By Aaron Agius published September 20, 2016

Will the Content Bubble Burst? What’s Next?

content-bubble-burst

As much as I love content marketing, when I look around at the sheer number of people using it, I’m reminded of another frenzy that didn’t end well — the dot-com bubble.

Remember when everyone and their cat was launching a company or selling a domain name for tens of thousands of dollars?

Until it came crashing down.

There’s a lot of buzz about whether the same thing will happen to content since we’ve gone from only the early adopters embracing it to every HVAC business and nail salon jumping on the content bandwagon.

And every second, 17 new blog posts are published. Isn’t there only so much content we can take?

Every second, 17 new #blog posts are published via @TheTorqueMag. Click To Tweet

What happens when we reach the point of saturation? Can we reach the point of saturation?

Why the bubble won’t burst, but will change

The fundamental difference between the content bubble and the dot-com bubble is that we’re smarter.

Content already has evolved. Ten years ago, we were slapping articles up on article directories, now we’re focusing on highly targeted content that informs and assists our readers.

We’ve moved from people using encyclopedias to get information (OK, that was more than 10 years ago) to relying on their smartphones to give them information anytime, anywhere. That’s thanks to content.

While I don’t think the bubble will burst and content will dry up, I do think that it will continue to adapt to our ever-changing needs, as well as to new technology that modifies how we consume and interact with data (think Amazon’s Echo).

Rather than preparing for the content apocalypse, I encourage you to simply be open to how this inundation of content — both useful and utter drivel — will change in the near future, and be ready to go with the flow when it does.

Here are some of my predictions about what the future of content will look like.

We’ll continue to have to step up our game

Even now, the tired “10 Reasons to Do [Something]” posts are turning to dust. We can only read so much of the same article over and over.

This is a good thing. Lately, I’ve really worked to step up my content game and come up with more interesting angles and topics that haven’t been rehashed a million times.

The secret to success in the future will be — you might be surprised — to read more. You’ve got to have a handle on the content that’s out there to know how you can make a topic better and unique.

The secret to success in the future will be to read more says @IAmAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Set up your feed readers, folks. You’ll likely spend as much time reading as you will writing in an effort to remain relevant and useful with your content.

How do you make your content more strategic and valued by your audience? You have a content strategy. And yet, only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

If you start by knowing what you want to achieve through your content, as well as who you’re trying to reach with it, you can create better content that lines up with your marketing message.

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Search engines might look at more than relevance

Search engines — the bane of a marketer’s existence. As soon as we adapt to one algorithm, Google (and the others) move in a different direction.

Right now the keyword is relevance. Google assures us that if our content is relevant, it will rank well. But what happens when everybody’s content is relevant? We’re back to the beginning in trying to outrank the competition.

Expect search engines to add other factors to the equation for how they determine a site’s worth. Google currently has 200 factors it ranks for search engine placement. There will be more.

Search engines may put more focus on how long a person spends on your site, how many pages they click, or how many shares a post gets and on which social sites. We can’t even imagine some of the other factors right now.

It’s hard to prepare for the unknown when it comes to search engine ranking, so my best advice is just: Be ready. Pay attention to announcements about new algorithms and do your best, without stressing, to keep up.

We’ll keep playing with length

First, the 400- to 600-word posts were the sweet spot. Then we moved onto longer form content of over 1,000 words. Some posts today are 3,000 words.

But there’s a unique challenge as we increase word count for content because people have an ever-shrinking attention span of — what’s that shiny thing over there? — eight seconds. Your content has to be stellar if you want them to spend minutes reading a several-thousand-word post.

This goes back to stepping up your game and not writing content just to have content out there. If you don’t have enough to say in a 3,000-word post, don’t write one. Posts like the kind Neil Patel writes are extremely useful and provide hands-on tips, which make people stick around to read them.

If you don’t have enough to say in a 3,000-word post, don’t write one says @IAmAaronAgius. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

If you’re going to write longer posts, here are some tips:

  • Include real-world examples.
  • Insert screen shots to illustrate points.
  • Focus on how to, not why, because people want help doing things.
  • Break up the content with subheads, images, and bullet points to give the eye a break.

But don’t be surprised if the ideal content length changes again.

It will, trust me.

To adapt, I like to read case studies about why a particular length has value before I incorporate it into my own marketing. You can always find tips for leveraging content at that length and incorporating the strategies into your own content.

We may move from self-publishing to guest posting

Remember when Groupon had dozens of competitors, all offering highly discounted deals? And then the small players melted away and Groupon became pretty much a monopoly?

I suspect something similar will happen with content. Right now, businesses have their own blogs, which they struggle to send traffic to. If you’re in the business of selling office supplies, your blog probably isn’t high on your priority list.

On the other hand, publishing content on established blogs can send traffic your way even faster. My prediction is that we might all wind up consolidating content, much the way the daily coupon industry did.

Publishing #content on established blogs can send traffic your way even faster says @IAmAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

With a few key players that can filter content for quality and guarantee traffic, some businesses might even abandon their blogs altogether.

Social media is another enticement to move away from the business blog. While Tumblr appeared to be a contender to the average blog for a while, we haven’t seen it take over.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is rapidly helping B2B marketers reach a giant audience quickly through its publishing tool — more than 1 million users are publishing content on that platform.

Further, Facebook’s Instant Articles is another tool that could turn the heads of content creators away from their own blogs to where millions of people are already spending time.

All content won’t be written

I think if a bubble is to occur, it’s going to be with written content. After all, we can only read so much.

But there are other ways to impart information, including video, which is having its heyday, thanks especially to livestreaming. Facebook Live is evidence of this. Live videos rank higher in news feeds, giving you more opportunity for exposure.

Live videos rank higher in news feeds, giving you more opportunity for exposure says @IAmAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Interactive content is another area I expect to see more activity in soon. By engaging your audience through games, calculators, quizzes, etc., you have a better quality experience with them, which can lead to long-term engagement.

Infographics and user-generated content are two other examples of how you can take your content in a direction other than a written blog post.

Vary what you publish and measure results stringently. Add images and videos wherever possible, as you can see on sites like NeilPatel.com, Buffer Blog, WP Millionaire, and others. This will tell you how your audience likes to consume your content, and you can vary your content creation plan accordingly.

Advertising will completely turn to branded content online

Expect the line to blur between marketing content and sponsored content. It already is. But with estimates that say advertisers will be spending $21 billion on native ads and sponsored content by 2018, the world of advertising is going to change.

Advertisers will be spending $21 billion on native ads and sponsored content by 2018 via @adpushup. Click To Tweet

I think we’re going to see a bit of upheaval in the native advertising space for a while. Facebook’s announcement of its new policy for sponsored content shook up the industry a bit. Now, sponsored posts will be attributed as such so users know that they’re different than other posts.

The question is: Will they care?

I think if advertisers can do a good job with their branded content — if they focus fully on customer delight rather than making it a PR puff piece for a brand — they’ll successfully integrate with content best practices. If they can’t, we’ll ignore them the same way we’ve been ignoring television commercials for years.

This post isn’t to say that there’s no upheaval on the horizon when it comes to content, but rather to say that while content isn’t going anywhere any time soon, it will change.

Typically, people are resistant to change, and digging your feet in the sand may cost you if you’re unwilling to adapt. Stay open and you’ll manage to be one of the few who truly maximize the potential of great content marketing.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
38+ Examples of Brands Doing Great Content

What do you foresee for content in the near future? Share your insights with me in the comments.

Want to ensure that you’re up on the latest evolutions in content marketing? Subscribe to the CMI daily newsletter.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Aaron Agius

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online.

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  • http://hedstrominternetconsulting.com/ Steve Hedstrom

    Love this post Aaron! I agree that users will have more options than ever for their content going forward and grabbing and keeping their attention will be ever more challenging. Switching it up with infographics, intelligent content, and guest writers is the path forward. 3 cheers to the CMI team and I’ll be sharing this with my network today. Enjoy a terrific Tuesday via @stevehedstrom:disqus @HedstromMedia 🙂

    • Aaron Agius

      Thanks for reading, mate! Appreciate it.

  • http://www.brandchemistry.com.au Andrea Hoymann

    Great article Aaron. Definitely agree that quality and different content formats will become more and more important. The sheer volume of content being published every day, doesn’t only mean that readers’ attention spans become shorter. It also means that it will become harder to post something that is original and doesn’t evoke a sense of ‘I’ve already read a version of this article 5 times”. I think that having a clear brand vision for your content will also impact results. Dare to have an opinion!

    • Aaron Agius

      You’re on the right track, Andrea! Your brand can affect so much, including “how” you deliver content. It’s possible that, even when 5 versions of the same article are offered, yours is the one people turn to simply because your brand consistently bends it to a more approachable angle.

      Of course it’s always beneficial to offer fresh content, but a creative and distinctive brand never hurts. Best of luck!

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    • Aaron Agius

      Thanks for reading – cheers!

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  • Aaron Agius

    Thanks for commenting, Don. You’re right – this article has a smaller range of links. Not intentional, of course, but thanks for the head’s up.

    I’m a supporter of solid links within content that support the piece, add value overall, and assist the reader in understanding the concept. Not always easy to do! But definitely worth the time put in. Cheers!

  • http://israeltomorrow.blogspot.com/ AmiV2

    There is a lingering impression among marketers from the days of limited channel size: TV, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, etc… This simply seems like perspective of entrenched experienced marketers and publishers. While traditional marketing business is benefiting from new technology and using the term “content marketing” as a rally cry to move forward, there are many new marketers who simply blog, network, publish and influence. Without the strings to traditional formats and channels they are showing everyone that “content” counts, but most of all relevant, focused, direct and highly specific writing and networking is what we can do today. Anyway, great writing and good to see links and discussions in this group.

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  • http://www.viola-notes.com/ Noya Lizor

    Some interesting insights Aaron. Content Marketing was originally conceived because of the notion that brands could build more meaningful relationships with their users/customers by offering value beyond just selling products, by demonstrating expertise in their field, and by creating content that was interesting, practical, entertaining, etc. But now that EVERYONE is creating content and marketing it, content saturation has changed the way people are consuming it.

    I think that the future of content marketing is directly related to the evolution of consumer habits (and I don’t just mean consumers of products, but consumers of content). Eventually people will become so particular about which content they want to consume, that both format versatility and content quality will become crucial (as you’ve said). I think marketers will abandon the notion of “reaching as many people as possible” and focus on reaching the precise niche they care about. The importance of communities and potentially brand collaboration may also become a ‘thing’ in order to leverage reach to not just any audience, but to the ‘right’ audience.

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  • Mike

    I started my way in print magazines. Yes, content must be kept fresh, but every now and again content can be rehashed – audiences change, mature and move on, and you get a new audience to whom you can repost (with a tweak or two) the same content. Its a life saver for print. In digital it is problematic, but I have found that ANY topic can be written about from millions of angles, it’s just opening up your mind and brainstorming new angles to the same subject (only if you fail to find new content, which in it self sounds impossible).
    many content people have become lazy. At times I become lazy too, and that’s why I know it happens. the secret is never get lazy. Or choose customers who can’t see the laziness 🙂

    And best quote here is: “I think if advertisers can do a good job with their branded content — if they focus fully on customer delight rather than making it a PR puff piece for a brand — they’ll successfully integrate with content best practices. If they can’t, we’ll ignore them the same way we’ve been ignoring television commercials for years.”