Infographics – The Lindsay Lohan of Content?

10/04/2011

I’m sick of infographics. I’m sad about it too because I used to love them. I was excited about the potential for infographics to help us get more visual in the way we communicated messages and told stories. Sadly this isn’t the way it played out. We got beautiful graphics alright. Lovely ones. But somewhere along the way Infographics became all about the look and the story was forgotten. They’ve become the web version of shouting “Hey look a rainbow!!” and we look, even though we know most of the time it’s a trick and there isn’t a rainbow there at all.

I’m worried that Infographics are becoming the Lindsay Lohan of content – People still click on the links to see the sordid photos but they stopped paying to see her movies a long time ago.

Let’s look at an example. Last week I came across this one – The Best and Worst of Marketing (if you built this, I’m sorry for picking on you but this post needs an example and unfortunately, you’re it)

infographic best and worst marketing Infographics   The Lindsay Lohan of Content?
Infographic by Marketing Degree

 

Does it look great? Sure it does.

Now what’s it trying to tell us? It lists the “best undergraduate marketing colleges.” In terms of what, you might wonder? Most difficult to get into? Most CMO graduates? We’ll never know because in teeny font at the bottom we see the list of sources which include such specific references as www.businessinsider.com and the website for the University of Pennsylvania. I supposes that’s how they made #1.

Moving along we see a list of best and worst paying marketing jobs. The best ones are a couple of Chief Marketing whatever jobs and then there are 3 Director level titles. Where are the Vice Presidents? Obviously we’re underpaid.

Then we have the best and worst marketing campaigns, best and worst marketing slogans and worst marketing slogan translations. Like there is a way to actually measure or rank any of that.

What is the story this graphic is trying to tell me? That if I don’t go to the University of Texas I run the risk of writing a slogan that translates into “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate” in Spanish? I have no idea. The graphic is a set of random marketing tidbits (I can’t even call them facts or data points) prettied up by a graphics person for the sole purpose of getting me to the page. It worked – I’m here. I’m here and I’m baffled.

Has it educated me? No. Has it inspired me? No. Did it make me want to take any sort of action at all? Nope. What we have here is a hot mess of “data” that doesn’t tell a story.

We Can Do Better

Don’t be me wrong – I don’t think all Infographics are terrible. There are some great ones out there. I’ve mentioned Eloqua’s Content Grid here before and it’s a good example of one that’s really useful and informative. I’ve used it a handful of times in the past month when I’ve been trying to describe how different types of content is relevant to different prospects at different stages of a deal.

(totally random aside – I loved Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence. Here’s a post where he highlights the work of Megan Jaegerman from the New York Times that was done over a decade ago. Again, I wonder where we went wrong on this stuff)

But for every graphic like that I get a dozen like this, or this, or this.

When our content becomes the equivalent of tabloid journalism, I’m sure we can generate clicks and some short-term attention. We all like looking at interesting pictures. But great content needs to inform, educate, motivate, inspire or enrage. If our content can’t do that then we’re no better off than the scandal-prone starlet who’s embarrassing photos still fetch a fee but can’t land a movie role because the audience no longer pays to see her movies.

In marketing terms what I’m saying is this – it’s nice you can drive some traffic with those pretty pictures but I don’t believe you are driving any business.