As a content marketing writer, I’m in the process of building a future (and hopefully long-term) career on the assumption that content is here to stay. Having said that, the only thing we can be certain of in the age of the Internet is change, so I set out to discover whether I’m barking up the wrong tree to do so. Here are the main trends predicted for the future of content.
Prediction: Content Will Become an Asset, Instead of an Expense
Personally I believe this idea is way overdue. How often have you read something online and clicked on a hyperlink in the text, only to land up on an error page? Part of the reason for this is because companies aren’t thinking long-term when it comes to content. They publish their material, and after a year or two it's outdated or they redesign their website so they whip it off. Used that way, content is an expense. It might deliver short-term ROI while it’s on the site, but once it’s gone it’s useless.
By changing their thinking to view content as an asset, companies will put their dollars to better use by building up a repository of knowledge and information that outlasts their competition. The benefits of this are many, including:
- Creating a gold mine of resources for clients and press
- Building thought leadership that endures
- Establishing credibility through clear evidence of long-term existence
- Delivering ongoing ROI, as long as the links remain active and the material is accessible
In short, content marketing will need to be a long-term commitment, not a campaign.
Prediction: Content Will No Longer Be Marketing-Driven
We can already see the truth of this prediction as content becomes increasingly bound up with SEO quality requirements. Content is becoming crucial to every aspect of business communications, including client relationship management (CRM), lead nurturing (sales) and development of brand awareness (public relations). As companies make the shift towards being publishers, content will play a larger role in the overall business strategy than it currently does. It will need to inform, engage and nurture, without the accompanying marketing or sales pitch.
Prediction: Niche Content Will Be Gold
Generalized content is already going the way of the dinosaurs, due partly to the overload of information on the web. Users are becoming more discerning and now only access information that they really want. The tighter your content niche, the more likely you are to get readers. A content marketing writer will need to be able to focus an entire blog post or article on one particular point to achieve this.
Prediction: Data Convergence Will Be Critical
We’re already seeing the impact of big data on content marketing, with the ability it has to segment the market narrowly, targeting groups and individuals with specific information. In addition, as data and metrics improve, the information generated is likely to drive both content spend and quality, according to Contently CEO Joe Coleman. That’s great news for a content marketing writer, because it means I’ll have lots of work.
Making it Work
So how do I make these predictions work for me, as I build my content marketing writer portfolio? I think there are a few critical things I need to do, such as:
- Begin educating my clients now to stop wasting money on “disposable” content that’s going to come down in a year or so, and focus instead on developing long-term content that can form the basis of their online resources and be updated as the information changes.
- Write every piece of content with a long-term focus. Use evergreen conventions so the material requires the minimum of updating—but will still have longevity and deliver value that keeps readers coming back for years.
- Start asking my clients for more information about the purpose and/or target market segment for each post, instead of just rushing to write it because it’s an assignment.
- “Design-proof” the content I write so it doesn’t depend on format to deliver the desired impact—just in case we end up going back to preferring text over HTML and images!
And everything I write, I’ll review it from the angle of someone reading it in two, three, four or five years from now. Is it going to be easy to update? Does it clearly state in what year the original facts applied, or is it going to confuse users looking for information? Does it depend on layout for impact, or can it stand alone just from a text/copy point of view?