Content marketing has seen its ups and downs since its renewed popularity as an online marketing strategy over the course of the last few years. What was once a market dominated by whichever website could produce the highest volume of quality written content has evolved into a market where your connections, your format diversity, and your ability to connect with an audience across multiple mediums all help determine your success and ROI.
Today’s content marketers have to analyze subjective situations and adapt to new technologies at a faster rate than ever before, but it’s only going to get more complex from here. Content marketing is going to go through some serious changes in the coming year, and if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you’ll have to prepare for them.
1. Aggregated content will put content marketing in the hands of users. What’s the best way to learn about public opinion? A large-scale survey, which takes bits of information from thousands of individuals to illustrate a broader picture. In 2016, this principle will be applied to content; complex software will be able to take blips of information from millions of social profiles and piece them together to form a coherent story. For example, Twitter’s new Project Lightning feature will collect images, videos, and posts from users to create stories and individual features on news and other special events as they unfold. This may threaten content marketing’s reach in the area of news coverage, but could hold promising alternative opportunities for publication.
2. Algorithms will threaten freelancers everywhere.According to some estimates, by now you’ve read at least one article that was written by a robotic algorithm—and you didn’t even notice. Today, journalistic algorithms are capable of producing articles about simple topics (like sports and weather). Soon, they’ll be capable of much more sophisticated tasks. While freelancers and part-timers have been the cost-effective go-to for the production of day-to-day content, in 2016, they could start being replaced by automated algorithms. Complex topics will require a human hand—at least for a few more years—but expect to see algorithms make a splash by the end of next year.
3. Google’s Knowledge Graph and instant answers will necessitate a shift toward long-form content. Although Google’s Knowledge Graph has been around since 2012, it’s only recently that the vault has evolved into something truly impressive. It now appears for the vast majority of long-tail search queries, providing users with instant answers and information to common questions. Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana are attempting something similar. This sophisticated form of answer provision is removing the need to click any websites in the search results, reducing traffic to the traditional web pages that used to be their destination. In short, traffic to web pages that provide quick answers is starting to diminish, which will force content marketers to seek refuge in more complicated and more difficult topics.
4. Social media will offer new publishing options. Facebook started this trend when it introduced “Instant Articles.” Basically, Facebook realized that articles shared on its platform were often getting more visibility and more hits than the articles on their native publishing sites themselves. To resolve this dissonance, Instant Articles were intended to give publishers an alternative option; publish the articles immediately on the platform. Google is now introducing its own version, so expect to see this new type of publishing spread to a wide variety of other social and digital mediums.
5. Content will demand more visual mediums. There are several reasons why visual content will continue to become more important. Wireless connections and Internet speeds continue to increase, giving people more capacity to access images and videos even while on the go. The written content market continues to become more saturated, leaving users with a higher demand for more visual forms of content. And users are becoming increasingly impatient, needing faster and more instant forms of communication. The end result is a much higher demand for videos and other visual forms of content well into 2016.
6. Interactive content will emerge. With custom newsfeeds and tailored search results, users are already starting to grow accustomed to individualized results in the digital world. Soon, this will be applied to content, as users demand content that shifts or responds to user prompts. The unveiling of Oculus Rift (along with dozens of other virtual reality headsets) in 2016 could serve as the spark that finally introduces customizability and interactivity as a practical medium for content. Either way, expect to see the demand for individually tailored content grow.
7. Competition will skyrocket. The content market is borderline saturated already, but competition is only going to increase into 2016. Algorithms, new formats, and new technologies are making it easier and cheaper for businesses to get involved in content marketing. The end result is going to be a flooded market, with only the best of the best getting any kind of meaningful visibility. In 2016, more than ever before, quality of content will matter over quantity, and only the best will survive.
These seven trends mark the beginning of a new era for content marketing. Some, like Google’s Knowledge Graph and instant answers, threaten the groundwork of content marketing in general, while others, like algorithmically generated content, can be adapted to and taken advantage of. Look sharp for all these developments, make changes where you can, and enjoy the ride into 2016.