The true extent of information overload

For anyone in the communications game the biggest issue right now is message cut-through, due to the sheer volume of information being flung at the average human being every day.

We talk about information overload, but occasionally you come across evidence of the trend that just stops you in your tracks and provides insight into just how big a challenge it has become.

A book worth reading, especially if you love business trends, is Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.  It is all a bit mind blowing to be honest.

Consider, for example, the fact that Facebook gets 10 million new photos uploaded every hour.  (Yep, that’s hour not day or week).  Or that users of You Tube upload over an hour of video every second.

The figures that leapt out of the page for me quote the work of Martin Hilbert from the University of Southern California's Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism. Hilbert has been trying to put an actual figure on the amount of information that now exists in the world.  Obviously the figure is galloping ahead constantly but going back in digital history to 2007 he has worked out there were 300 exabytes of stored data.  An exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes or the rough equivalent of a billion full length feature films. In 2012 the total amount of stored information worldwide was four times bigger at 1200 exabytes.

Reading figures like this makes me almost want to go and crawl into a corner.  Surely, one little communicator like me can't compete?  But that's when I remind myself that communications is just the means to an end and as always the focus needs to stay on what really matters. What PR practitioners and marketers should be doing everyday is focusing on making genuine connections and building relationships.  The rest is just noise.