Is Information Becoming Commoditized ?

The internet is like the universe creating big bang theory for information. An explosion of data traveling outward from the starting point, spreading and growing over time and space. The addition of the smart phone put internet in the hands of billions of people, compounding the information growth rate. In 2016 we entered the Zettabyte Era.

A zettabyte, is a unit of measurement and was coined by Cisco Systems to quantify the information flow within the global internet ecosystem. It’s a concept so large that it’s meaning is virtually inconceivable to the human mind. Suffice it to say, it’s a method for measuring the amount of data transacted online on Earth in 2016.

That was 2016. Since then, the size and scope of the information we create and transact in has continued to grow. 73% of the data transacted in 2016 was video data.

Now imagine the growth that will transpire as VR becomes a mainstream technology.

We’re experiencing such growth in information that it’s impossible for any individual to sort through alone. You can’t possibly have exposure to every piece of information that is available. There aren’t enough hours in the day and years in life for an individual to experience it all. Nor would a person’s attention span permit that anyway.

Because information has grown and continues to do so at such a fantastic rate, it gives rise to a question. Is our limited attention span and the increasing amount of information in the world causing information to become commoditized?

At a macro level, the answer is most definitely yes. Information at a global scale is losing value. But as we get down to a micro level, focusing on niche topics, the answer is actually no. How we filter information determines whether or not it has value. It’s an interesting change to how we operate in the information age.

Let’s use books as an example. Self publishing is growing at a rate of 40% a year and combined with traditionally published books, there were nearly 1.4 million new books published in 2019. From a purely high level view, their can be no doubt that books have become commoditized.

But, as we drill down to specific topics the picture gets blurred. The science fiction market is a subset of the broader book market but is still commoditized. Hard Science Fiction less so. Hard science fiction about surviving a viral pandemic 50 years from now is even less so.

So what exactly is the point? Understanding that information is commoditized at a high level but becomes valuable when filtered for specificity is critical for creating product differentiation in the Information Age. The more specific information is, the more differentiated it is and the easier it is to be found by interested individuals. Put another way, how we filter information is what ultimately creates it’s value.

We make valuable information products by creating new, unique, and specific subsets or categories of information. Taking a something for everyone approach. This is a key to building digital businesses in the Information Age.

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