All posts in “Brandon Oliver Smith”

Cutting through the noise


Brandon Oliver Smith is Research and Insights Analyst  at Social Media Group.

This past February, a meeting of digitally minded people took place in 12 cities across the globe. The goal was to discuss emerging trends in social and mobile media. The meetings, called Social Media Week, featured an event hosted by SMG at our Richmond St office in Toronto. Here I spoke about content, and cutting through the noise in the digital age. This topic was inspired by my background in independent music and arts.

While in Junior High, Grunge music was huge. At the time, it seemed like every one in my class was wearing flannel shirts, listing to Nirvana and like any 13 year old, I desperately wanted to fit in. The only thing was, I never really liked Grunge. In fact, at the time I was secretly infatuated with early electronic music emanating from inner city Chicago and Detroit, a sound considered “weird” by the majority of my classmates.

The day I decided to follow my own tastes rather than those of the crowd is still a memorable one. I was put on a path to seek out new and interesting forms of expression. To accomplish this, I had to adopt a type of pseudo investigative journalism that involved a considerable amount of “crate digging”, zine reading and word-of-mouth from other like-minded fans.

As Internet technology evolved, the challenge of finding enough new content to satisfy my thirst became much easier. Hanging out in record stores was replaced by all-you-can-eat file sharing services and online music stores with hyperlinks that begged for discovery. Zines were replaced by blogs curated by taste-makers and trendsetters and with the rise of social networks, connecting with likeminded others was faster and more scalable than ever before. Web technology made it not only easier to find new content, but advances in affordable technology created an environment where the tools required to produce content were increasingly available to everyone.

Undoubtedly, advances in technology have transformed the way we both create and consume content. I always thought of these advances to be steps in a positive direction, until I started becoming overwhelmed with the sheer volume of content available. To make matters worse, not only was there an ungodly amount of content waiting to be consumed, the signal to noise ratio of great to filler began trending in a concerning direction.

The irony here is that after all of these advances in technology, the fundamentals rules of how trends and ideas spread have not changed. We’re now in a position to create and consume a seemingly infinite amount of content, but to uncover unique gems, we still have to roll up our sleeves and dig in the (proverbial) crates.