Deep Content vs. Shallow Content

A few times a year I read non-fiction books, most of the time I put them away before getting to the last page. I recently read Deep Work from Cal Newport and it hit a nerve with me. The book is about how to get into the state of deep focused work, the type of work at which you get something done of importance instead of being big on social media or in meetings. The book made me implement a few changes in my daily routines and made me think about how to take the learnings of the book and apply it to content.

The book is about deep work and how to avoid shallow work. Let’s take a quick look of how I understand the two work types.

Deep work

The state in which you get focused and totally lost in a task, your research, your writing, your creative routine that you forget time and get your head down for hours and suddenly look up and you are amazed of what you have gotten done. That is the aspiration and can’t happen daily, but by implementing routines and shutting yourself off from most annoyances, at your most productive time you will be able to have a few of these deep work sessions each week.

Shallow Work

All things that do not directly pay into fulfilling your career or your long term goal. Tasks that are necessary but are not of importance, like calendaring, emailing or activities on social media.

Not every job requires deep work – there are roles that require doing lots of shallow work. Think of a project manager heading a large team: your calendar is maybe full of 20 minute slices for doing calls, meetings, calendaring, communicating etc.

Cal Newport proposes planning time for shallow work, and best only after you had done (or at least tried) to get something done in a state of deep work.

Let’s apply this concept to content marketing.

Deep Content

All types of content that

  • Takes time to create (more than 2 hours)
  • Needs research or learning in advance to be able to produce it (indefinite hours)
  • Is hosted on your own domain, your CMS, etc. or a platform meant to host deep content (i.e. Medium for text, Soundcloud for podcasts)
  • Is content that you want to be associated your name or brand with
  • Is bringing in both traffic via social media and search engine, but much more relevant on the long run (as chances are higher that your content stays relevant for a longer period of time compared to social media updates)
  • Likely created in low frequency

Shallow Content

Content that is

  • Created quickly
  • Or created by someone else and only shared by you
  • Probably hosted on a 3rd party platform
  • You are not worried about if it’s get lost
  • Building short term traffic
  • Could be created in high frequency (multiple times a day, ie. Twitter)


As a Content Creator you are likely facing the challenge that you have to create both shallow and deep content each week. Navigating that task needs careful planning and knowing your inner workings, like

  • What type of content needs deep work and
  • When are you the most productive and likely can get it done
  • When you able to shut yourself off the most annoyances
  • Which routines can you implement to make that happen weekly a few times
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