Two speed storytelling: Content fast or content slow?

21st May 2018
Author: Etienne Clergue
Posted in: Marketing, Thought leadership

When did you last read something that inspired or engaged you? Now ask yourself, was it a piece of slow journalism or one of today’s news stories?

There’s a paradox in modern marketing that’s wreaking havoc for those brands that are trying to cut through.

Too many brands are falling into the trap of equating more content with more success. “If one piece of content gets me a ten-fold return, then surely one hundred pieces of content will yield one thousand times more” – or so the theory goes.

In other words, there’s been a dramatic increase in the volume and pace of content creation; too often to the detriment of quality. On May 16, we brought together experts in content, communications and marketing, to discuss whether it’s fast or slow content that’s winning impact and engagement with readers.

Delayed Gratification vs LADbible

Coffee was poured, introductions made and the scene for the debate was set. “Every minute of the day 1,000 people join social media, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube and 3.3 million Facebook statuses are updated,” said Mark Choueke, CEO at Rebeltech and moderator for the day’s discussion.

“We’re not the ones who have to worry about being boring at a dinner party, we’re creators. So why is our content not working?” Choueke asked.

Rob Orchard opened by outlining why slow content is the solution to this challenge.

Delayed Gratification – and the overall idea of slow journalism – was borne at a time when more and more journalists were being scrapped, resources falling and a gap for pure storytelling opened up. “We wanted to do the opposite of break-neck speed news stories. To show readers what happens after the spotlight has moved on, when the dust settles,” Orchard explained.

It’s an approach that gives the journalist more access, allowing them to break away from the herd and not have to compete with others to get the best angle of the story, he said. This is different from the world of real-time news stories, which are “driven by social media algorithms and intensely covered for two days, then dropped”.

 “When you take a slower approach you may not get the same numbers but you get more engagement.” – Rob Orchard, Delayed Gratification

Peter Heneghan, head of communications at LADbible Group, held up the fast content corner. (Yes, that is an emoji graph – in case you were wondering).

With a total of 62 million social followers across LADbible’s global platforms, it’s fair to say that Heneghan knows what he’s talking about when he says: “We listen to what our audiences care about”.

Peter explained that LADbible’s approach aims to avoid generating disposable content by focusing on the positive angles of a story to create cut-through with readers.

For instance, in the aftermath of the Manchester attacks when all other outlets were focusing on the bombing itself and the suspects involved, “we chose to look at the positive stories coming out of the event,” Heneghan explained. “We spoke to the taxi drivers who gave people free rides home and the homeless people that helped those on the street suffering. We knew our audience craved that.”

 “It’s not just about the piece of content and unfortunately most content creators don’t have distribution strategies.” – Peter Heneghan, LADbible

The discussion: A few of the things we learnt

  • “Measuring content whilst it’s inflight is still really important. We sent out an infographic and it was the perfect timing. After seeing the initial results, which were extremely positive. We decided to utilise social media to keep up the momentum of the post.” – Victoria Pawsey, El Advisory
  • “It’s about trying to do higher quality – whether fast or slow. It’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a considered campaign.” – Joel Harrison, B2B Marketing
  • “It’s about knowing what consumers want to hear and championing that.” – Sonal Keshav, Mintel
  • “The hardest working content we produce cannot be put online. Online content needs to pass the Granny test…but what is clear to Granny doesn’t necessarily work for our bankers…” – Aimee Peters, HSBC

Thinking fast and slow

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman noted the human mind processes information in two distinct ways: System 1 is automatic, emotional and fast to respond, whereas System 2 is deliberative, logical and slow.

Despite their distinct differences, Kahneman noted that these systems aren’t mutually exclusive. Apply this theory to the flooded – albeit still growing – field of content marketing, and you’ve got a serious challenge on your hands.

This didn’t stop each of our speakers coming to their own conclusions:

Rob Orchard: “You can read our stories in an armchair with a glass of wine instead of reading them off a blue screen, and I think that is more marketable.”

Peter Heneghan: “The idea that content is king is a joke. What is true is that you have to create content in the right format, at the right time and deliver it to the right audience.”

So, you’ve heard both sides of the argument. Where does your content fall – fast or slow?

Speak to our content specialists today to discover how to create content that counts.