Information Overload: Are You Wearing Out Your Readers?

Updated on December 26, 2018
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert and advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.


Bloggers and content marketers, before you write that next post or email, please stop for a moment and consider this: Your readers and audience may be tired of you and your never ending stream of content. They may be suffering from information overload and fatigue.

What is Information Overload or Fatigue?

People are just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information and entertainment now at their fingertips on phones, screens and every imaginable device. Some call this information overload and information fatigue. But it's not just the volume of material out there; it's the pace and schedule at which it's being churned and spewed out.

Sure, you create good stuff. You may write stellar blog posts, thought provoking, entertaining or helpful books and eBooks. Sometimes writers and authors feel that if they make their work just a little bit better than someone else's, it will "cut through the clutter."

But here's the reality: You don't even know what "clutter" your audience may be dealing with. They've allowed in a confusing flurry of fluff and substance, often filtered by how they felt at the moment they encountered it. Not only will you have difficulty determining how your audience parses the information that comes their way, but where it ends up on their mental landscape is also in a constant state of flux.

Plus, whether due to overload or over concern with privacy, many people are opting out or not opting in to receive communications from businesses and social postings.

Welcome to the attention deficit society.

So what shred of hope do you have to connect with people that matter (like buyers!)? Is the answer better targeting of Internet advertising? Or jumping on the hot social media platform du jour?

While, yes, these tactics may be helpful in reaching ideal prospects for whatever you offer, pursuing inbound marketing strategies should be at the heart of today's marketing arsenal.

Offer Content Like It Was Church

At the risk of sounding crass or irreverent, your content should be religiously offered as if it was a Sunday (or whatever day is your sabbath) worship service. Why?

  • People come to expect, even anticipate, these events. You become part of their calendar, part of their mental landscape.
  • When people come to expect something from you—and you deliver as expected and anticipated!—you build trust.
  • People follow and buy from people they trust.

I've had two super successful content "gods" that lead the way for me. I can almost set my clock on Tuesday and Thursday mornings by the informative and engaging emails I get from them.

How does their example combat information fatigue and overload? I know that, with rare exception for maybe a special announcement, these role models will only connect with me at a specified and limited time. I know my email inbox won't be overflowing with daily drivel from them all week and weekend long. Call it rules of engagement. That's respectful and successful. And it doesn't go unnoticed.

The Content Vending Machine

Switching gears from the divine to the mundane, your content should also be available when and where your followers want it and are most likely to engage with it... like a vending machine. Taking the vending machine concept a bit further, these days, followers are "consumers," often "snacking" on bits and pieces of content instead of a whole serving. People want to be able to throw in their payment (be it actual dollars, becoming an email subscriber, or just giving their attention) and—boom!—content comes out.

For more informative content, the ultimate "vending machine" is Google and its search engine brethren. For more creative and literary work, that means being found in online communities, websites and networks of folks who gobble up your particular genre.

In my book, Business Competitive Advantage: A Handbook for Small Business Owners, Entrepreneurs and Consultants, I stress that there are three "Fs" to build sales: You need to become "Friended, Famous and Found." This is done by building your blog or author platform. That's how you get loaded into the content vending machine.


How Much Information is Too Much?

As discussed above, having a regular posting, email broadcast or distribution schedule for your content, as well as availability and the ability to be found, can help your target audience avoid the effects of information overload and fatigue.

But let's take a look at the content itself. What works in terms of the time it will take to consume your blog posts, podcasts and videos?

Over the past couple of years with the rise of YouTube, I've seen a number of social media types suggesting that video is hot and should be part of every marketers arsenal. I agree with them in two respects. One, YouTube is one of the biggest search engines and is in the same conversation with its Google family. Two, it can make you appear more human, authentic and approachable.

But here's where I diverge from the "video is hot" theory. Video takes time to consume! In fact, I find myself bouncing out of sites that only offer content in video, or even audio, format. I read fast. REALLY fast. So, for me, give me the text! I can whiz through a blog post in sometimes a minute or less. If I have to slog through a five-minute video or—ugh!—30-minute podcast, you've lost me. Plus, when I have gotten sucked into a video (or videos), I realize I've just wasted several minutes of my day because getting through mountains of reading in a reasonable time is a priority—make that necessity—for what I do.

Everyone is different and some of your audience may want a variety of formats from text to audio to video. Here's what to consider:

  • Offer your content in multiple formats. This requires extra work, but allows your audience to consume it in a way that makes sense for them.
  • Think content "snacking." Shorter installments of your content can work for the attention starved and overwhelmed. You may have to experiment with various lengths of content to determine what works for your tribe.

Well, I've probably gone on too long already for you, dear information fatigued reader. Snack on!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, so glad I'm not the only one who has issues with video. Honestly, I love video content... but only when I want it. I don't want to be forced to slog through it. I saw one top blogger do something very reader-friendly. He does a podcast, but then puts the text transcript right below it so that readers can choose. Smart! Plus, I think he ups his SEO savvy by putting the transcript there. Again, smart. We are indeed in a multi-screen, multi-format world. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful week!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    3 years ago from USA

    I completely agree with you about the video. I read super fast (as a result of all those books that I had to literally read overnight in grad school) and I absolutely do not want video-only content. Too slow for me. I immediately click out and am kinda mad. Glad there's someone else who sees it similarly.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello MsDora! You're welcome. Hope you find it helpful. Have a beautiful day!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    3 years ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for the great advice--wise and practical. I need to digest this.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Billybuc, I've noticed that writers are on one extreme or the other. They either do too little or too much. I just hope this puts more of the "too much" type people in the "just right" Goldilocks zone. Thanks for checking in. Happy Saturday!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    3 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I have tried to warn my readers about this, and I try very hard not to impose too much of my work on others. It's a tightrope, at times. :)

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    3 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi B. Leekley! Well, it depends on your audience of followers. If those links are ones they value, then it might not be. Every audience is different in terms of expectations. But at least you have the courtesy to ask the question! Thanks for chiming in and have a wonderful weekend!

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 

    3 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

    I just spent two hours on Facebook re-sharing shared political and good-causes links, each an article and/or a video. Information overload?


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