How “right” where they? A look back at the content and content marketing trends predicted for 2017

Did the experts correctly predict content and content marketing expansion in 2017?

Did the experts correctly predict content and content marketing expansion in 2017?

2017 was right around the corner when CMS and content marketing specialists began churning out trend projections for the new year. Now that 2017 is done, let’s see how well they saw the future. More weight is given to correctly foreseeing less prominent drivers taking the spotlight; no fair claiming credit for trends that were already visible at the end of 2016, such as increased automation, growing CMS sophistication, and the increased integration of community editing.

Trend: The rise of rich media content.  Prediction Weight: Low.

CMS designers have already jumped to the task of integrating increasingly sophisticated data languages and digital asset managers into content structures. The next frontier is content with native – non-plugin-based – media embedded as modules. Video, interactive tools, games, survey and app extensions are all primed to become the next aspects of content language.

“The next frontier is native media embedded as modules.”

While pundits got this right as the “next frontier” in content, 2017 did not see a wave of new content with embedded native media.

Trend: Content as a tool of native advertising.  Prediction Weight: Low.
The ubiquity of free content has changed the way that content authors approach development models. One of the more unsavory aspects of this evolution – from the consumer perspective – is the idea of “clickbait.”

It was Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu who pointed out that “clickbait” as actually an organic evolution of content marketing and commerce. Without the ability to monetize content directly, authors would naturally become more psychologically savvy in the type of content they develop, designing it to attract the eye and hold attention.

“This attention-merchant model has spread to so many areas of our life, where we’re completely used to everything being free,” Wu explained. “But then the payoff, or the exchange, is that then we also agree to stuff that is compromised, because it is always trying to get us to click on ads at the same time.”

“Experts” warn that users are growing savvier and more cynical about brute-force advertising efforts – but there is likely to be a shift to different monetization models that may help abate some of its more unpleasant effects. The Content Marketing Institute points out that native advertising – where ads are part of the content, albeit relatively unobtrusive and embraced by authors – could prove an effective countermeasure to clickbait that is minimally disruptive to the content itself.

Perhaps.  But as a prediction, “native advertising” was a flop.

“Social media will be further divided into factions.”

Trend: The social media split.  Prediction Weight: Medium.
Social media consultant and trainer Andrew Davis warns that social media content is heading for a major fork in the road, based on behavioral patterns of users. Similar to the warnings that previous content experts have given about messaging apps supplanting traditional web pages, Davis sees a future where social media – already acting as the hub for nearly all web-based interactions – will be further divided into factions.

“Social media will be split into two areas: the visual web and the community focused web,” Davis tells Writtent. “Visual content will increase at a rapid pace but so will messaging platforms.”

This split was particularly evident in the Russian meddling of the 2016 US Presidential elections.  The so-called “Internet Research Agency” company exploited the trend toward factionalism to develop a series of Web sites and personas that attracted the interest of scores of like-minded US voters. Whether or not this tactic affected the election itself is the subject of vigorous debate, but to some extent that debate is moot given the level of participation and engagement these Web sites and personas engendered.

The Internet’s broad reach allows people of similar persuasions to connect easily even if they live in comparative isolation. It will be challenging for many brands, accustomed to mass marketing, to adapt successfully when they find themselves cut off from their consumers. As closed-loop messaging subverts content development and marketing algorithms, Davis sees many brands retreating to traditional web and visual content advertising, rather than doing the hard work of nice advertising.

Trend: Reevaluation of content efficacy.  Prediction Weight: Low.
According to the Sword and the Script, anywhere between 60 and 70 percent of B2B content developed by brands and organization goes unused. This points to the ease and inexpensive nature of modern content development, but also underscores that brands haven’t yet mastered creating content that connects with users. Focusing on additional automation and perfecting user personas may mitigate some of this waste, leading many experts to say that 2017 will be a peak year for content authors who can guarantee effective content.

Regrettably, 2017 wasn’t the peak year for effective content.  Furthermore, there will be no peaking of content that piques anyone’s interests until the incentives of content authors is aligned with the interests of content consumers.  As it stands now–and has stood for several years now–the majority of content authors are compensated on the amount of material they produce; there is no gating factor imposed by the expense or technical challenge of putting that content on the Web.  So, there is little incentive to produce content that people want to read.

If you want to see a peak in effective content, tie a content creator’s compensation to the number of page-views and the net increase in backlinks.  With a properly incentivized writing team in place, you will definitely see a reevaluation of content efficacy.

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