Content Formats Can’t Jump The Shark

There is no shortage of people discussing the topic of ‘if infographics are played out.’ Upon searching Google, there are more than 14K results for the phrase match “infographics jumped the shark” as just one example:

There are enough users riled up against the format that blogs like Gizmodo have even lashed out against them to resounding applause.

Of course, infographics are hardly new. They’ve been published to the web for years, and have been used in magazines, newspapers and textbooks far longer.

Executed properly they’re a useful and elegant way to present information. That’s not always the case — they’re very frequently done on the cheap and lack ATD (something hardly unique to infographics). Yet media still rush to use them because they’re perceived high-value (they think many users share them merely because it’s an infographic).

None of this actually bothers me as an online marketer who has worked with multiple design teams and brands to create successful infographics.

Why?

They’re not going anywhere, despite abuse. Specific ways of formatting content can’t jump the shark just because a few people suck at producing them. That’s not how content works.

There are 200 million Tweets published to Twitter, more than 8 years of video published to YouTube and more than 900,000 blog posts published to the web per day. Guess what? A majority of it is probably not relevant to you (or is content that could be considered high quality).

But does that mean Tweets, video or blog posts have ‘jumped the shark’ or are in danger of becoming obsolete? No. It just means users need to understand how to sort the signal from the noise.

The inspiration for this post? I recently saw Todd Defren Tweet:

If you keep putting out shitty infographics, soon no one is going to care about infographics.

We need to modify this a bit and add a word: if you keep putting out shitty infographics, soon no one is going to care about your infographics. Very true. Just like if you keep putting out shitty blog posts, you’ll never attract any readers.

But just because a few lame companies and marketers spam the content format doesn’t mean it is going to go away. If that was the case we’d have no music, movies, articles or content of any type really.

And for marketers – you don’t need to worry if your competitors are pumping out infographics on the cheap. Focus on quality instead,  you’ll win every time. Joe Chernov (who works at Eloqua, a LEWIS client) shows the results side-by-side of an infographic his design team created vs. a competing infographic:

If you build up a solid web community and consistently publish strong visualizations (along with a healthy mix of other formats) your fans will amplify the good and you’ll come out on top.

I don’t think an entire type of content can jump the shark. But your brand definitely can, so if you’re using cheap infographics (or going cheap on any type of content) realize it will hurt your reputation.