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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  • Anonymous

    As a Digital Media major whose about to graduate in the spring, it’s my opinion that learning to become a good creator takes a bit of guidance from someone who is knowledgable in the art of craftfully creating a social presence.
    Just as you were taught to first play an instrument, such as guitar or piano, it opened up the creative world of music to you and for those of you who were given a paintbrush and a little direction, are you not now able to create works from scratch and express your thoughts? Teaching people how to have a creative social presence works the same way in that you explain to them which tools to use, where the materials are, and then see what they come up with.
    Personally, I would advocate introducing media creation in primary schools where self expression and learning go hand-in-hand.

    • Katie Haag

      I’ll piggyback on this comment from GarrettWhitten- I also am graduating in the field of Digital Media and have a passion for sharing and collaborative knowledge. That being said, when you’re entering the space and trying to find where you stand, there’s hesitation to put your own opinions out there for fear of irrelevance. If your thoughts don’t align with what’s being said by the social media “experts,” will you lose credibility? Does the Web serve as the perfect platform to highlight the age old 80/20 rule (the Paleto Principle)? Or does the Paleto Principle help determine influence?

      This is my first comment on a blog, but felt compelled to share my thoughts. Thanks for inspiring us to continue innovating!

    • Will G. Whitten

      That’s a great point, Katie. Most folks are still in the mindset that media is only to be consumed (radio, television, print, i.e. analog media) and that their opinions/criticisms are irrelevant in the “big picture”, but as Brian points out in this article consumers now own the power to change what is being said, where’s it’s being said, and who’s saying it.

      Once the idea sinks in that consumers now have the dual role of producer as well as consumer, then you’ll see a drop in the digial-creative guard of people all across the social web. Who we consider to be social media “experts” right now are just folks who are ahead of the curve and have a great natural ability to translate their ideas and thoughts to a wide reach of people online or not, they’ve just figured out how to do it successfully online first. And just so nobody hounds you about it in the future, Katie, it’s the Pareto Principle.

  • PamMktgNut

    Brian- wow another great post. My belief is we have officially entered the Inspiration Age. Content that is shared to wide audiences in social media is often done so because it struck an inspiration chord. It made someone laugh, feel empowered, or simply connected with their state of mind.

    You bring up an interesting conversation regarding creation of content versus simply curation. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of only curating. We can’t lose sight of the value of creating.

    We kicked off a course today with a local county biz dev council. With a room full of leaders new to social media and in reality online mktg in general it made me think of what would happen if we quit creating?

    I for one have been working on an editorial calendar that inspires and connects even more than I have done in the past. This article has inspired me to finish such!

  • Rob le Pair

    For me, this is a too black and white view; consuming and reflecting about it can be a very creative and productive activity.

    • briansolis

      Rob, it’s not a black and white discussion. It’s an inflection point…are we really creating (adding to the signal) or are we mostly talking (contributing to the noise). There’s a balance of course, but I think many believe they are creating when they are in fact, not….it’s ok, it’s wonderful even. But as this is the most significant era of self-expression in history, could it not be more? It starts with each one of us.

  • Harry Hayward

    Thought provoking as always, Brian. I am heartened to see Digital Media students weighing in here. They will be the thinkers and doers of the future in the information age. I work in a university environment where digital media is being embraced, but not fast enough. Your challenge to create at least equal to what we consume really resonates. What if all of our students today took up the challenge and embraced digital storytelling as a current assignment…and as a way of leaving a legacy of their thinking. The information age is sadly temporal and fleeting – I worry about that many of the best ideas will vanish unless they are recorded (read this created) for others to consume.

  • robingandhi

    Great post, Brian. Really thought provoking, and I could not agree more about how “lazy” the web is becoming. The amount of broadcasting that I see on micro-channels is often higher than anything in longer format social channels. We could all say that this is the equivalent of sharing and maybe even teaching, but if we’re just passing around content, then what is the real value to the overall web community?

    But then again from an enterprise perspective, I would say that broadcasting and “Likes” really help to push brand messaging. These may be some of the “lazier” forms of content curation, and yet they are driving many organizational initiatives today. So what happens over the course of time? Do we all get tired of the noise in the “statusphere”, and these forms of effortless content just start getting ignored by individuals, friends and companies alike? I think this may be starting to happen, and I wonder what it will mean to organizations who are leveraging this form of content sharing to drive messaging. Will it be effective? For how long?

  • Stephanie Sammons

    Will the curation process ultimately surface the highest quality creations and separate the signal from the noise? We can only hope. The engine is creation, no doubt, and as some of the others have shared, learning (versus consumption just for consumption’s sake) certainly can stimulate creative thinking. There will always be those of us who choose to lead. Leaders will do the hard work and fight the good fight. They won’t cut corners or take the easy way out. I have to believe that the “true” and dedicated content creation leaders will continue to emerge and rise to the top.

  • Gareth Rees

    Long before the digital age, the great Henry Miller wrote something that I believe applies to social media: ‘We don’t talk, we bludgeon one another with facts & theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers, magazines and digests’.

    I used to write newsletters and direct mail that were printed on paper and sent through the post, yes the post! Can you believe it? Today I still do the majority of my writing and marketing through long copy email newsletters. It may be old fashioned but it works. Open rates are high and readers respond.

    The rules of engagement have been the same ever since I started in the publishing business….write with a strong individual voice, express your own opinion, cover ideas that are missed by the mainstream media, solve your reader’s problems and help them fulfil desires.

  • Arnold Beekes

    Learning and teaching are players in the same game. If either one stops, everything becomes heavy and ceases to be fun.
    Learning is the reward for respecting life and teaching is the fruit of experiencing life.

  • Keri Andino

    Brain, Thank you for allowing me to rethink how I am “doing” Social Media in regard to not stepping up to creation of my own writing as a form of content creation after I have chewed on and learned such great content– truth be told, many newbie’s that have come onto the social scene are guided to “follow the influencers”, engage in convos with those you feel you can glean knowledge from and many times it becomes overwhelming to then curate and create killer content when much of your day is spent reading the likes of Brian Solis, Chris Brogan, Pam Moore, Mari Smith, Seth Godin, Brian Clark and more! Finding the balance and filtering through the noise, (for garbage in.. creates garbage out) for me has become about being able to discern what is actually going to allow me to consume, learn, share and create for the good and be able to become more of a contributor instead of another noisemaker~ Thanks for awesome take aways from this post- You are setting the bar higher and it’s much appreciated~ KnDino

  • Samuel Sunmonu

    Inspiring post as always. I would probably say my consumption/creation ratio is around 70/30. There are times when I literally spend hours reading websites like Mashable or TechCrunch, and for what? Most of what I read I don’t remember or even write about.

    This just means that I need to ramp up my content production. I already blog every weekday, but I’ve been increasingly looking towards producing my own videos and podcasts.

    I guess now is the time to stop reading so many tech blogs and start adding my own thoughts to the conversation.

    Thanks for the post!

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  • Dalgers

    in order to consume/learn/teach there has to be something created by someone…a writer, an artist, an inventor, and so forth. as those who regurgitate content become more prevalent, those who create content will become more essential. one hopes.

  • Joakim Nilsson

    But you want this post to be curated over and over again, the more the better, and the more you’ll filter out from the noise. Do you think we’re moving towards a growing percentage of consumers than creators relative to today’s number?

  • Joakim Nilsson

    But you want this post to be curated over and over again, the more the better, and the more you’ll filter out from the noise. Do you think we’re moving towards a growing percentage of consumers than creators relative to today’s number?

  • CJ Roberts

    I have heard a few times the lament over the death of true investigative journalism, with a corollary being a lack of sustainable sourcing. The more we consume the more we want to consume and the smaller we want those portions to become. Instead of reading a book we read 100 blog posts. It seems that through systems like Tumblr, Favstar and other niche chic communities many people are contributing to the philosophy epitomized by this post. Original thought and content, sharing ideas and unique media, self regulating and without the need of marketing momentum.

  • Mary Abrams

    Brian, you nailed it. It is much easier to get lost in consumption without creating. I am guilty of it and am trying to get out of the rut. Your post was inspiring and thought provoking as usual. I think I will print it out and keep it as a reminder. I lust for an IPAD but after reading your post I think I will learn to love my PC and IPhone! Thanks so much.

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  • Anonymous

    I don’t really like the word consume or consumer in this connotation, I understand where you are coming from, but… the context is not good. Many people don’t like to create. Also, you need to balance listening with creating. If you talk more than half the time, then you aren’t Engaging. You’re Dictating. :)

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  • Philip

    I believe most people are simply followers while the rest are leaders. We leaders are the ones that actually create and consume content. The followers are strictly consumers of content. Some of us leaders are a lot better at creating content that is more successfully consumed.

    With the new information economy, some followers have realized that they too may profit by re-syndicating content. They do this to achieve economic benefits of a leader without the dedication of being a true leader.

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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. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), Engage! and The End of Business as Usual. His blog,, is ranked as a leading resource for insights into the future of business, new technology and marketing.

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