Where the team behind MATTER write about writing about the future.

May 14, 2012 at 2:20pm

Why less is more

One of the core principles that underpin what we’re trying to do with MATTER is that less is more.

What do I mean? Well, all over the web, and all over the media in general, we’ve seen a gigantic, supernova-sized explosion of stuff. We joke about information overload, but it’s real: a while ago Google’s Eric Schmidt said that we now produce as much information in two days as we have managed in the previous 12,000 years of human history.

For publishers, that vastness has caused its own pressures. What do you do when the world is shouting a million times louder than ever before? The answer for many seems to be to shout back: publish more stories, about more things, and try and distribute them to more and more people.

But does that really make sense? There may be an apparently infinite supply of material; there is certainly not an infinite supply of attention. Being bigger and carrying more stories may not always be the best way to get that attention.

Less is More used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Flickr user othree

When we were trying to understand how MATTER might work, we quickly realized that it wasn’t just a case that we couldn’t publish big stories every day — it was that we wouldn’t.

We think that publishing a careful, discrete amount of stories is a strength, rather than a weakness, because it allows us to focus on doing the best possible job in all kinds of ways.

For example, we’ve done a lot of thinking about what happens when you aren’t trying to build an online publication that produces 5, 10, 50 or 100 stories per day. What stories become possible that weren’t before? What can you do that turns that lower frequency to your benefit? What can you do that everybody else struggles with? How can you promote the stories you produce? How can you talk about them?

We’ve learned a lot and listened a lot, and we think that less can most definitely be more. I’ll share some more on the ideas of how to make that happen in the next post.

Bobbie, MATTER co-founder