In the world of nutrition, what does a diet of constant snacking get you? How healthy is the end result of little snacks all the time, especially when the snacks are of dubious quality?

New Year, New Media Party

One of the most popular formats for writing content nowadays is the “snack-sized” content. 5 tips for this, 8 ideas for that, all in as few words as possible because attention spans are supposedly shorter. Twitter, of course, is the ultimate informational snacking tool, with everything compressed to 140 characters (a bit like those profoundly unhealthy 100 calorie snack packs).

These informational snacks are as profitable for content creators as the physical goods are for food manufacturers – and the health effects are about the same. Create less content, package it well, and sell it at a premium price in the attention economy. Coast on brand and reputation. Pack less nutrition, less quality, and less value in them, and as long as you’re selling what people think they want, you’ll do fine.

Want to see the difference? Take a look at your favorite bloggers of today and dig around in their archives. Look back before they were Internet famous and see if their content has changed. I’d bet you in a random sampling of 10 popular bloggers that you’d see some who have stayed the course of serving full, nutritious meals and others who have switched to snack packs almost exclusively.

How do you avoid falling into a snacking only mentality? As a content consumer, take some time (especially over the next month or so as you have some down time to celebrate holidays) to prioritize content creators based on the value they give you. Share and retweet the really good stuff liberally, because attention is the currency of the information economy. Just as it’s vital to support food manufacturers that are aligned with your values with your wallet, so it’s important to support content creators aligned with your values with your attention. The informational equivalent of a doctor telling you to stop snacking and eat properly or you’ll die of a heart attack is an employer who says that your knowledge isn’t valuable any more and lets you go.

As a content creator, acknowledge that while snack packs are great marketing and powerful short-term profit boosts, ultimately you need to provide longer-term benefit to your audience or they’ll mentally starve – or shop somewhere else. Every time you step up to your content creation toolkit, ask if you have the time and the will to create something of value, and if you don’t, step away and come back later when you do. You can absolutely create healthy 100 calorie snacks and you can absolutely create healthy informational snacks, but as with all things, quality takes time and effort.

Ultimately, you have to decide how much informational nutrition you need in your life. If you’re content to live on snacks, that’s fine – but don’t expect to be able to outperform a digital marathon runner. In an economy where job creation is still lackluster at best, you might find that an all snack diet lets everyone else beat you to the finish line.

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