Major Content Trends For 2016

We asked several sources from the last year -- each of whom approaches content marketing from a different angle -- to share their takes on the major trends emerging in the discipline.

Michael Farmer, chairman, Farmer & Co.; author, “Madison Avenue Manslaughter”
Content marketing, which requires 24/7 storytelling to engage consumers, is more the natural domain for PR firms than for advertising agencies. As content marketing becomes more important in the media mix, advertisers will be prepared to assign relationship leadership to their PR firms.

I predict that PR firms will take advantage of this and backwards integrate into more traditional forms of advertising, becoming highly effective AOR competitors to ad agencies. Content marketing will propel PR firms from the sidelines onto the playing field with much larger budgets if they take the appropriate strategic steps.

See “What Agencies Need To Do To Stay In The Game.”

John Delaney, partner at Morrison & Foerster and co-editor of its “Socially Aware” blog
From my perspective, one of the major trends in the content marketing arena is the growing popularity of ad blockers. What will be the upshot? I think that we’ll see three responses.

First, advertisers and online publishers will need to commit to less obtrusive, less “in-your-face” ads, especially on mobile devices, where the clutter of ads can significantly undermine online surfing activities -- and spurs the use of ad blockers. 

Second, advertisers and online publishers will need to work closely with leading ad-blocking software vendors to find an approach that balances consumers’ concerns about the barrage of intrusive online ads with the need for publishers to make a return on their extensive investments in their content. 

Finally, the rise of ad blockers will further fuel the growth of native advertising and ads that are embedded in users’ newsfeeds on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Ad blockers are less effective against these types of advertising.

See “MoFo's 'Socially Aware' Insights Pay Off.”

Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media
Things like official brand accounts in mobile messaging apps will be another way for brands to reach consumers at scale -- but in a way that is voluntary on the consumers’ behalf. With branded accounts, brands can engage “fans” on a one-to-one basis and drive continued interactions to their audience by offering coupons, videos, chats, contests and more.

See “Branded Emojis Making Their Mark.”

Joe Breed, director of platform services at Skyword
Nielsen recently reported that four in 10 American households subscribe to either Netflix, Amazon or Hulu streaming services. In 2016, we’ll see this number increase even more, as consumers continue to move toward content that is free of interruption.

This shift towards paid, ad-free subscriptions confirms that people are looking for great content and great stories. To draw audiences in, brands will have to provide those kinds of experiences. To do that, marketers will renew their focus on personal storytelling by partnering with creatives who’ve mastered the craft.

See “Nurturing Freelancers Who Nurture The Brand.”

Hunter Hoffmann, head of U.S. Communication at Hiscox
Content is now the best tool to communicate and drive your brand identity. Creating content that informs, entertains or inspires lets brands create value for customers first and form lasting relationships.

More companies will create integrated tentpole campaigns using their branded content as the key component, with social, advertising and earned media all supporting the content to drive engagement. 

See “Branded Entertainment Must Entertain To Brand.”

Thom Villing, president & CEO, Villing & Co.
In my opinion, content marketing is entering a consolidation stage, or maybe one could call it a maturation process. What I mean by this is best illustrated by some research I saw recently that showed about a 5% drop in blogging activity by professional service firms. While the numbers are still quite strong in that category, I think the fall-out is from those professionals who may not have been fully committed to the time demands involved in creating quality content starting to lose interest and motivation. 

Those who truly believe in the value of content marketing will continue to utilize and refine their use of content marketing strategies and tactics. Accordingly, I would see blogging continue to level off while other, more robust tactics such as video and possibly sponsored webinars assuming more prominence in the content marketing mix.

See “Old Stories Wrought New.”

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