Content

Ideas that work in content: scale

by on 4th September 2015

Trying to understand what makes great content is a fascinating thought process. Why does a piece of content “work”, when another does not?

Ideas That Work in Content: Scale

For several months, I’ve been collecting different types of content that touch on similar themes. My first theme is studying the idea of scale. People like to know how big (or small) things are, in a simple and easy to digest visual format.

I first started thinking about this idea when I noticed that a video of Earth’s place in the Milky Way had received 22,000,000 views. As it turned out, people really like to know how big space is.

moonpixel2

Josh Worth’s Tediously Accurate Map of the Solar System, and many other examples like Gigapixels of Andromeda, this amazing “Flight Through the Universe“, by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and my favourite (forgive the cheesy music!) this Star Size Comparison in HD can be found all over the place.

When you start looking, you realise that examples that use basic visual concepts to help understand scale are everywhere, and they get popular.

Your Life in Weeks by Tim Urban on Wait But Why (30,000+ shares)

Your Life in Weeks by Tim Urban on Wait But Why (30,000+ shares)

Germany gets 27 Syrian asylum applications for every one to the UK - Guardian (614 comments)

Germany gets 27 Syrian asylum applications for every one to the UK – Guardian (614 comments)

Why Do Examples of Content that Portray Scale Work So Well?

To quote my colleague, Liam, “it’s a question of relatability”. Things like the distances to planets work on scales so huge that they’re impossible to comprehend in a common sense.

Once you break an idea down into something smaller, people can actually make sense of it and get their heads around the numbers involved.

People always measure the world in comparison with themselves, but you can’t do that with stuff beyond a certain size. Simply put; you’re putting something difficult to understand into a context that can be understood.

I would argue that the sweet spot can be found in simplicity; the easier you make it for the reader to consume a single idea quickly, you’re on to a potential win. Obviously there’s more to the process than just this: your story needs to be compelling. It needs to be made to stick.

Read Made to Stick

As part of the work I’m doing at the moment, I’ve been enjoying the Heath Brothers “Made to Stick”. There are always lessons to take away from their SUCCESs model. In the case of our examples above, they all score well on simplicity, concreteness, credibility and as stories. 4 out of 6 isn’t bad at all:

mts-made-to-stick-model-1024x791

People like to know how big (or small) things are, in a simple and easy to digest visual format. If you can find a credible idea that can be communicated simply, you may do very well. Often we attempt to embrace many different ideas in the content we produce; next time try boiling your ideas down to the most important points and come up with a simple way to compare them to another idea that everyone will be familiar with.

Responses

  1. Great book, and yeah, scale is cool! This is another nice example I found ages ago: http://laughingsquid.com/shark-attack-infographic-shows-the-staggering-number-of-sharks-killed-by-humans-every-year.

  2. Hi Richard,
    Re: Why Do Examples of Content that Portray Scale Work So Well?
    Simplicity is part of the reason – but if we dig a little deeper we find that humans like the feeling of epiphany,
    to “see the world in a new light”.
    Epiphany is one of the factors behind a lot of social sharing.
    “Scale” is just one of the ways that epiphany can be manifested.
    Many thanks for allowing me to comment.
    Ciaran

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