By Joe Pulizzi published December 19, 2016

Five Content Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017


In what usually is a rather uneventful month for news, December proved us all wrong in 2016. A number of newsworthy activities related to the content marketing industry appeared on the radar this month, and I believe they could work as a crystal ball for content marketers as we move into 2017.

Trend 1: Buying influencers

As Robert Rose and I covered in a recent This Old Marketing podcast, CNN bought the social media app Beme owned by YouTube celebrity Casey Neistat who amassed 6 million followers through his video blog. CNN is shutting down the app and asking Casey and his team to start a new media platform.

Basically, CNN is looking to target a new audience, one that it believes Neistat holds the keys to. Instead of organically growing a platform or finding a leader within its ranks, CNN just went out and purchased Neistat and his team for $25 million.

Takeaway: Influencer marketing was hot in 2016. Look for influencer marketing to shift a bit from partnering with content creators and distributors to flat-out purchasing them.

Look for influencer marketing to shift from partnering to purchasing says @JoePulizzi. #cmworld Click To Tweet

Trend 2: Content marketing as defensive mechanism

Earlier this month, Kellogg’s pulled its advertising from, which has been in the news a lot since President-elect Donald Trump named Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s former chairman, as a top adviser. Breitbart, which Bannon proclaimed is the “platform for the alt-right,” has a very particular point of view, and one that Kellogg’s doesn’t agree with.

Hence, the removal of Kellogg’s advertising from Breitbart’s site.

To combat this, Breitbart aggressively came after Kellogg’s with a #DumpKelloggs campaign, where Alexander Marlow, Breitbart News editor-in-chief stated, “Boycotting Breitbart News for presenting mainstream American ideas is an act of discrimination and intense prejudice.” The campaign trended on Twitter and was picked up by all the major news outlets.


According to FiveThirtyEight,’s traffic increased at a faster rate than almost every other media site during the election process. Whether you agree with its site or not, there is power in its audience and growth.

Kellogg’s simply has no power to combat this. Sure, it can send out a news release and talk with the press. It can do an ad in The Wall Street Journal or some other outlet, but Breitbart has a huge audience of followers and can basically attack anyone it wants without repercussion.

In the future, how does Kellogg’s combat this? How does any company combat a situation when an organization with a large audience comes after them?

Takeaway: This type of action from Breitbart and other media companies against brands will only multiply in 2017. The only way for companies to battle this is to create their own large, loyal audiences. Look for a content marketing/PR business case to be front-and-center in any large enterprise out there for 2017.

Look for a #content marketing/PR business case to be front & center in large enterprises. @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

Trend 3: Backlash against social platforms

As of this writing, YouTube megastar PewDiePie (aka Felix Kjellberg) has been extremely critical of YouTube over the past few months. Specifically, PewDiePie believes that YouTube’s algorithm changes are costing him traffic, which is hurting his advertising revenues and other sponsorship opportunities.

On Dec. 2, in one of his videos PewDiePie said he’s so frustrated about the matter, that when he hit 50 million subscribers he was going to shut down his account. Of course, PewDiePie hit his 50 million subscribers and decided to keep his channel (essentially trolling the internet). That said, he continues to rant about YouTube and its algorithm changes.

Honestly, the details don’t really matter. More and more social media influencers, as well as brands leveraging social media, are frustrated with YouTube, Facebook, and more, and their ongoing algorithm changes. For example, BP has been moving away from Facebook to publish more on LinkedIn as more and more of its Facebook content goes unseen.

Takeaway: As I travel the globe talking to enterprises about this issue, frustration is at the highest level I’ve seen. In 2017, I believe two things will happen — there will be more advertising on social media platforms and less organic publishing. The case can be made that a brand does not need to publish organic content on any social platform and instead can opt for an owned platform (website) plus paid promotion to create and grow an audience. Of course, social media sharing can happen, but the brand doesn’t need to be present on that platform for sharing to happen.

The case can be made that a brand does not need to publish organic content on social platforms. @JoePulizzi Click To Tweet

Trend 4: Email renaissance

According to Campaign Monitor, social media darling BuzzFeed added over 1 million email subscribers in the past 12 months. How? The answer can be found in trend No. 3. With social media channels moving toward revenue growth, brands have almost no control over communicating with fans and followers. Of all the ways to grow an audience, email has emerged as THE most critical.

Other media brands are following suit. For example, The Washington Post now has over 75 e-newsletters, while The New York Times has 12 people dedicated to newsletters. While some believe email is dead, the media is telling us that email is a growth area. And last but not least, our CMI/MarketingProfs B2B study found that email was rated as the No. 1 success metric for measuring content marketing.


Takeaway: In 2017, we’ll see two things. First, more brands will launch targeted and relevant e-newsletters, which will become the key method to grow their audiences. Second, more brands will take a hard look at the e-newsletters they have and move them from “email as marketing collateral” to “truly amazing and relevant customer experiences.”

In 2017, more brands will launch targeted e-newsletters as the key method to grow audiences says @JoePulizzi. Click To Tweet

Trend 5: Print resurgence

Airbnb and publishing partner Hearst recently announced the launch of a new print magazine appropriately called Airbnb mag. The magazine will be distributed to Airbnb homes and include content created and curated from people who provide and use the Airbnb service.


Image source

Not to be outdone, School of Doodle just launched a print magazine as did VFiles.

And, not that you’ve noticed, but print magazines as a tactic for content marketers have been steady for the past couple of years (according to our research).  I believe we’ve hit a bottom in print’s decline as more marketers look to cut through the digital clutter with (what else?) print.

Takeaway: I expect a number of big brands to launch print magazines in 2017. The targeted, niche publications will complement some online component (but be valuable in and of themselves).

I expect a number of big brands to launch print magazines in 2017 says @joepulizzi. #cmworld Click To Tweet

What trends to you expect to see in 2017? Let me know in the comments.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • heidicohen


    Thank you for sharing your perspective. In your position, you get a wider perspective than the average content marketer.

    Content marketers should pay attention to your selections. They underscore the challenges and changes marketers and media entities had in 2016.

    Brands and businesses must build their owned media, specifically a blog and an email list. You can’t depend on social media, search or third party media for free stuff. Like planting a tree, it takes lots of care and investment until it gives you shade.

    Social media has became full fledged media. Notably Facebook requires investment in a presence and sharing as well as advertising. Like any traditional media, you don’t own your audience.

    Marketers and traditional media entities are reinventing some of the old tricks of the trade. While buying influencers sounds crass, media companies have brought in high-profile “names” with followings. Think Stephen Colbert taking over the Letterman Show.

    As for print–who doesn’t love the feel of paper? Even better, there’s less competition for the mailbox and it keeps your mailman employed.

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks for the take Heidi. Happy Holidays!

  • Deepak Varadarajan

    Good set of insights. It really does paint a different picture based on what is said here and we were actually expecting in 2017. Thank you for that.

  • Emma Johnson

    I also believe in the resurgence of print media; it still has a
    place to exist alongside digital media, with its own unique appeal
    translating well into luxury consumer items.

  • WowMakers

    Great insights. It all comes down to owning your own channel, your own loyal following – getting a direct access to them.

  • Krayal

    Interesting. Was the traffic positive or negative? Do you think Kellogs have actually suffered from Breitbart’s campaign? Having a public tantrum because a company doesn’t want to spend money with you strikes me as counter productive and anti-free market. If anything it makes me want to buy Kellogs, not read Breitbart.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      You could be right…I guess the point is that anyone can be trolled at anytime for any reason, so we need to be prepared.

  • Michael Becker

    Great article Joe. I find your points #1, #4, and #5 especially intriguing. I wonder if purchasing influencers will become more prevalent not just in B2C but also B2B. Love the notion of using email as a strategic content marketing channel and going beyond just marketing but providing value as an e-newsletter. Takes the right infrastructure and resources, though!

  • John Lombaerde

    Here you go. #FFA500 or rgb(255,165,0)

  • ModernTechnolab

    It’s a great article and a must-read for anyone into marketing space. I also think Infographics going to play a important role. Thanks for Sharing.

  • Bob Coleman

    A really insightful article. Trend 4: Email renaissance, especially resonated. I’ve been advocating the creation of niche specific e-newsletters to more of my clients.