What’s in store for content marketing next year? Juliet Stott compiles the thoughts of content marketing experts who see brands becoming publishers and using more grown-up metrics -- among other things. Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Jay Baer and others weigh in on what to expect in 2014.
2013 saw content marketing, despite being around in many guises for many decades, entrench itself as a discipline in its own right and become part of the holy trinity of media spend. 2014 will be the year that brands race to embrace their newfound roles as publishers – thus recruiting writers, journalists and editors to oversee and produce quality content.
Marketers will lose their planning peaks and have to adapt to operate in a continual flow of content creation. Social media, the butterfly of the content marketing world, will be harnessed by brands to greater effect as we see more grown-up metrics in place.
There will be a continued emphasis on the online customer journey and an increase in personalized content. Marketers will have to work hard to convince their C-level decision makers that customers aren’t interested in reading how great their products are – they want more about how brands can help them to become healthier, richer or happier in life.
Here, our panel of content marketing experts from the United States and Britain look ahead to the trends that will shape our practice in the coming year. Get your notepad ready ...
Joe Pulizzi: Founder, Content Marketing Institute and author of Epic Content Marketing
In 2014, at least two major brands will buy well known and established media companies. This will spur a trend of "build it or buy it" from a slew of businesses looking for established content brands and engaged audiences to tap into. Also, in a trend that will go almost unnoticed, headquarter companies in major cities around the world will band together and start to buy print newspapers, partly as a distribution vehicle and partly to support the local city they are headquartered in. And finally, two dot-com companies, possibly Facebook among the two, will launch a print magazine targeting their best advertisers and supporters.
Claire Hill: Managing Director, the British Content Marketing Association
The repeated adage that “brands need to become publishers” will be recognized in 2014. This means brands will need to invest in producing quality content. Marketers will be expected to create high quality consistent narrative and branded content. Marketers will move away from planning traditional campaign “peaks” and move into producing a continual content marketing campaign strategy. The customer journey will be monitored more effectively and more marketers will start to measure social media and not just count it.
Joe Chernov: VP of Content for HubSpot
I think we're beginning to experience what consultants, authors and speakers have long promised: brands are finally becoming publishers. This new reality is producing a massive "content discovery" challenge for marketers. As the number of publishers increase exponentially (literally), so too does the amount of noise marketers need to rise above. I think in 2014, we'll see forward-thinking marketers expand their attention from content creation only, to content creation plus distribution and amplification solutions. It'll be the year a true "content marketing platform" emerges.
Andrew Hirsch: CEO, John Brown Media – winner of 3 of the British 2013 Content Marketing Awards
We’re going to see a lot more editorial content on digital platforms – particularly transactional websites that currently only have the price and product. One of the best companies in the world, that has been doing this for some time, is Williams-Sonoma. They’re the model that everyone else is going to follow. 2014 will be the year that you see the transformation of websites into mobile sites as more transactions happen via a smartphone. People want content on their phones – price and product alone is not enough anymore. Social media will become more important in influencing how people shop and in terms of advice.
Ann Handley: Chief Content Officer, Marketing Profs and author of AnnHandley.com
2014 will be the “Year of Good Writing.” Here’s where we are: content, along with content marketing, has in the past few years come into its own, both as a concept and as a practice. Next – in 2014 and beyond – comes the notion that good writing is the foundation of all good content, whether that be a 140-character tweet, the product pages of your website or your infographic. Text is the backbone of the Web, and of any content you watch or listen to, as well. All good content that amazed us in 2013 – Skype’s Born Friends video, Airbnb’s Twitter-curated short film or Chipotle's haunting video commentary – started with a story and a script. Good writing is the basis of good content that gets noticed, no matter what form it ultimately takes. What’s more, for businesses, good writing is a mirror of good, clear, customer-centric thinking.
Martin MacConnol: Chief Executive, Wardour
In 2014, content will become more and more personal. As just one example: I think we are going to see Twitter evolving a lot. It has to monetize its business, and a key way of doing this is to deliver more for paying brands. And what brands want is more targeted engagement. So I expect to see Twitter ever improving its algorithm – just as Google did and does – so that it can deliver more focused contact through its promoted tweets. Of course the challenge will be not alienating the Twitter community in the process.
Jay Baer: President, Convince and Convert and author of NY Times bestseller, Youtility
The best way for companies to communicate their value proposition in 2014 is to not focus on the value proposition. Instead, the smart companies will create marketing that is truly and inherently useful. They will create marketing that is so useful, customers would pay for it if you asked them to do so. They will create Youtility. The best way to break through the extraordinary, unprecedented messaging clutter of the modern age is to talk about yourself and your company less, not more. Find a way to provide information, advice and assistance your customers really need, and watch them beat a path to your door, eventually. In 2014, to the useful go the spoils.
Kim Willis: Strategy Director, Cedar
Social will be ever bigger, with increasing gains to be made from tailoring content for the platform, and even within the platform for different audiences such as using geo-targeting. This has obvious implications for resource however – brands will need to make a call on how much they invest in tailoring content for specific audiences, depending on time, budget and predicted ROI. 2013 saw a staggering volume of content pushed out by brands. And quality was compromised – there's now too much noise which means eventually our audience will stop listening. So in 2014, the smart brands will focus on the genuine quality of their output and, as a result, will receive the audience's trust and attention.
Michael Brenner: President, Global Marketing and Content Strategy for SAP and author of B2B Marketing Insider blog
In 2014 the main challenge marketers will continue to face is the headwind of executive pressure to overly promote our products. So it all starts with leadership that sets the cultural conditions for true customer-centricity. Coming quickly behind this is the growing need for more visual, consumable and entertaining content. 2014 will be the year of brand publishing! Brands will set up real newsrooms, start producing content like a publisher – content their audience actually wants, in all the formats we like to consume and that drives a business result. Brands will also begin to partner with publishers, not to create "native ads" but with real content partnerships that create valuable information for the brand and publishers’ websites (paid and owned media) and that moves through the social web (earned media).
Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?