The Internet has drastically changed people’s behavior, from their work duties to how they make purchases. Content plays a major role in these behavioral changes, as people now have access to an unending stream of information. Millions of content pieces are created every day, from online articles to social media posts. Understanding the behavioral and intellectual effects of content in the modern age requires taking a look at the way things were during the pre-Internet era.

Knowledge Accessibility before the Internet

The Internet existed in the 1980s, but it took over a decade before it started to come into its own. Educational content was available through encyclopedias, books, magazines, television shows, documentaries, classes, and schools. Content accessibility was difficult for several reasons, depending on the medium the piece was contained in. For example, academic papers were only accessible through professional groups, colleges, and expensive academic journals.

If a reader wondered about a different point of view for a content piece, it wasn’t easy to find additional perspectives. The library provided one potential avenue for research, but specialized topic areas could be difficult to find. Tracking down transcripts of workshops, videos on the subject or subject matter experts required a lot of mailing and calling to potentially get an answer. The reader may have had to wait months or years to hear back on any inquiries. Fact checking and expanding topic information proved to be quite difficult.

The Internet Content Bombardment

The Internet started taking off in the ’90s as computer equipment became more accessible and businesses began to create web presences. Websites were not always easy to find when the Internet started establishing itself, especially before search engines existed. Once Google and other search engines and web directories began cataloging the Internet though, information became much easier to find.

Today’s Internet has over one billion websites. Blogs, social network sites, and forums have millions of users generating an endless stream of content. Businesses use content marketing and other content-heavy strategies to attract audiences and customers. The sheer amount of content available has several effects on reader behavior and education.

Buyer Behavior Changes

One major change due to content accessibility is typical buyer behavior. Before the Internet, a business controlled most of the pre-sales content process. Buyers could reach out to colleagues, friends, and family for word-of-mouth recommendations, but all other information came directly from the business. Today, buyers have a wide range of resources to consult before reaching out to a company. They can look at business reviews online, find multiple content sources to double-check pre-sales information and have broad social networks available for finding out personal experiences with a product or service.

This information allows buyers to seek out unbiased perspectives on the business. In many cases, buyers have conducted significant research into the products and services they want to buy well before reaching out to a specific company. The business content has shifted from purely promotional content to more educational assets, intended to deliver value for customers who have many business choices. This shift also works out well for businesses, as they get better-educated buyers when they connect with the company. The amount of time the sales and support team spends with buyers is significantly decreased, and many buyers seek out self-help resources before involving the company. Quick and convenient support options lead to a better customer experience, and it’s made possible by content.

Always Available Connectivity

Extensive broadband Internet penetration and expanding mobile data networks provide always available Internet connectivity. Information is a click away at all time, which provides significant opportunities for intellectual development. Smartphones make it easy to read content throughout the day during short free moments standing in line, waiting in between tasks and other activities.

Another behavioral effect of so much content is higher expectations from readers. They don’t want any content thrown their way since they have so many options to choose from. Instead, they want high quality and valuable content that helps enrich their lives in some way.

Many new content formats are available in a digital format, which provides multiple ways to learn new information. Text, visual and step-by-step learning options are available in these formats. Video streaming sites have provided an especially useful resource for people who are visual learners and prefer to watch videos instead of reading through the text.

Effects of Content and Modern Disengagement

Content is more accessible today, but it also runs the risk of leading to completely disengaged people. When there’s so much content available, just a click away, people spend a lot of their time engaging with the content instead of each other. With smartphones becoming more prevalent and powerful, people also don’t have any time where they’re not instantly connected. Creating, sharing, and engaging with content becomes the focus instead of the real-life experience, as many people experience when they’re waiting to eat while their friends snap pictures of a meal to post on Facebook and Instagram. Balancing content accessibility with keeping people present and in the moment is a major cultural issue globally.

The change from content before the Internet compared to the Internet era is striking. People have access to a never-ending stream of information that provides more informed readers than ever before. However, the amount of content can work against it due to the ease of content publishing. High-quality content sources offer significant educational opportunities, but readers need to take the time to seek out accurate information. The cultural impact of mass quantities of content is also a puzzle that needs to be addressed before it leads to people living lives entirely through their smartphones.

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