The Life and Death of Content Marketing

In this day and age, marketers are constantly coming up with new techniques to keep up with our ever-changing media. Marketing and advertising started out with small ads in newspapers and has exploded onto billboards, television commercials, and Internet banners. Many of these techniques are dying out because of how over-exposed consumers are to them and because of technological advances that allow consumers to overlook ads, such as DVRs and ad blockers.

One of the biggest forms of marketing that some people think is dying out is content marketing. Here you will find an explanation of what content marketing is and our take on its current state.

What is Content Marketing?

The death of content marketing is going to be explained, but first, you need to understand exactly what content marketing is. It has been defined by the Content Marketing Institute as:

A marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The purpose of content marketing is to retain customers by having a constant curation of valuable content that is intended to change or enhance consumer behavior. In essence, it’s for brands to communicate their goods or services without actually selling anything. The words valuable content are the key words for content marketing. The content isn’t a blatant advertisement, but more so a story around the topic of the brands product or service.

Content marketing is geared to make consumers of that particular brand more knowledgeable about the product or service. This is in hopes that, because the brand is providing valuable information, the consumers will reward that brand with their business or tell others about their knowledge of the brand. The following are just a few examples of the different forms of content marketing.

  • Blog posts
  • How-to guides
  • Images/Infographics
  • Video
  • Illustrations
  • Email newsletters
  • Magazines
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks

The Growth of Content Marketing

Content marketing technically began in 1895, although it was not called content marketing at that time. It began when John Deere launched its own customer magazine called “The Furrow.” Throughout the next hundred years or so, many other brands, such as Jell-O, Michelin, and Lego, followed suit with their own guides and books. Now we see content marketing everywhere, whether we realize it or not, in blog posts, magazines, email and more.

The term “content marketing” was coined in 1996 by John F. Oppedahl and the American Society for Newspaper Editors. It was introduced to the interweb in 2004 when Microsoft launched the first major corporate blog, called Channel 9. Content marketing didn’t become really popular until around 2012.

According to the Google trends maps below it escalated dramatically throughout 2012 and 2013. With the rise of social media and online advertising, content marketing started to become easier and less expensive to execute.

GoogletrensmapsAs you can see, content marketing started off as personal brand magazines and has grown into an enormous marketing trend over the past few years. A few brands that are well known for using a content marketing strategy are:

Proctor and Gamble

pgcontentmarketing

Sears

searscontentCoke

cokecontentmarketingGeneral Electric

GEcontentmarketing

Why Marketers think it’s a Dying Trend

If content marketing is more popular than ever then why do people think it’s a dying trend, especially when it has been around for hundreds of years? One marketer started a fire storm on the internet when he said he believed it’s dying out because it has become so popular that it has lost all meaning. What he means by this is that the quality of the content is starting to diminish.

The best examples of these are all the “6 Ways to” or “Top 10” something articles that really have no teeth to them.  Consumers are getting used to seeing content marketing and the bar on what is considered quality content continues to rise. Eventually the bar is going to fall completely and all interest in content marketing will be forever lost. The content marketing bubble will pop, if you will. Consumers are slowly becoming less and less interested in the bland, low quality content that is being mass produced on the Internet currently.

Another expert that stirred up the controversial issue is Mark Schaefer. He took an economical approach to his theory. His main points were that:

  • There is too much content to consume: content shock.
  • Supply of content is higher than the demand for it.
  • Barriers are too high for the right content to be found.
  • Only companies that have “deep pockets” benefit.

There are very mixed emotions about his theories. In a podcast about Mark’s article, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose argue against him. While they agree it’s harder to find quality content, they believe if there is a good content marketing strategy in place then it will survive. They made a point that if content marketing is dying then advertising as a whole would already be dead. They say this because advertising is not something consumers enjoy seeing but content marketing is something consumers do enjoy seeing. So if something that is enjoyed is dying, then something that isn’t enjoyed would have died long ago.

Another point Joe and Robert made is that there are ways for consumers to filter out what they do and don’t want to see. If companies have a good strategy in place they can use this to their advantage to make sure their content is being seen by the people who want to see it. They feel like Mark proved the point that if quality content is being produced, it will be seen, simply based on the fact that his articles produced more than 240 comments.

What’s your take on content marketing? Is it like beating a dead horse if it continues? Or do you think it will be a survivor if quality content continues to be produced?

Comments

  1. Cynthia says

    “There is too much content to consume: content shock.”

    I have been thinking about this very thing in the past few days so it’s great to read an article on it. I’ve noticed that sites are loading up the internet with talk talk talk, mainly for the purpose of attracting traffic. And I think if that’s the motivation, then the content is more likely to be low quality.

    I do think search engines such as Google and Bing etc. help to sort out the wheat from the chaff. They know when content is unique (not duplicated from other sources.) Search engines know what content is more popular. They even know when there is repeat traffic (returning visitors.)

    So eventually the cream will rise to the top, you might say.

    But I have wondered sometimes if the sheer volume of online words might sink the internet someday. What if Google and Bing swallowed more than they could chew and went belly up? What would we do THEN? I try not to think about it… :D

    • Jessica Stevens says

      I think Google is starting to make more and more enemies. Especially those who focus on content marketing.

      There are a lot of blurred lines between what is “right” and what is “wrong” as far as content marketing and because of that they penalize some, but not others and it has the whole internet in an uproar right now for misc. reasons.

  2. says

    I think it is just starting and will continue to grow. The key is breaking through the clutter.

    If you want to be successful at content marketing you must be a great storyteller. The consumer which I call the viewer will always be receptive to content marketing if you are telling an interesting story.

    Great article and thanks for the information.

    • Jessica Stevens says

      I agree, I don’t think content marketing is dying out. I think its just getting a face lift.

      People are starting to realize that if they have poor quality content, it’s not going to be good for them.

      There are so many fabricated stories out there that people believe so much. It’s deceitful, but it draws people in to read the story.

  3. says

    I agree that there’s more business/people creating content than ever and this can lead to “content shock”. The good news for anyone who wants to market in this climate is they just need to focus on creating turely interesting content. This is because most content marketing strategies are focused on churning out topics which leads to unoriginal and non-creative content. These businesses may see some results from this work but nothing compared to the truely original will.

    • Jessica Stevens says

      Most of the time if someone is posting content that is garbage they are doing it for SEO purposes. More people are catching onto this and slowing down on their “guest posts” or (because Matt Cutts just scared everyone) not posting at all.

      Because of this, I think content marketing still has a chance to continue. Bloggers and publishers are going to be pickier about what it is their posting. Which is beneficial for everyone involved, mainly the consumers, because their heads are not being pumped full of false, misleading, or just plain bad information.

  4. says

    I do agree that there’s far too much low quality, regurgitated content online, and that it hurts the reputation of content marketing. I agree that the bar for online content will continue to rise. However, online content writing has always had a low barrier to entry. Anyone with an internet connection and a working knowledge of the English language can call themselves a content writer. The bar rising doesn’t make the low quality content go away. Perhaps it becomes less noticeable, but just like counterfeit Rolex watches and Gucci purses, it will always be with us. As mentioned above, the search engines have done a great job at shining a spotlight on the noteworthy stuff. I would say the survival of content marketing depends on our ability to minimize the counterfeit, trashy content from here on out.

    • Jessica Stevens says

      You have a great point. However, I think that bloggers and publishers are becoming more aware of what is trash and what is not simply based on the initial pitch. If the are getting a pitch to post content from someone whose English is sub-par, that’s usually a red flag.

      You still have sites that will allow anyone to sign up and post bad content on a consistent basis. Those sites will slowly fade in followers when more sites start popping up that offer better and more valuable information. Allowing readers to filtered out whats good and whats bad.

  5. says

    Content is too flexible a medium for saturation to ever occur – and assuming that an industry was ever static enough to be completely explored by written content, we could still create a wealth of unique video, infographic, audio, webinar and visual content.

    Our definition of ‘Content’ evolves faster than we can create it, and this will always be the case. The only risk to businesses will be caused by a reluctance to innovate and create quality content. There’s no content shock happening, and there won’t ever be.

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