The big difference between the new and the real

The big difference between the new and the real

Every year the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) conducts a global review of content marketing trends with a selection of over 2,000 Brand & Marketing Directors from around the world, in varying sizes of company and from difference regions.

It’s both a good gauge for what’s being bought and invested in, and a sobering reminder of the wild difference between what’s ‘sexy’ and what’s actually happening in the real world.

If you go to SXSW Interactive (the annual mecca for technologists and developers alike), you’d think that all of us agency folk are busy spending each day brainstorming the latest immersive experience we can build for Oculus Rift.

The reality is in fact, very different.

Now that’s not to say that we’re not all very excited about the potential that technology brings to content creation, but it’s important not to get carried away.

The CMI buying trends show that still, blogs, email, social white papers and events are the most popular tactics being used across the industry right now. Does that mean this is where things will stay? Certainly not. But I find it quite a heartening thing to talk to clients about the reality of where most content marketing spend sits, and a validation that in fact, many of them aren’t as ‘far behind’ as they think they are.

There are however some genuinely exciting new trends bubbling that will change the way we work; just perhaps not as drastically as we might think.

We as a business are hanging our hats on the mid-term trends that will change the way we think about content marketing in the next 2-3 years. For an industry so fiercely fickle, and ever-changing, to look further out would be madness. Plus, we know who we are. We aren’t trying to be all things to all people, and are instead focusing on the things that will allow us to keep modern storytelling at the heart of what we do. For me that’s another important thing for the publishing industry to remember: who they really are.

Live content is still one of the most exciting and impactful ways to deliver content today. It’s the most familiar as well. We all understand the mechanics of reporting in real time; but as social networks change the very understanding of what ‘live’ means – and consumers’ expectations of this – we have to be more robust in the ways we deliver a live experience. This isn’t just about the Guardian’s fantastic liveblogging coverage, but about partnerships that allow us to curate content live - it’s about spending media in more interesting ways to capture people’s attention in the places they go for more information when an event or celebration is happening in the moment. And even technically how we deliver live content to people in a better, more premium way.

Co-creation is also coming of age. It's been a buzzword over the past few years; many have preached that they collaborate with artists, influencers or other brands to produce joint work, but so much of this has remained just a one-way briefing process. Now, technology is allowing us to truly crowdsource in a more interesting way. Communities and networks are better established, quality is higher, understanding of the rules of the game are bedded in.  While this may feel more traditional, in fact, fresh blood, new thinking and diverse ways of creating are being made possible by the ease of access technology provides us.

Then the big one. Artificial intelligence. The most sci-fi of all the trends, the most scary, but also the most transformative. For me, this doesn’t have to be unachievable. Cognitive technologies can shorten and improve research processes that would have taken months just a few years ago. The power of analysis and the generation of insights from consumer behaviours has phenomenal potential. We can now overlap multiple sources of data that once would have seemed impossible, and it’s not as expensive as you’d think. This is where the magic happens; when human creativity is augmented by smart technology – not replaced by it.

I’ll spend my time at FutureBook 17 diving in to these areas in more detail, exploring the reasons for their importance, how to make sense of them, and showing real examples of the brands and publishers that are brave enough to start experimenting. These are the projects to be celebrated - since nobody has all the answers yet - and it’s those who aren’t afraid to fail that will be able to evolve and survive.