Content marketing is big business and predicted to get even bigger in the months and years ahead. While "content farms" drove content development for some time, consumers are becoming more discerning and more demanding about the information they consume. Readers have become attuned to and weary of content that amounts to "dreck," says Rachel Parker, founder and CEO of Resonance Content Marketing in Houston. "It's not that audiences are becoming more demanding," she says; "it's that they're on to the practice of buying dreck from content farms, slapping it into a blog post and expecting your audience to thank you for it."
The demand for higher quality in content is definitely on the rise, agrees J.P. Medved, head of content marketing with Capterra, a firm that helps businesses find software solutions, based in Arlington, Va. "Content farms are absolutely going to phase out as people become more discerning and look for real, quality content.
"I think the days where you could pound out a 500 word opinion piece based on 20 minutes of Googling similar pieces and see conversions from it are long gone," says Medved. In addition to discerning consumers, search engines like Google are also becoming more selective in terms of the criteria used to identify high quality content that allows organizations to rank well-a key to getting in front of 21st century consumers.
So where will content come from? Jake Athey is marketing manager for Widen Enterprises, Inc., a digital asset management provider based in Madison, Wis. In 2014, says Athey, content will come from a wide range of sources, including:
- Customer/user-generated content via mobile devices and social media
- Analysis of big data and data visualization
- Video capture via mobile devices and "low budget," or short form video
- Capturing the ideas and experience of subject matter experts
Importantly, he notes, consumer quality expectations are high and biased against anything that screams promotion. "Content providers must help and not hype," he says. "The same rules of content marketing apply as they have for years-be informational or entertaining versus promotional."
The authenticity that consumers are demanding from content can often be provided directly from their peers-other consumers whose user-generated content is increasingly being looked to as a rich source of input.
User-generated content (UGC) is becoming increasingly popular as evidenced through some recent big-brand campaigns like #30yearsbold from Kenneth Cole. Others are following suit providing a forum for consumer comments and participation, and a steady stream of content that can be repurposed in multiple ways.
Sara Flick, director of content strategy and PR with ZOG Digital, a digital marketing company in Scottsdale, Ariz., says that this shift will mean that those publishing the content will need to rely more on "relationship building in the digital space." Using brand advocates and influencers on various social channels will be key, she says. "By encouraging loyal consumers to share their thoughts and providing incentives for them to do so-such as social media contests, giveaways, etc.-companies can facilitate the discussion and promote positive consumer feedback."
A Return to Traditional Journalists
Traditional journalists and professional writers may be big winners in this new, more discerning era, many predict. "Clients and content providers are paying more attention to the provenance of content," says Nick Whitmore, managing director at ContentWriting.org, in the U.K. "That means they'd rather hire an individual for their content creation requirements over a large content mill or large company," he says. "Clients and consumers want personality in their content-not just words."
Scott Hutcheson, director of content at Paramore Digital in Nashville predicts a trend in what he calls "cross-hiring": hiring brand journalists (those with traditional journalism/reporting backgrounds) away from traditional media outlets to work directly for brands. "This will continue to blur the lines between news/journalism, content marketing and advertising," he says.
The future looks bright for content providers that can create quality content, in a variety of forms (e.g. print, video and visual) to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for more relevant, more real-time and more reliable content.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)