Why Infographics Aren’t Dead
Unfortunately in the content marketing world, we are suckers for trends. Actually, I can correct that sentence – As human beings, we are suckers for trends. From Pokemon Cards, Cats Cradel and Pogs to Directory Submitters, Article Spinners and Link Farming. No matter on or offline we are all guilty of following trends.
This is why I forgive anyone who says that infographics are are a trend. It’s a natural way of life to mentally see something that works well or is popular, as an entity that will soon disappear or become irrelevant.
Before I talk in more detail about Infographics as a dying trend, I want to briefly bring your attention to the definition of a trend and more importantly the 2 different meanings.
1. A general direction in which something is developing or changing.
2. (of a topic) be the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time.
Definition 2 resonates with all us millennials and was overly popularised by twitter. It’s the concept that something happens, it’s awesome, everyone loves it, and then it dies.
Definition 1 seems a lot more mature. The general direction in which something is changing. There is no mention of disappearing or becoming unpopular but more focuses on the evolution of an entity.
Why SEO’s and Content Marketers are hooked on trends
Firstly it’s our job. We are very heavily focused on definition 2 – social trends, media trends, and fashion trends. We have our ears to the ground and our eyes on Twitter.
Secondly it was taught in to us when we started our careers. Link building has changed dramatically from when I was first doing my placement year at university as a humble and naive intern. From directory submitters to article spinners, we tried any way that worked to build links pointing back to our clients sites.
The way the Internet has evolved means things that worked 5 years ago, work no longer. This is why the idea of things living and dying as a trend sits so comfortably with us.
But should it? I mean are we just being too micro-focused when it comes to trends. Yes, Directory submitters are dead (RIP), but link building isn’t? right? Link building is still one of Google’s primary ranking factors judged by marketers. Companies still put millions of pounds behind it. The trend of link building isn’t dead it has just evolved.
So maybe infographics have evolved?
Many will argue the art of data visualisation has been around for thousands of years through cave paintings and hieroglyphics. This could very much be true, but for me the most prominent use of data visualisation in modern society (granted still 80 years ago) was Harry Beck’s Tube map. It is so strong and prominent it is not that unchanged today. For me this is the first use of something that visualises data in a way that is of use to the user and not to the creator. Is it geographically correct? No. Can a user understand it? Yes.
A little fact you may not know, Harry Beck actually sketched his diagram in his spare time. He was actually employed as a technical draftsman and while designing an electrical circuit diagram, came up with the concept of having a map based on electrical schematic rather than a geographic map.
The early day of the infographic on the web very much followed this structure. Infographics online were the creation of freelance designers and craftsman looking to find new ways for the general population to understand complex information.
I looked through this article on smashing magazine from 2008, which is a collation of recent infographics. One glaringly obvious thing missing from this article, is brands. Most of the creations are either created by independent design houses, small publications or freelancers.
This is not the same infographic era in which we are in now. The best analogy I’ve read is that in 2008 Infographics were at school. Now they’ve grown up and got a job.
Infographics Mirror Our Consumption of Information
As we have evolved with the Internet and mobile, the way we consume content has changed compared to 5 years ago.
Users are naturally becoming used to consuming content in a quicker manner, and it shows in the way publishers are adjusting to this. The Daily Mail has a great snapchat channel where you can consume news stories in the same way you would a snapchat. Yahoo are using a lot more image slideshows instead of full articles. Many “traditional” publications are now reporting on social content, by this I mean viral videos, Facebook posts and memes. I never thought I would catch the Telegraph reporting on “Can you find the Easter Egg Hidden Among These Bunnies”. But publishers are turning more and more to this content to engage with online users and yes, yes I did find the egg.
There are numerous cases where online publishers are using more and more pieces of “online only” content (videos, infographics, tools, calculators etc.).
But it’s not only the media who give us reason to create this type of content. Google has also had an influential hand in the evolution of the infographic. As Google combines helping sites become more user friendly, mobile friendly and of course clamps down on paid links, content is evolving from the written word.
Brands have had to become more active in keeping users engaged on their site and the long form written word is becoming more and more specialist. Long form text still and always will be necessary for explaining things in-depth but the way we are doing this is changing. There is a really interesting topic from inboung.org on when is best to use long-form content.
Although I have slightly digressed, it leads me on to my next point.
Everything is an Infographic
An infographic was originally a term specifically used to show data in a visual manor. However this has evolved and an ‘infographic’ now seems to mean taking any content and making it visually engaging. To try and not be subjective about this, the image below is categorised as an infographic on Design taxi – however it’s not actually visualising any hard data.
What most brands and agencies are talking about when they refer to infographics is a way of visualising content in an easy to consume format. Interestingly enough, based on that summary, an interactive infographic is just an interactive way of visualising content whether that be a tool, a calculator or a parallax-scrolling piece.
While I will happily debate with anyone whether infographics are dead or not, the only conclusion I personally can some to, is that the infographic has evolved into something much greater than it originally was.
As online users become more savvy and exposed to content they are continually looking for ways to consume information quickly and easily. Publications have taken the same approach in retaining a strong online readership.
Online marketers need to continue producing content that offers users knowledge in an easy to consume format (infographics) as both publishers and users are moving this way (traffic and links).
If you are looking to develop your content to gain additional traffic or acquire links from publications through coverage, get in touch with the team as we love to chat all things content!
Casey Paul, 29/04/2016