The Edison Cycle and Garbage Content

Updated: Sep 24, 2018

Garbage belongs in landfills, not in your content.

By Amy Sorter

We recently spent time at the “Everything: Content & Social 2018” conference. We obtained insights on topics ranging from more effective content development, to cool technology used to spread that content.

The good news about that “cool technology” is it’s giving companies tools to slice and dice information to target audiences. The bad news is much of that sliced-and-diced content is garbage.

In one session, Contently’s Joe Lazauskas clarified garbage content by discussing movies. In the early 20th century, Thomas Edison released one of the first moving pictures, “New York City Dumping Wharf.” Spoiler alert: The film was about trash being loaded onto a barge. People buzzed about it, not because a movie about garbage was particularly riveting. Rather, the fascination was on the moving picture. The medium was the attraction, while the content was secondary.

As audiences got used to moving pictures, garbage barges lost their appeal. Better content was needed, which led to longer films and stronger plots. Whether today’s movies are garbage or not is a matter of opinion, but there isn’t much doubt that technology continues pushing boundaries.

Anyway, Lazauskas called the technology/content relationship the Edison Cycle, explained as follows.

1) When technology is new (moving pictures, the internet or Facebook), content is secondary – it can stink, and people won’t care.

2) After the novelty wears off, people want better content. If content is garbage, people stop reading and engaging with it.

So, how do you decrease garbage content? By asking the following.

1) Who is your audience? One of the first things we ask a client is the target audience’s characteristics. How much does the audience understand about a topic? How familiar is the audience with the company? Audience intelligence is essential for crafting compelling content.

2) What is the content goal? This is another question we ask. What’s surprising is that some haven’t thought about it. But lead-generation content will be different from copy geared to conveying information.

3) What is the distribution medium? Even if the answer is “social media,” the next question should be: what kind? Content distribution through Instagram will differ from copy prepared for LinkedIn; Facebook content needs to differ from that issued through Twitter.

No matter your content distribution method, with a little effort, you can break the Edison Cycle. When you break that cycle, your content resonates with your audiences and encourages engagement.

For help with your content strategy, give us a call at 214-536-5457 or contact us via email – or

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