

About Liz O'Neill Dennison

Liz is a former Content Marketing Manager at Kapost. She's psyched about human-friendly content, beekeeping, and playing outside. Reach her at @lizkoneill.