What is Content Shock?


Content shock describes the phenomenon that online content is increasingly losing visibility as the supply of content is greater than the demand.

The term was first coined in 2014 by US marketing expert Mark Schaefer in his blog {grow}.

As a content marketing agency, we and our clients deal with content shock every day, which is why we are keen to offer a guide to this fascinating topic.


The concept of “content shock” derives from applying the basic economic principles of Adam Smith (1776) and David Ricardo (1817) to contemporary content marketing, i.e. prices are determined by supply and demand.

To simplify the model, it is assumed that content is available free of charge and can be consumed at a price of zero. However, since the creation and marketing of content costs money, it’s actually the content providers who have to pay a price so their content can be consumed on the demand side.

The time from when oversupply of content starts is called “content shock”.

Demand for content is stagnant or is growing only slowly. There are only 24 hours in a day, after all. Even with increasing internet usage and media consumption, there is a definite limit to how much content can be consumed.

Supply, on the other hand, is growing rapidly. The number of blogs is doubling every 6 months and the trend is upward (Technorati, figures from 2006). According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, users upload 500 hours of video material to YouTube every minute (CBS, 2019), and the trend here has also been rising for years.

According to classic economic models, increase in supply with largely constant demand leads to a reduction in price. In the case of content marketing, with its “supplier-side negative price”, this means an increase in the costs for content creation and marketing.

The more neon signage, the more you need to invest in even more eye-catching advertising. And it’s a similar story in content marketing.

For some companies, content marketing may therefore no longer be worthwhile.

Content shock in facts and figures

Organic reach on Facebook was just under 16% in 2012, whereas it had dropped to less than 1% in 2019 (jacobdeen). Facebook itself has explored this issue in its business blog and identifies content shock as the cause: Why is organic reach declining?

96.94% of all YouTube channels have fewer than 10,000 subscribers (jokull, 2020). 88.4% of all YouTube videos have fewer than 1,000 views (Pex, 2019). Just 0.77% of YouTube videos are responsible for 82.83% of all views on the entire platform (ibid.)

Only 0.63% of Google users click on a search result on the second page of the search engine result page (backlinko, 2022). This means that companies need to create content for a search term that is at least in the top ten in their target region and target language. Otherwise, they won’t be seen by 99.37% of Google users. What is particularly striking is that 90.63% of all web pages record no traffic from Google at all (ahrefs, 2020).

Causes of content shock

  1. Better access to the internet: In 2017, there were 3.44 billion internet users worldwide. By 2022, this had grown to 5.28 billion and is increasing by several hundred million users each year.
  2. Democratization of websites and blogs: Content management systems such as WordPress and platforms such as Blogger and Medium enable users to publish content on the internet without needing to acquire programming skills. In addition, several million Wikipedia articles are published worldwide each year, which compete with other web content for visibility (statista, 2022).
  3. Mobile Revolution: Laptops, tablets and smartphones enable content creation on the move. Some of us are old enough to remember a decade or so back when you needed to connect your digital camera to your computer via a USB cable.
  4. Social Media: The popularity of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok blur the distinction between producers and consumers. Today’s youngsters are growing up to become social media “prosumers”. On social media, the content of private users competes with that of influencers, professional content creators and businesses.
  5. Content marketing is becoming mainstream: Content marketing success stories such as the YouTube series ”Will it blend” by Blendtec and the activities of Red Bull in sports have quickly become widely known. As of 2016, 83% of surveyed companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland reported that they use content marketing (Ligatus).
  6. COVID-19 has accelerated digitization: During the pandemic, social contacts increasingly shifted from the analogue to the digital world – an environment where content is publicly shared. The effects of digitization have outlasted the pandemic to some extent. In Germany, the percentage of employees working from home has risen from 4% to 15% (Hans Böckler Stiftung, July 2021).
  7. Artificial intelligence: Tools such as Jasper AI and ChatGPT can be used as digital editorial assistants. Midjourney and similar providers generate (almost) photo-realistic images using artificial intelligence. Although this saves human content creators time in the creation process, they have to factor in additional resources for reviewing and revising AI content. The extent to which artificial intelligence contributes to content shock is hard to say at this point.


Content shock is a real problem that can have a direct impact on the profitability of content marketing measures. This fundamentally calls content marketing into question.

The good news is that the problem can be overcome.

Here are some strategies to generate visibility despite content shock:

  1. Meeting the search intent: The team ”search intent” describes what the user wants to see when they enter a search term into Google. The search intent must be determined separately by means of a “search intent hierarchy analysis” for each keyword or each content piece for which the creator wants to generate visibility. The results of the analysis then need to be taken into account when creating the content. The time and effort involved are worthwhile since content that particularly matches the user’s search intent is rewarded with organic visibility by the Google algorithm.
  2. Demonstrating E-EAT: Many marketing experts identify “quality” as the solution to content shock but without defining what they mean by quality. In fact, Google Webmaster Guidelines are quite specific – they call for content that demonstrates the experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness of the author (E-EAT).
  3. Defining the niche: It is simply impossible and not credible to have in-depth expertise in every sector. In addition, clear positioning creates identity and raises expectations that the content can meet or exceed, thus inspiring the user. It is therefore important to focus on a precisely defined niche.
  4. Creating semantic content clusters: Good content should make the user want more. Informative content should not only meet the user’s immediate information needs, but also raise and answer further questions. Entertaining content should recommend similar content. For this to work, there must be a minimum amount of related, interlinked content – similar to a mind map.
  5. Understanding quality in 6 adjectives: Unique, relevant, complete, precise, up-to-date (or timeless) and easy-to-read – are the characteristics of good content (thank you, Alexander Rus).
Content: Quality in 6 adjectives

Criticism of the content shock model

Content shock is not a new phenomenon. It should come as no surprise that there is competition in content marketing for a finite amount of visibility.

Although the theoretical framework of content shock may seem compelling at first glance, it is slightly fanciful and unscientific: Classic economic models assume that all market participants are perfectly informed about everything at all times, so that supply and demand can form an equilibrium price without external influences.

The problem is that in a world without information asymmetry, the concept of “content” makes no sense, since content is a form of information transfer – which by definition cannot exist in this world. The basic assumptions of the model are therefore inherently contradictory.

It would be more contemporary to explain content shock with neoclassical economic models in which information is not perfectly distributed. But then, the simple supply and demand models no longer work in this form.

Content shock models one equilibrium price, which is also negative on the supplier side. Furthermore, content is assumed to be of just one and the same quality level. At the same time, though, quality is argued as the way out of content shock. Why, then, are the effects of quality not examined directly in the content shock model?


The compelling thing about content shock is that the model gives a name to a well-known phenomenon. There are also impressive facts and figures around this topic, which are well suited to storytelling and making an emotional sales pitch.

What is less compelling, though, is the non-methodical derivation of the model. In addition, the novelty character is low: It should come as no surprise that in any discipline of marketing, no matter how innovative, a competitive situation will arise within a very short time. Content marketing is no exception.

At svaerm, we see the concept of content shock as a valuable reminder: We and our clients are not alone in content marketing. We must stand out from the competition with intelligent concepts and good craftsmanship.

Our aim as a content marketing agency is to create content that is so compelling that it becomes organically visible and converts users into leads.

Contact for business

Are you planning a content marketing project and looking for an effective partner who stands out strongly from the competition in the age of “content shock”?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Please contact us by e-mail or via the contact form. After receiving initial details in writing, we’ll be happy to advise you via phone.


Maxim Bollig
Digital Marketing Manager
+49 (0)69 9494 5 919-1