Axe body spray, once the embodiment of inane advertising,recently made a tectonic shift in its branding when it launched its “Make Love, Not War” Super bowl spot with a surprisingly poignant message and conspicuous lack of sleaziness.
Why the switch? Because we are in the midst of a meaningful content movement. From both the creative and technological side, modern media is undergoing a paradigm shift away from vapidity and towards to deeper meaning. This fundamental shift is no more apparent than on the Internet.
In an age where anyone with a phone can be a filmmaker and anyone with a keyboard can be a journalist, it is often difficult to wade through the clutter of content on the web. To combat the endless sound bites and click-bait that plagues the modern Internet, the meaningful content movement has arisen to ensure valuable content doesn’t go unseen. The movement’s evidence is all around us.
Facebook just rejiggered its newsfeed algorithm to favor news over banal statuses, and longer form storytelling platforms like Medium and Vice are gaining more traction (and funding) by the day. But before the movement goes viral, let’s take a minute to explore how we deem something meaningful.
Although the term meaningful is inherently subjective, there are undoubtedly some aspects of meaning that are common across all digital content worth sharing. In an attempt to make sense of the movement, my company Sharethrough, a San Francisco based software company, created four fundamental pillars of meaning.
Meaningful content provides a way for people to connect to a subject that matters to them. For example, this recent exposé on Slate about the isolated world of smokers is meaningful because it allows any reader, smokers and non-smokers alike, to connect to an underexposed snapshot of society.
Meaningful content introduces new and original ideas. The novelist Teju Cole epitomized originality by creating an entire short story solely using retweets on Twitter. Quilting together a story by chronologically retweeting his followers, Cole was able to create a sum greater than the individual parts. The project unifies the disparate voices of the social network to create content that is meaningful both in its humanity and in its innovation.
Meaningful content shows new uses of media and helps mediums evolve. Digital media affords publishers the ability to tell stories that embrace the opportunities of the modern Internet. New media formats, like the acclaimed Snow Fall piece from the New York Times, combine technology, words, and images to create engaging and immersive storytelling experiences.
4. Depth of engagement.
Meaningful content causes the viewer to engage with and reflect on the content being presented. A prime example of this is the Killing Kennedy story platform from National Geographic. The microsite uses video, audio, and quotes to tell a high school history curriculum’s worth of information in a single interactive piece. Each sleek transition keeps the reader thirsting for more content and by the end of the article one can walk away with a holistic understanding of the event being presented.
Although connection, originality, advancement, and depth are sufficiently broad terms, I posit that every piece of content that we deem meaningful delivers on at least more than one of these four tenets. The wealth of meaningful content on the Internet is proving that there no longer needs to be a distinction between the important and the entertaining. Now it is just up to the Internet’s gatekeepers to curate meaningful content to fuel our hunger for an idea worth sharing.
—Dan Greenberg is the co-founder and CEO of Sharethrough, the largest in-feed advertising exchange. Sharethrough is a software company that powers in-feed ads for premium publishers and enables marketers to distribute branded content at scale. Greenberg was recently named to the Forbes "30 Under 30" list and has been honored as an Ad Age Media Maven.