By Maribeth Neelis

The Stream, described in detail by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, has been the organizing metaphor of the internet since 2009. Think about how a blog is structured. Content is placed in reverse chronological order—newest is at the top, and recency is rewarded by the search engines. That is The Stream, and like a flowing waterway, The Stream is never ending.

In an internet where the content is infinite, The Stream offered order.  But, for some, the flood of content to our inboxes, Facebook and Twitter feeds and news aggregators has become a bit of a burden. And it is not slowing down; the indexed web now has 1.66 billion pages.

But Madrigal suggests a change is on the horizon, that the internet may be in a period of flux, beginning to rebalance and start making more durable things.

He sites some big product and service ideas from 2013 that suggest a shift.
  • The emergence of SnapChat, an ephemeral photo sharing app
  • The launch of Medium, a site designed around collections of work
  • The popularity of Reddit, which he describes as more like a hive than a stream
  • The rise of paywalls by newspapers and magazines that are, in essence, removing themselves from The Stream, at least for non-subscribers
  • The viral successes, Upworthy, ViralNova, TwentyTwoWords, FaithIt, that take advantage of the structure of the stream, creating idealized stories with a beginning, middle and end
  • The changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm that have started giving more attention to older, better performing posts
Several other trends have emerged. Some attempt to manage or counter the effects of The Stream; others are departing from the model altogether, attempting to create something evergreen and valuable, rather than churn out content.

The Longform Renaissance
With the advent and proliferation of smartphones, tablets and readers, longfrom, narrative journalism, the kind that takes 10,000 plus words to unfold, appears to be making a comeback. Last October, Pew Research Center found that 73 percent of tablet owners access longform content either regularly or sometimes; 19 percent do so each day. Meanwhile, prominent newspapers, like New York Times, and newer outfits, like Atavist and Narratively are pairing compelling narrative with multimedia embellishments. (Seriously, check this out!)

Simplicity Reigns
The sheer amount of content available is overwhelming. So it stands to reason that consumers are putting a higher value on simplicity. Whether it’s your website, social media presence, or brand messaging, simpler is better.

As an article by Forbes explained: “There is a sense that from the hyper-connectivity of our highly-digitized lives to the bright, flashy, complicated sensory input we’re fed everyday, there is no way to continue at this pace. As a result, 2013 is likely to be a year where the most successful marketing strategies will be ones that are not only simple in nature, but promote goods and services that serve to simplify the consumer’s life, or even just their customer experience.”

Like this VIP fridge magnet from Dubai's Red Tomato Pizza that allows customers to order a pizza with the touch of a button.

Image-Centric Content
Many marketers are standing out with image and video content that is quickly and easily digestible. Social media sites, like Buzzfeed and Pinterest, have seen success by adopting this model from the beginning. And successful blog posts with the most social shares usually incorporate some visual element.

Free People on Pinterest

The Diversification of Social Media
With more and varied content, it makes sense that new social media will arise to organize and share it. Most marketers focus their energy on Facebook and Twitter, a solid strategy. But as different sites (Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr) gain popularity, it’s worthwhile to diversify your social media efforts and produce content in a variety of forms, depending on which network best fits your business.

What other trends have you noticed out there?