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The Decline of Advertising and the Rise of Content Spending

Just read through a very interesting post from Brian Solis on Forrester’s Five-Year Media Spending Forecast. From the results, this quote from Forrester’s Shar VanBoskirk is worth some discussion:

“The most interesting takeaway from the research is that overall advertising budgets will decline.  Yep.  With dollars moving out of traditional media toward less expensive and more efficient interactive tools, marketers will actually need less money to accomplish their current advertising goals.”

Takeaways here…

  • Five years is a long time.  Twitter isn’t even that old.  Take these with a grain of salt.
  • Anyone who doesn’t think that advertising budgets will decline should try a new career.
  • Yes, online efforts are cheaper, and social media is essentially free…but what’s not being said here is a lot.

Where’s Content?

Let’s look at a few of the biggest projected growth areas, social media and search marketing.

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, social media doesn’t work without relevant, valuable and consistent content. Success in social media relies on a web content strategy that works for the brand and especially for the brand’s advocates. Although social media distribution is essentially free (Twitter, posting on YouTube), the content planning, resource allocation and then creation is not. That’s where the money is going.  Take Hubspot for example.  The distribution of their content is very cost effective (blog, online TV series, community site for example), but the planning time, knowledge, resources and coordination cost plenty.  Worth it…absolutely, but inexpensive…no. Content usually shows up in another line item on a budget, which may be the problem. No one ever knows how much the content really costs. I know some executives that think that the content magically appears every week at the end of a rainbow.
  • Then comes search marketing. Showing up in search results means you need great content. Getting results from pay-per-click usually means you need a great content offer. Either way, without content, search doesn’t work.

What I’ve just pointed out may seem obvious to some, but I see this over and over again first hand. Small, medium and even large companies look to “alternative” online strategies and discount the cost of the content.

Actual client: “I want to create an ongoing content series, most likely a blog, that we can integrate into a social media campaign. We need a content plan and need to outsource the editorial.  Also looking for integration into social media (Twitter and other stuff like that) and monitoring of our objectives (more traffic) . Budget is about $5k.” Yikes! (This example is from a $500 million dollar company)

Spend on the Right Content Initiatives

Okay, so what should you do with this?  First off, stop thinking about content marketing or content strategy as the end deliverable. The content process is not just the video series, the enewsletter or the custom magazine. It’s the entire content strategy process, including (shout out to Kristina Halvorson from Brain Traffic on guidance here):

  • The Content Audit. Before you usher in more content noise, it’s worth it to figure out what you have said. Anyone about to spend significant investment in content creation should develop a content benchmark first.
  • The Content Plan. Who’s the audience?; What are their informational needs?; What are the success metrics of the content plan?; Who owns the plan?; What are the best content tactics?; How will we execute those tactics?;
  • Content Maintenance. Once we create the content, how do we keep it fresh, updated, and continually monitor our customers’ informational needs so that we succeed with the content plan?
  • Content Marketing. How are we distributing our valuable, relevant content so that we deliver on our success metrics?

So, the morale of the story is, take all that money you are saving by not advertising, and make sure you put it into the right content buckets. Yes, social media may be free, but succeeding in social media and your web content strategy is not.

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