The usual predictions are in – but is any of it actually worth your time?
Death and taxes are life’s only certainties, so said Benjamin Franklin. But close behind must surely be content marketers making trite predictions about the forthcoming twelve months.
Often such lists are bereft of insight and barren of originality. Keep your eye out for blogs insisting the time for virtual/augmented reality or artificial intelligence is nigh or zooming in on some random format and arguing it is about to boom (full disclaimer: I have been guilty of such sins myself in the past).
Rather than contributing to this morass, Content Desk has trawled the internet to see what selected B2B marketing gurus have conjured up. Reviewing their offerings with a cynical eye, we can sort the prophets from the profiteers, the prognosticators from the pretenders.
So is there gold to be panned from the stream of advice? Read on and find out!
The CMI has been forecasting the future for nearly a decade. This year’s offering follows a familiar template – some headline observations from Joe Pulizzi and an eBook containing over 60 forecasts from the industry’s leading lights.
Taking the article as a whole, it’s a mixed bag. Predictions range from the realistic (algorithmic changes will bring paid promotion on social media to the fore) to the unimaginative (automation, video and virtual reality continue to rise) to the outlandish (Pulizzi reckons Apple is about to buy Disney).
There’s something of a stale whiff about many of these predictions.
Going into the CMI archives reveals many have supposedly been in the offing for some time. For example, evolutionary changes such as producing less and better content, using technologies to enhance personalisation and fighting back against fake news. Yet all feature prominently as the next big thing for 2018 too. Joe Pulizzi has also been prophesying Apple’s purchase of Disney for years with no real evidence that acquisition is moving forward.
Moreover, many headlines from bygone years look laughable today. Now-defunct Vine was eagerly touted in the heady days of 2014; the CMI’s commentators thought its bite-sized content would take off. An imminent surge in print was anticipated for 2015. Certainly it retains its charms, but it hasn’t exactly shaken marketing to its foundations.
Verdict: A few interesting nuggets, a lot of raking over old ground. 4/10
TopRank by name, top rank by nature? Gathering together some of the industry’s famous faces (including some old favourites), this blog is another varied offering as far as perceptiveness goes.
Some contributions are credible without being hugely insightful. Tim Washer, for example, says 2018 will see B2B brands dabble with humour in their content to connect with audiences.
Others are insightful without seeming very credible. Chris Moody is right to observe that many marketers still lack a documented strategy when they need to be more data-driven and capable of showing ROI. But is there really any evidence that a sea change is at hand?
More refreshing is this dose of honesty from Chris Brogan: “Content 2018 is going to be horrible,” he says.
But he justifies his sacrilege: “This is still the tail end of everyone realising they need to be doing something, and they’re going to do it poorly.” 2019 and onwards might see things settle, but 2018 will be another year of flux in a persistently hostile environment for media companies.
It might not be the aspirational message we’re used to, but it’s a reasonable extrapolation from how the landscape looks now.
Content production is saturating the market, adoption of cutting-edge technology is relatively small-scale and content marketers are facing new demands all the time, from innovating their formats to mastering social media. Acclimatising to this is necessarily a time-consuming, unglamorous process.
Verdict: The usual themes with a welcome dollop of honesty. 5/10
Talking of ‘the usual themes’, have a look at this from Neil Patel.
Originality has eluded his 2018 predictions, trampling over well-worn ground: the Internet of Things, the importance of authenticity and virtual reality all make an appearance.
To which I say: come on, Neil. We’ve heard it all before!
Admittedly this is by no means the world’s worst effort. His article is sprinkled with some interesting stats and he deserves credit for listing trends that he claims are supported by data.
Although as the URL analysis tool on his website also claims he can use his marketing techniques to boost Google’s traffic, treating Neil’s claims with some suspicion is wise.
Verdict: A commendable effort but ultimately a decent example of what is wrong with this format. 3/10
It’s not all bad. Some of the predictions in the above articles are interesting ones to watch for the year ahead. Some seem quite conceivable; some are even probable.
But scanning what the world’s content connoisseurs have predicted for the next 12 months – plus what they thought was on the cards for last year – paints an embittering picture of some of the industry’s leading lights. Considering the trade-off between the effort spent on these posts versus their accuracy, the whole exercise emerges as an astounding waste of everyone’s time.
What content marketing needs is a bit less collective back patting and a bit more honesty about the uncertainty governing the industry. Adoption of technology will likely remain gradual, investment will likely remain incremental, content marketers will keep doing what works. Not that this will stop headline-hunters from arguing that revolution is at hand.
With 2018 now well underway, I will make only one prediction for content marketing; abysmal though they often are, come December we can expect the prophecies for next year to start all over again.