When I began thinking about writing this article on trends in Content Marketing, I wasn’t interested in just discussing fads. I was hoping to focus on changes in the industry which are here to stay. While some of the trends below are slowly becoming commonplace, others are just at the cusp of becoming the new norm. The author is not foolhardy to think that these are the only trends, but I do consider the below six to be at the forefront of Content Marketing in the coming years.
In a world excited about web banners, late 90s advertising online didn’t look very different from what we see right now. What’s changed though, is the meteoric success of advertising on Facebook, with due credit to its strategy on mobile. Facebook took the smallest screen and made it successful for results based advertising, thanks predominantly to Native Advertising.
In simple terms, any ad or sponsored content, which takes the ‘form’ of the main content on the site can be dubbed Native Advertising. In print they are called advertorials, but online they are referred to as Native Advertising. With BuzzFeed’s success, you’ll see more brands spend on this ‘form’ of advertising to distribute their content and to tell more immersive stories. Such has been the success of Native Advertising, that The New York Times now has a dedicated department fore creating Native Advertising content for brands and advertisers (see pic above).
In all this hullabaloo, let’s nit forget one of the earliest pioneers of Native Advertising in a large scale – Google. Contextual sponsored ads on Google.com quite early on took form of search results bringing them success, sometimes at the cost of Yahoo. Native Advertising is here to stay, and in the coming years, will be reason for most online businesses to turn profitable.
For quite sometime now, from a users’ point of view, content depiction has remained boring. The digital canvas has predominantly been used for showing content in the form print has for years, with just text and images – with the occasional Video or GIFs spruced in. There is so much more possible on digital though.
Slowly but steadily, publishers are looking at digital as a fresh new medium, and not something to adapt old form of content to. Editors and writers are working closely with their technology departments to create more immersive and interactive experiences for their stories. Whether it’s The Guardian (see pic above) or The New York Times, both have spent considerable time and money creating ‘Content Experiences’ for their special features. With lower bounce rates and more time spent, such experiential story-telling is proving to be successful too. Advertisers and brands will learn from its success and replicate the same for content on their websites.
If you tune into Facebook’s latest earnings call, while you’ll easily notice the triumphant jubilation of increased revenue; what may not be obvious is Facebook’s need to invest tremendous sums of money (a few billion dollars actually) in Ad Tech. A large part of this investment will be spent in building the technology required for more advanced programmatic buying. Some would argue that Yahoo is in its current predicament since they didn’t take this brave call earlier, and are now probably a few years behind. Simply put, anytime you buy an ad online, without the need to deal with an agent it can be called Programmatic Buying.
Imagine if we could buys ads on TV or Radio or Print using a simple online interface. This would have the ability to change advertising forever. With US just surpassing revenue from online / digital ‘TV viewership’ as opposed to terrestrial, it’s only time before more targeted advertising is possible on your favourite TV show. With more and more users streaming ‘TV’ content from services such as Hulu (see pic above) and Netflix, it’s only time before Programmatic Buying takes over the TV universe. Advertisers will now be able to better target sponsored content adapted to the TV show that the user is watching.
Results Driven (There’s No Such Thing As A Perfect Landing Page)
Call to Action on digital ads (usually activated upon click/tap) can broadly be divided into three categories: Click to View/Expand (Awareness), Click to Site/Landing Page (Consideration) and Click to Register / Buy (Conversion). Since ads mostly just incite interest, very little can come from directing the user to register or buy upon click (unless it’s retargeted and/or the brand trust is high). Most of the time, ads are driven to a landing page or to a specific section of a website.
Plenty of time has been spent is creating the perfect ‘landing page’, but the fact of the matter is, there isn’t one. When a combination of the ad creative and targeting take myriad forms, it’s important to make sure the landing page maintains the context of the conversation (or story) journey. This makes the concept of the perfect landing page defunct. Landing pages need to adapt not just in copy, but in layout and design as well. Advertisers will take a more results based approach to content on their website and landing pages, You’ll seem them spend more on data driven design as opposed to aesthetics driven design, when presenting content.
Most advertisers tend to create content focussing on moving the user down the purchase funnel (Awareness > Consideration > Purchase). They seldom try to showcase themselves as industry experts or invest in creating content for the industry as a whole. But for content marketing to really work, marketers need to think about Value Creation.
I couldn’t find a better example to explain Value Creation than what Buffer does. Buffer is a startup focussed on bringing a great Social Media Publishing Platform to its users. Their greatest traffic source though, has been the content on their blog. Here they create industry leading content and have discussion on topics related to Social Media, Open Culture, and Development & Engineering. They’ve been a great resource for social media executives, startup founders and for developers. Industry leaders often quote and.or share their content. Seldom do they talk about their product or its features. Almost always the content is focussed on industry as a whole and in showcasing themselves as thought leaders. Like Buffer, I see more and more advertisers truly create value with their content and storytelling.
Social Action (In Real Life)
Advertiser driven content marketing can only take us as far. I think the new realm in content marketing needs to be in creating new platforms for users to create content on your behalf. Such platforms will be utilised by users only if they see true social value not just for themselves but for the community as a whole.
The best example for true social value in the recent years has been America Express’ Small Business Saturday. AmEx beyond creating content and stories, worked towards establishing a long term platform for Social Action in real life. It’s not easy for advertisers to think in terms of (or justify) IRL Social Action, but market dynamics will force them to do so.
The write up is part of the DMA Annual Report ‘What’s Trending 2015‘.
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