Are you a content consumer or creator?

You’ll soon learn why I’m posting shorter, but more frequent posts…In the mean time, I wanted to share with you something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about these days.

Think about the generation or two before us. A significant portion of free time was spent consuming media. From print to broadcast, everyday people simply digested information and content presented to them. But then, everything changed. We were gifted with the ability to share what we think, feel, and experience, on demand. The democratization of information was finally upon us and we the people would ensure that our voices would be heard and felt. This was our time, quite literally as Time Magazine named “us” as the person of the year.

You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world…

There was and is something missing however. It takes a dedicated investment and orchestrated movement to control the information age. Without it, we’re contributing to social distortion, a regime governed by information overload that threatens social anarchy. Just because we have the ability to say something, doesn’t mean it matters to our greater society, nor does it resonate. Even in the face of this new democracy of social media, the majority of “the social” are merely consuming content – 68% of all socialites according to Forrester simply listen, never saying or producing anything.

And while it’s not the same as generations before us, I wonder if we’re moving towards an era of consumption again, just under a new facade.

In all honesty, the long form of content creation is under constant scrutiny and its value is continually questioned. Blogs are seemingly losing favor to the statusphere in the rise of a Web that promotes curation and micro-sized content without true context. Minimalist self-expression masquerades as a new information economy and I think we have yet to show what we’re capable of  contributing or truly changing.

You might disagree with me, but shortly after the iPad was released, I sold it. Why? Well, it wasn’t because I didn’t love it. I found myself thoroughly enjoying the ability to consume content in a very interactive manner that fooled me into thinking I was creating even though I was simply curating and sharing. To counter the sensation, I purchased a keyboard and a stand. They had me believing , but then I did the math. There’s more money in consumption than creation. And, that’s when I realized I was simply trying to justify it as a tool for consumption AND creation. Truth is that it’s a beautiful tool for content consumption and curation. But, I challenge you to create at least equal to you what you consume…or at least more than you do today.

Who are you?

What about you that some adore that we all need to experience?

What can you teach us?

I believe in order for the social economy to thrive, it must balance creation and consumption.

Additionally, we must invest in the social economy by demonstrating literacy and our ability to take what we learn and share our insights with those populating our coveted digital societies.

In the process we’ll find that the balance is refined to the delicate, yet invaluable ecology of learning and teaching.

What do you think? What are you observing?

This is your time…

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  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    My first comment here, I think.

    This is exactly right, Mr. Solis. Our hyperconnected world is so much more entertaining – and rewarding – when we seek to give as much as we get from it. Consumption addresses short term symptoms, but creation addresses deeper, fundamental issues, raising the bar.

    Enjoying your work, sir.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Welcome Mr. Driggs. I truly enjoyed your first comment. You are right on the mark…and I hope you share your insights with us more often.

    • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

      Thank you for the warm welcome. Appreciate it.

      I generally avoid the bigger name blogs that get truckloads of comments on every post (groupthink?), but this one spoke to me and my life’s work. Besides, there were no comments on said A-list blog what usually gets truckloads of comments at the time. I had the shot, so I took it.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Thanks Brian…

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    My first comment here, I think.

    This is exactly right, Mr. Solis. Our hyperconnected world is so much more entertaining – and rewarding – when we seek to give as much as we get from it. Consumption addresses short term symptoms, but creation addresses deeper, fundamental issues, raising the bar.

    Enjoying your work, sir.

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    I read a while back that in order to learn something, you write it down. Personally, I retain knowledge better (learn) if I share it (teach.) I am an actual teacher, and know this for a fact about myself.

    The addiction to this cycle is the desire to share drives my desire to learn – hence the more I create, the more I consumer, in the cycle.

    I am observing that the most engaging people work harder and learning than they do at sharing – so that what is shared is even better than what is learned.

    I might have spun myself into hole here, but it makes sense to me (inside my head…)

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Paul, I agree. From my experience, I need to write in order to retain it beyond short term memory. It is the cycle of “learn/teach” that will define the future of the social economy and increase signal over noise – or at least among those who learn to tune and also contribute to the signal. Thank you for contributing to the signal…

    • Steve

      No. Just a fan from his tech blogging and now on Twitter. Trying to do more creation. Can’t go to Arizona and take his classes so his book is the next best thing!

  • http://www.experiate.net Paul Flanigan

    I read a while back that in order to learn something, you write it down. Personally, I retain knowledge better (learn) if I share it (teach.) I am an actual teacher, and know this for a fact about myself.

    The addiction to this cycle is the desire to share drives my desire to learn – hence the more I create, the more I consumer, in the cycle.

    I am observing that the most engaging people work harder and learning than they do at sharing – so that what is shared is even better than what is learned.

    I might have spun myself into hole here, but it makes sense to me (inside my head…)

  • http://twitter.com/Wordful Charles Bohannan

    This idea has long been on my mind, and it inspired a string of blog posts regarding the problem of what I call “content gluttony.”

    It’s taken me many years, but I’ve learned to stop consuming so much and start creating. The ratio is now about 5:1 in favor of creation. It’s the only way to make a lasting difference and sustainable livelihood.

    BTW Brian — thanks for the great talk at Affiliate Summit West, and the signed copy of Engage.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Charles, it’s good to hear from you. Thank you for being there in Vegas and thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Thank you for creating…keep up the good work.

  • Steve

    I think whether consuming or producing content, one should be principled. Dan Gillmor suggests such principles, and more, in his new book Mediactive, available free at http://mediactive.com/ .

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Steve, very familiar with Dan. He and I go back to the 90s. Are you working with him?

  • http://bobclarksblog.blogspot.com Bob Clark

    Brian – I really like your blog and have shared it around the office. I find the amount of redirected content in social media to be overwhelming and time consuming to sift through – it feels like a search engine numbers game to gain followers. Hats off to those who create with the to goal of simply sharing. I really enjoy writing for business, even if the big numbers are not there now.

  • http://twitter.com/greggyour greggyour

    Not sure I create as much as I consume/share. However, if I share, am I not helping to create a heightened sense of knowledge?

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Gregg, that’s the great debate over curation…does your update contribute to era of the lazy web or do we get to see your true insights in addition to the link? There’s no right or wrong answer…it’s just something to think about.

  • Anonymous

    Oh wow – that’s a corker. If consuming includes learning, I’m at about a 70/30 ratio weighed toward the consuming side of the scale. But if you include learning as part of the content creation process, then it’s closer to 30/70 the other way.

    As a content marketer, I’ve noted that the most difficult thing for clients to wrap their heads around is creating good, relevant, helpful content with which to interact with their prospective customers. It’s hard for them to think about creating anything other than marketing material. Is that the effect of consuming so much bad marketing material that the only thing they can relate to is their own experience? Or is it an example of totally taking themselves out of the creation process in favor of someone else doing it? No clue. All I know is the ability to create requires some consumption along the way but it’s more like recycling than pure, unadulterated consumption.

  • http://twitter.com/SkylarknTexas Cathleen Pollard

    Enjoyed your thoughts. In answer to your questions, I am just a woman that flutters around this huge world wide web looking for what will enrich my mind, heart and soul. Consumer? absolutely. I, as most, do a little blogging, sharing my thoughts and experiences just as you. I find extreme satisfaction “creating” my little entries, enjoying every comment and country visit. Sharing my knowledge, and lack there of, is a hoot. No matter I’m a nobody in the grand scheme. Those I touch matter.
    What I’ve observed~ I do not think the written word has the monetary value that some expect it to have. The power’s that be ultimately control what we consume, that will never change, it’s frustrating but reality. We just have to creatively seek what we are looking for, enjoy ourselves, and help humankind evolve, irregardless of the “powers”. We must leave our mark.
    What it is about me that people adore~ I can hold my own with just about any situation or person. That’s how I get the guts to comment. I am strangely gifted a friend of mine said. Can I add a ;) without criticism? (can I get a LOL?)
    Hugs and Blessings

  • Karen

    Interesting … but I’m a consumer … I want to be a creator and consumer in a balanced way, When I’m professional!

  • http://twitter.com/klrichardson Kevin Richardson

    Brian,

    I find this thought inspiring and provoking and smiled when I saw Time’s Person of the Year. I find it interesting that media consumption, mirroring our economy, turned from balance to heavily (completely?) weighted to the consumption side of the equation. It’s as if we are realizing that like our economy we need to consume and share information in more equal measures.

    Thank you for continuing to share Brian.

  • http://twitter.com/klrichardson Kevin Richardson

    Brian,

    I find this thought inspiring and provoking and smiled when I saw Time’s Person of the Year. I find it interesting that media consumption, mirroring our economy, turned from balance to heavily (completely?) weighted to the consumption side of the equation. It’s as if we are realizing that like our economy we need to consume and share information in more equal measures.

    Thank you for continuing to share Brian.

  • http://twitter.com/KRDMarketing Kristen Robinson

    This post definitely made me think about which role I am (I do both but mostly listen) and where I want to be (more balanced and create more). Thank you for teaching and sharing! :-)

  • Giancarlo bozza

    I tend to think at social media as an Italian coffee place. Friends gather and share opinion of what is going on in their life, outside their life or of general popular interest. They absorb in these conversation and often leave an opinion on what is goin on. The more intrepid gather the insights and construct on top of this. Sharing on social media can be bare appreciation or disagreement about an argument. Or it can be the starting point for a new conversation which goes further from judging with a mere like or dislike. This is where content creation starts. It is a building of an argument which is not any more limited to a smaller number of people, but that can gather insights from friends as well of strangers. Like it is appending now.
    Crowdsoarcing is indeed not a total free brainstorming session. It is reather building on top of an initial argument. Again, an argument which as no more the limits of a small bar walls in an Italian piazza.
    And please excuse me if there are some spelling mistakes. I am Italian and I am typing from my I pad. Not that easy….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=15920689 Brittany Darwell

    “What about you that some adore that we all need to experience?” What a great question!

    I would also add, “What do you know that others would benefit from?”

    I have been mulling around this idea of “giving back to the Internet.” We all benefit so much from sites like Wikipedia and Yelp, which are useful as they are because of the individuals who contribute. So what do we each do to improve the Internet for others? We don’t all have to write restaurant reviews or textbook-like articles. But there is something each of us can and should produce content around.

    Great post!

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Yes! Updated…thank you!

  • Arie Westerduin

    I agree with Mr. Driggs when he says that the world would be “so much more entertaining – and rewarding – when we seek to give as much as we get from it”. What I see happening though, is that a lot of the content the so-called “socialites” are creating only benefit themselves short-term & commercially. Because there’s so much content out there that doesn’t seem to add ANY value at all. I’m afraid that through the overload of information we actually risk losing out on the content that really matters. For example – just because we saw the amount of TV channels exploding late last century, it didn’t mean we were being served with more & better content. It’s just been harder to actually discover the content that’s worth consuming – hence the birth of pay-for-tv-channels. The same recently started to happen on the Internet with all the pay walls being set-up to protect high quality content…

    Just some thoughts worth sharing – I hope :)

  • http://machetiseimangiato.com Rossella

    The relation between consumption and creationion is crucial for development, both at personal and social level. The actual stress on consuming is widespread. While create, learn and teach is real act that support development. Your choise to sell iPad is strong but with good motivation.
    I’m for learn and teach, consume is more an activity for let say free time. Learn is my motor to leave each day and teach is a way to go over me.

  • http://www.jesseluna.com jesseluna

    I think there will always be people who set out to create and others who are passive consumers. Like most folks, we’re usually not only one or the other, but a mix. If you look at YouTube, only one in a thousand users ever uploads a video.

    But then if you look at our social media foot print, every tweet is a micro blog post. Every Facebook status update is a story. Billions of these tiny creations are data points, information updates, and knowledge hubs. Twitter and Facebook are global players because they are *leveraging* the creations.

    We are creating, we just need to learn to own the content and leverage it better or the social distortion will be between those who leverage and those who don’t.

  • Anonymous

    Cracking post Brian. I certainly create more than I consume. The first stop in my daily routine is writing, for at about 90 minutes. The last stop in my daily routine is reading, but only after recording music.

    I create, then I consume. Consumption, then, is my reward for creating. So it better be good information / entertainment.

    Great post.

  • Jen Kane

    This reminds me of a situation that happened maybe 6-7 months ago.

    All the social media cool kids had gone to some workshop where they’d written “brand haikus” as an exercise. The next day they eagerly shared the collection they’d written with their networks. And all day I sat and watched as people retweeted the same 4 or 5 haikus over and over, gushing about how cool they were.

    Finally I tweeted that if people thought these haikus were so cool maybe they should take that inspiration and, you know, um…GO WRITE ONE (which is what I then did). Instead of endlessly reporting that a content gauntlet had been thrown down, how about taking 5 minutes to pick it up and respond in turn?

    Sadly, only one other person in my network responded to the challenge — a school teacher on maternity leave who wrote a few awesome brand haikus of her own. But all the other marketers, social media pros, writers, publicists, authors and entrepreneurs in my network apparently had bigger fish to consume and regurgitate that day instead.

    The incident only reinforced for me my suspicion that more people are comfortable just reading about the
    world changing than to type even three short lines of copy in an effort to change it themselves.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Jen, thank you for sharing that story…very appropriate and telling.

      This is one of the challenges facing social media. Not only do we not want to create or innovate, we are also looking to others to tell us what to do.

      What is brands X doing?
      What are the best practices in the industry?
      Who is successful and who isn’t?

      People are looking for an quick start or how to guide when in time of a revolution, the people who take the time to write it themselves wind up leading. We can’t learn from those who have yet to admit they have something to learn…so we must become the students in order to also become the teachers.

  • http://www.crisschaney.com Criss Chaney

    Its just easier to consume and curate than to create, come up with an original idea and actually articulate it. That takes real thought and reflection.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Criss, absolutely. I wonder if we’re blurring our definition of creation these days. I look at many of the responses on twitter to the headline and most say “both!” I don’t believe it. Tweeting isn’t creating in of itself. Tweeting creatively is creating. Tweeting with intention and forethought is creating.

  • http://www.sherrilynnestarkie.com Sherrilynne

    This is my point exactly when I complain about all these new, self-proclaimed social media gurus that spend their lives retweeting Mashable and Techcrunch. They are really participating in the conversation if they don’t create their own content.

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Indeed…another way to look at this is, are we contributing to the noise or the signal. Using the words of others isn’t an act of investing in our social capital…but knowing this, do we rethink how we approach social media? I hope so.

  • http://twitter.com/NickyElectric nicky fraser

    Great post Brian. This has got me thinking about how annoying I find it when people share information that isn’t really that interesting to their followers/customers. It seems like the Goal of posting updates has superseded any other process – like informing or helping with useful, relevant content. And I often see that when those people produce their own content that it’s a bland regurgitation of information that already exists.

    I really liked how you inserted the sharing in there, because that’s vital – there’s no point in creating or consuming if nobody’s going to learn from it.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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