In a 'Content Snacking' Age, Will Ads Still Be Welcome?

Steve Rubel on Digital Communication

By Published on .

Media consumption is changing. You don't need me to tell you that. But you may be unaware just how much it's shifting as we embrace "the stream."

What's the stream? It's a way of consuming content as a continuous feed of brief bits, singles, 10-minute videos, tweets and status updates. It reflects the societal shift from analog to digital. And it's a natural fit for the web, where attention spans are minuscule.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
Streams are everywhere. The Facebook newsfeed and Twitter are two prime examples. However, streams aren't just on social networks. You can spot them on sites such as Muck Rack or Timeswire from The New York Times. They are places where, when the news is important, it finds you.

As it becomes the primary way we interact with content, streams threaten longer formats such as TV shows, articles, albums or books. Over time, we will find we're no longer a nation that eats media meals. Rather, we're all-day content snackers -- which means we become more source-agnostic, too.

This dawned on me recently as I considered how my own habits have changed.

For years I would engage long-form content such as books or audio books in continuous blocks of time. I enjoyed each sitting like a fine meal. But that was back in the day when I would be disconnected for hours at a time -- or the mobile experience was poor.

Nowadays, however, thanks to my iPhone, the web is always on. I find it all too tempting to dip into Facebook or FriendFeed for a quick fix of the stream. Yes, the net ate my books.

Now, granted, I am an "edge case" -- an early adopter. Still, if you think about your own patterns, I believe you will agree that streams may be taking over. Sound scary? I can understand it might, and I promise a future column devoted to tips on "keeping up" and managing your stream (vs. your stream managing you).

But as marketers, the age of the stream will force us to get more creative about how we break through. It's unclear if ads will be welcome. If they are, they will need to be brief, useful and funny. Otherwise, they will just get in the way and be ignored.

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