Is the best content on the web getting the least attention?

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Does the loudest voice in the room (or on the Internet) still earn the most attention? With the election coming up and the candidates spouting rhetoric as loudly as they can, I started to wonder; with all of the technology for broadcasting thought and information today, have people organically devised a way to filter for quality versus quantity of content?

Here’s what I have observed: classes of content have emerged in the general public, where some is considered more trusted or “correct” and the types of content tier down by categories until they become mere noise.

Which content wins?

Fortunately for us all, blog comments did not actually rise to the top of the pile as we had all feared they would in 2005. We also see a general malaise toward Twitter posts, except in rare cases.

My content ranking system looks like this:

Important, factual content: Established media — newspaper, radio, TV (in that order)

Useful information, often factual: well-written blogs, moderated discussion forums

Demonstrations and educational content: Online videos

Emotional opinion: Social media (Facebook, Twitter).

Noise: Blog comments, direct mail/email, advertorial Twitter feeds, ambassador campaigns in social media

But Seriously, Humor Trumps Everything

Here’s where content becomes a slippery game. Let’s take politics as an example — Let’s say that Candidate A was absolutely smeared in a publication that is considered important and factual so harshly that a reasonable voter would consider the campaign lost. However, if Candidate A moves their argument to an Emotional Opinion forum, they can regain their status devoid of any actual facts. The candidate just needs enough friends feeling sympathy or empathy and then sharing these feelings about Candidate A with their friends to turn the tide.

What I’ve also found is that humor spreads like wildfire in the Emotional Opinion and Noise categories. When a piece has enough genuine humor and resonance with its intended audience, then the piece can rise out of these categories and become a topic of discussion in the realms of useful information and important, factual content. The moral of the story here is this — if you don’t feel like your message is being taken seriously, go for funny.

When noise fouls useful information

In the incredibly confusing area of content importance, some major gaffes have been made. My favorite cringe-worthy event was a recent trade conference I attended where a live panel was discussing online marketing while a Twitter discussion of the panel was projected on a giant screen behind the panelists. So we had useful information happening live in front of us, with noise projected in view of the audience but not the panelists.

In a huge stroke of immaturity, the audience started mocking the panelists in the Twitter noise feed during the panel. It was one of those newsworthy scenarios where noise trumped useful information. When these kinds of information mix in real time with the same perceived level of credibility, the results tend to be disastrous. Don’t do this.

Sorting it out

To keep everything clean for marketing your business, here are some tips:

Use noise venues to promote useful information

Avoid factual discussions in emotional opinion and noise venues

Keep important, useful information and education separate from noise because while noise can be used to promote factual information, the people generating noise will not always support facts.

And moreover, keep in mind that noise is just that; noise. Trust the factual venues for information and understand what to take seriously. Once we’ve all got it sorted out, hopefully the information flow we are all inundated with will make a little more sense.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.