It’s finally Q4, so I’m going to call it now: 2014 will be the year the infographic finally dies. I have nothing against infographics as a fun learning tool, and I actually quite enjoy viewing them. But they’ve grown tired, and lately I’ve heard a handful of important people cautioning against them. Producing infographics is not only expensive, but the strategy behind them is often flawed. The social sharing of infographics is typically what justifies its cost, but what happens if your content doesn’t go viral? What happens with readers are just plain bored with a static piece of content?
The C Suite Doesn’t Care About Your Infographic
Last month when I was at TrackMaven’s Competitive Summit, keynote Speaker Joe Payne cleverly mocked modern marketers who put way too much value on extras like infographics, and other things that the C suite simply doesn’t care about. He warned the room full of digital marketers not to be “court jesters;” aka the idiot running into the conference room shouting about how your infographic is bound to go viral, or that the CEO of an important company retweeted you. Though the marketing industry lends itself to our jobs being fun and creative, we still have higher ups to report to, and beyond that, at the end of the day our job is to scale a company’s growth through our efforts. We can’t forget that.
Sure, Infographics Help Us Retain Information…
Okay, back to infographics. The sheer volume of content that lives and continues to be born online, combined with mass amounts of data that’s now being collected has led content producers to use infographics as a means of breaking down large data sets and study results into bits and pieces that are easy to understand. Charts, graphs, diagrams and proportions are quite easy to read, and it’s even been proven that viewers retain facts seen in infographics better than long-tail paragraphs. So once a bunch of infographic early adopters began to produce the compelling visuals, readers latched on, shared them all over the social web; and thus the terms “viral” and “infographic” went hand in hand. The infographic bandwagon had been built, and every digital marketing professional was hopping right on.
…But Hoping for Virality Doesn’t Justify Their Cost
But see, that’s the problem with popular tools, once everyone tries to create them — and quickly — the importance shifts from quality to quantity, and with a high quantity they’re not as fun anymore. Too, with a market demand set, the price of producing high quality infographics shot straight up. In startup land, I’m willing to bet the majority of marketing departments would not be happy spending limited budgets on something like an infographic, where the hope is that the social shares will justify the cost. Hope is never a good strategy.
The Web Isn’t Static; Your Visual Content Shouldn’t Be Either
To review: ubiquity + high cost = no good. Let’s take a collective deep breath and as we exhale, let go of infographics and realizes that there are better, more useful tools out there. I’m not now and I never will deny that visual supplements are very important in a content marketing strategy, but the web has changed and continues to do so. Shouldn’t our content mirror these changes? Every day we’re seeing cool, new mediums on the internet and this makes me believe that the static nature of infographics is outdated. There’s nothing to click or hover over, nothing to engage with. If we keep harping on engagement as a key measurement, shouldn’t we be offering our audiences content they can literally engage with? I recently read Complex Magazine’s feature on rapper Danny Brown and was blown away by the innovative way they presented his story (warning: Danny Brown is no goody two shoes, there’s strong material in that article). Or there’s this article in the New York Times that has interactive animations demonstrating the difference in cost of asthma medications in the US and in Europe. That’s so much better than a graph!
Let 2014 Be The Year of Innovative Visual Content
At the beginning of the year, Venture Beat wrote that we should start to switch from infographics to webgraphics. It’s October and we’re just now starting to be introduced to graphics that are actually interactive. I’m glad to finally see this shift, I just hope that other marketers can see the value of offering content that matches the pace and fluidity of the web itself.
As content producers start to realize there are better ways to present visual supplements, consumers too are beginning to realize that they crave more than just an image, even if it is a super cool infographic. With the release of articles like those seen in Complex and NYT, I’m hoping that we’ll begin to see more unique ways to offer up information.