Content marketing has been THE buzzword among brands and digital marketers for years now — isn’t it time for something else to come along and take its place?
It’s hard to believe that content marketing is just a fad that will one day become as outdated and useless as keyword stuffing, vanity metrics, and spamming. After all, companies and individuals are posting over 4.8 million blog articles daily¹. There are over 5 billion Google searches every day. And there are about 8 billion daily video views on Facebook alone².
People certainly don’t seem to be shying away from content. In fact, things like blog posts and video consumption are on the up and up, which bodes well for the future of content marketing.
But that could change at any moment, and there are a few telltale signs already out there that are worth mulling.
Content Marketing is Still Hot Stuff But…
Way back in 1996, in the early days of the internet, Bill Gates made a prediction: content would rule the web and be one of the biggest online revenue generators for businesses.
In his published article, Content is King, Gates knew that the future of the internet depended upon the content users generated. It was an economical option that allowed anyone with a computer and modem to publish anything they wanted.
Fast forward 22 years later, where content is still in high demand. Advances in digital technology since Gates’ essay has streamlined the content creation and publication processes. The invention of social media has increased the need for content to fill these channels and more channels continue to pop up and fuel the digital marketer’s career.
Could you imagine what the internet would look like without content marketing?
Facebook would be nothing more than user-generated status updates and family vacation photos. Emails would come from family and friends, not businesses or Nigerian princes. And Google could very well cease to exist.
Luckily, this isn’t our current situation. Content marketing is very much alive and thriving, with seemingly no end in sight.
But remember, Facebook was once composed strictly of college students. Google was once one of many many search engines (Lycos, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, or Netscape, anyone?). And keyword stuffing was once effective.
Looking back over the last 20 years, it’s obvious that content marketing hasn’t gone away — only the dynamics have been changed to preserve its effectiveness.
What Could Cause the Shift Away from Content Marketing?
Keep in mind that content marketing in its truest definition doesn’t just refer to digital channels. Before the internet invaded every home in America, content marketing looked much different: Michelin road maps and guidebooks, Jell-O recipe books, John Deer’s consumer magazine “The Furrow”, and soap operas (yes, the famed soap opera was a direct result of P&G’s idea of content marketing).
Content marketing exists because people need information. We’re living in the information age, which means the need for content has never been greater.
Still, there are a few factors that could cause a shift away from this tried-and-true outreach as we know it:
The Media Evolution
Video is enjoying its heyday, but as of right now articles haven’t been totally forgotten. However, as we all know, the preferred medium can always change. If you’re investing heavily in blog posts, and then suddenly video becomes the only choice of the majority of your audience, your blog posts may fail to generate any new value.
Sources like Wikipedia are heavily relied upon by users. They provide a central hub of information for seemingly everything people want to know. Moreover, they’ve already gained massive amounts of trust and don’t expect anything in return.
That’s a step forward for humankind but it can pose huge problems for marketers. Centralized content sources are high contenders in the web traffic war and that trend doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Competition for Visibility
The content just keeps coming, making it hard to sort out the good from the bad, the valuable from the worthless, and the relevant from the irrelevant. Check the stats listed in the intro: there is no end in site for content creation.
This overwhelming supply of content may eventually fatigue both marketers and consumers alike. There may come a time when both are screaming for something new.
For example, direct marketing took a hit when email and online marketing started growing. People were tired of sifting and sorting junk mail. Now, direct marketing is back in style because email has lost its luster for many. Content marketing may experience its own season where it just isn’t effective the way we’ve come to know it.
How You Can Plan for the Future
History continues to create itself. New technology continues to emerge. New video games, products, movies, and music will always need to be reviewed or sold. Google will continue to update its algorithms, and people will need to know what it means for them when that happens.
It’s safe to say that the internet will always rely on user-generated content. There will never be a time when content isn’t necessary. How and where we market this content in the next five or ten years, however, remains to be seen. Keeping your finger on the industry pulse is the only way to continue to win in content marketing because, as you likely know, the internet is ever-changing. Your content strategy needs to be agile if you want to keep up.
Will something eventually upset the content marketing apple cart? Only time will tell.