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How Content Marketing Has Evolved in Six Years


In 2010, Content Marketing Institute was born, with Content Marketing World debuting to an enthusiastic audience of 600 with 65 speakers the following year. This year, 4,000 people are expected to attend and they’ll choose among more than 225 speakers.

While the event has grown significantly, the field of content marketing has evolved even more. That’s why we asked some of the CMWorld presenters to share their viewpoints on what’s changed in content marketing since 2010.

Margaret Magnarelli, managing editor and senior director of marketing at job-search company Monster, encapsulates perhaps the biggest change:

“As companies have begun recognizing the value of content, traditional media has continued to struggle financially. Meanwhile … brands now have access to the same distribution methods as media companies.

“That means we as content marketers have an amazing opportunity to compete with the likes of BuzzFeed and The New York Times, and whatever else is in our target customer’s news feeds.”

Other experts also share their insight on the evolution — from what content marketing means, to the tools, platforms, and tactics used, and from the teams getting the job done to embracing the future.

Catch phrase no more

Content marketing started as a buzzword, and it seemed like brands were jumping on board because it was the cool new thing to do. Now, we have seen just how effective it can be. Testing has discovered what works and what doesn’t. We can track, measure, and prove its success.

This change paves the way for marketers to understand all of content’s benefits and how it can be used to maximize ROI for the company in all different departments. Content marketing is evolving into content recruiting, content training, etc. Using these successful content marketing strategies and tactics can support other areas of business, too.

John Hall, co-founder and CEO, Influence & Co.

View grows wider

The biggest change by far is how marketing is perceived in organizations. We now see that content marketing can be the foundation of driving business growth, delivering value (and revenue) that’s separate and distinct from the products and services that brands sell.

We’re seeing content marketing move from a marketing tactic to a marketing model and now to a business model. We need to be willing to look at the purpose of our work and the role that we have within our companies from a different perspective — one that’s business-driven first.

#Contentmarketing has moved from a marketing tactic to a business model says @carlajohnson. #cmworld Share on X

Carla Johnson, marketing and customer experience strategist, Type A Communications

Control your own story

The biggest change I’ve seen in content marketing since 2010 is simply the number of brands and marketers doing it (or at least attempting it). The secret has been let out of the bag that this content marketing stuff works.

Due to Google’s landmark study on the Zero Moment of Truth, brands can either try and steer the story being told by others or just sit back and let others tell their story. Many brands have chosen to tell their story using content marketing. As a result, there’s much more competition for content attention than what there was six years ago. One of the best ways to combat all of this competition is by choosing a niche and owning it. Another way is to leverage earned and paid media like influencer marketing and native advertising.

Chad Pollitt, vice president of audience and co-founder, Relevance

38+ Examples of Brands Doing Great Content

Be fierce

In the early days, it was a mad dash to create as much content as possible. If you weren’t blogging daily, you were doomed to die. Today, however, it’s about quality through fierce prioritization. Our role as content marketers has changed as well. We now have to keep the entire organization focused and disciplined.

Three steps towards prioritization:

  • Start with solid documentation. Develop a clear “job description” for the content that speaks to each buyer type.
  • Be ruthless about relevance. Every content idea must pass the test — does it align with what’s documented as “mission critical” to your buyers?
  • Get exec team support of the personas. Doing so will gain support of the priorities.

Deana Goldasich, CEO, Well Planned Web, LLC

Every #content idea must align w/what’s “mission critical” to your buyers says @goldasich. #cmworld Share on X

Get your creative on

Aristotle keeps popping up now at conferences and in blog posts. There’s more talk about journalistic technique, design, psychology, and story. The marketing industry as a whole — not just content marketing — has come to the realization that tools and processes only get you so far. The next stage of content marketing is going to be a lot more creative.

Jonathan Crossfield, storyteller, Kimota

The next stage of #contentmarketing is going to be a lot more creative says @kimota. #cmworld Share on X

Great content drives SEO

The biggest change is the focus on content by Google and the algorithm changes that implement that. Now, great content is truly a driving factor in search marketing as well as conversion.

 Brian Massey, founder, Conversion Scientist

Excel at SEO With This 15-Point Plan

Tighter bond with journalism

Journalism and content marketing once merely overlapped; they’re now inextricably linked. One can’t exist without many tools from the other. Those in content marketing better learn the ropes of journalism, and journalism purists need to put their egos aside to learn the ropes of content marketing.

Cameron Conaway, journalist, content marketing manager, Flow

Journalism & #contentmarketing are now inextricably linked says @cameronconaway #cmworld Share on X

Add up accounts

We’re finally starting to see content marketing take a narrower approach. As more B2B brands are adopting account-based marketing, there’s a justifiable need to provide more targeted and tailored content to fit the needs of their target accounts.

Also with account-based marketing, the roles of marketing and sales are becoming closer than ever. Content marketers will need to align closely with their sales teams to create content that resonates with certain segments (things like industry, technology usage, revenue, and current customers) within their target accounts.

Peter Isaacson, CMO, Demandbase

You’re in the movies (or at least video)

As much as I hate to say, it’s video. I am in the minority who learns by reading so I prefer text, but that is the far, far minority. Nearly three quarters of human beings are visual learners, which is why video has exploded.

I also read in Mary Meeker’s 2016 internet trends report that we not only need to be thinking about video for YouTube and our websites, but we should have a specific video strategy for Snapchat and Facebook. We are all living in The Truman Show now.

Gini Dietrich, chief executive officer, Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Nearly ¾ of humans are visual learners, which is why video has exploded says @ginidietrich #cmworld Share on X

Go long

There is so much noise these days. You have to make sure that your content is relevant to your prospects, engaging, and informative. Five-hundred word blog posts don’t cut it these days. You need long-form, definitive pieces to grow your brand’s reputation as a thought leader in the space.

Travis Wright, chief marketing technologist,

Budget for promotion

I know there is an increasing interest in influencer marketing right now, but I think most companies would be better off setting aside a content promotion budget to drive people to their content. Influencer marketing can and will work for some, but over the years we have seen better and better ROI coming from promoting content on the right platform to the right audience at the right time.

Arnie Kuenn, CEO, Vertical Measures

Better ROI? Promote content on the right platform to the right audience at the right time @ArnieK #cmworld Share on X

Advertise your content

Six years ago, it was considered cheating if you had to pay to promote content; it implied that your content was basically crap, and you had no idea what you were doing.

That’s the piece that’s changed the most in this game — simply creating great content consistently is no longer enough when the channels you use to promote it are getting you under 5% organic reach.

Limited attention spans and far too much content all broke the social platforms and now they’re just media outlets — albeit with an unprecedented level of targeting to get content in front of the right audiences.

Six years ago, no one was thinking through paid media amplification before they started producing content. Now you’re missing out on the biggest opportunity if you’re not.

Todd Wheatland, global head of strategy, King Content

Before you produce content, you need to think through paid media amplification says @toddwheatland #cmworld Share on X

Turn the channel

Six years ago it was all about channels. We were trying to understand how each channel worked and how to deal with that, especially social media. It’s no longer a challenge. The “channel-first” view has been replaced by “content first.” Content marketers should be more and more focused on quality and consistency of content.

I remember Content Marketing World 2011. There were just a few companies sharing their software tools in the coffee break area. Now there are dozens of them. Marketers must be aware of new technologies, which are totally integrated to content distribution today. They can really improve the content team productivity.

Cassio Politi, consultant, Tracto

Marketers must be aware of new technologies to improve content team productivity says @tractoBR #cmworld Share on X


I am reminded on a daily basis that, as big as content marketing is, many of us who “get it” operate in a bubble that is not inclusive of the great majority of people running businesses. Educating business owners and leaders is still the No. 1 challenge to overcome.

To help educate people, I often ask this question when in business-networking gatherings: “In the absence of content, what else is there?”

It’s a stop-’em-dead-in-their-tracks question because the answer is, well, nothing. Sure, there’s paid ads. Sure, there’s still direct mail. And so on. But, the best use of these paid “interruption” approaches today is to point people to engaging content experiences owned by the brand. Content is as vital a component of this work as oxygen is vital to the air we breathe.

Russell Sparkman, co-founder and CEO, FusionSpark Media

The best paid “interruption” points people to owned, engaging-content experiences says @fusionspark #cmworld Share on X

Don’t get comfy

There will always be changes in content marketing. Just looking at the evaluation print marketing had gone through, nobody should get too comfortable and think this is it. You’ve always got to be ready to adapt to the latest form of content production and consumption. But ultimately, your content is king only if your audience crowns you. Having a long-term plan and commitment to your audience is what will give you the edge.

Ayat Shukairy, co-founder, Invesp

Your content is king only if your audience crowns you says @ayat #cmworld Share on X


All the experts who shared their insight show that content marketing is a field that’s growing and adapting to an evolving world — audience, tools, teams, purpose, and more. Understanding where it’s been and where it’s going will give you and your brand the critical leg-up on the competition (business-wise and content-wise).

What are the biggest changes you have seen? Where do you think content marketing will be in 2022?

To get the most up-to-date trends and advice about content marketing, register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 6-9 in Cleveland. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute