As content marketing becomes a more popular method of customer acquisition, it also grows increasingly competitive. Increasing content marketing budgets also means increasing expectations of ROI. Effective content marketing requires constant vigilance: keeping a consistent eye on storytellers around the world, and how the best are doing it.
These exciting experiments can be carried out by journalists, media companies, or other content marketers. If you want to stay competitive, have a look at these five experiments and their implications on content marketing:
1. Multimedia Content Marketing
Much like how traditional print publications are experimenting with all forms of media in order to evolve, content marketers will move from text-heavy content (e.g., blog posts, articles, and eBooks) and get into all types of media (e.g., video, slideshows, infographics).
To give you an idea of how this transition will take place, have a look at one of the most prominent publications to embrace responsive web technology, The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe has an entire team dedicated to creating multimedia content and exploring other avenues of communication. Media analyst Ken Doctor says in an interview with WBUR:
By 2015, 2016, these media companies that survive and prosper will all be multimedia. They may start out as newspapers or TV or radio — it doesn’t matter what the roots are. What readers or listeners or viewers want is what makes the most sense, it could be audio, video or words.
Even newspapers of record, such as The Globe and Mail and The New York Times, are introducing video clips into their content both in order to tell more immersive stories and to create new opportunities to engage readers with advertising. In the case of content marketing, this means more opportunities for various calls to action.
2. Long-form Advertising
A couple of years ago, The New York Times blew up the blogosphere and social media with a new story entitled, “Snow Fall”. The story was formatted like none other in mainstream media at the time; the text was completely integrated with video interviews, animated imagery, and embedded slideshows. It quickly got the attention of readers and journalists.
In response, magazines like Complex have embraced this type of format and explored it with cover stories (here’s one with artist and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams). Complex also took it one step further: they built an interactive long-form piece for their sponsor, shoe manufacturer Converse. They built a story around the shoes and have sections linking to the product page at sportswear retailer Champs, where readers can purchase the shoes.
This type of long-form piece could be the new landing page, or a precursor to a product landing page. Long-form content can tell stories in much more engaging ways, and have opt-in boxes or offers built into different sections of the page.
3. Hacking Charts
A chart can easily explain what passages of text can’t. With all the data out and about on the web, charts could also be an easy method of creating original content based on a source’s raw data. Digital publication Quartz decided to create a Chart Builder for its team’s individual writers and contributors to easily create charts on data they come across online. (Here’s an example of how one of its charts look.)
Quartz uploaded this tool online for all publishers to use. (Here’s The Atlantic using the plugin. Naturally, Quartzz decided to stamp their name on all images produced with the tool.) Now, all designers and writers have the option to use this simple tool to quickly create charts.
4. Adaptive Journalism
Content marketing changes according to the context the content is consumed. The Washington Post’s Cory Haik displays this with his own publication’s attempt at adaptive journalism. He likens this to how “day parting” advertising is done – the practise of displaying different types of advertisements for daytime TV and primetime: “content parting” means displaying different types of content during different times of day.
During the times you know the reader is likely on the commute to work, the story you launch should probably be shorter and snappier, with fewer graphics to prevent a long load time. It should also fit the mobile device screen comfortably. In order to drive this type of shift, Haik collaborated with designer Katie Park and producer Masuma Ahuja.
Much like how adaptive journalism will be how publications engage readers, adaptive content marketing provides new chances to draw readers in, but will also mean a change in the skillset of current content marketers.
5. Brands and Subbrands
Effective marketing requires tailoring your content to more narrow segments of different consumers. This is why microproperties are often more effective than just company blogs. Media companies are also distinguishing between brands and subbrands; for example, The Atlantic separates itself from its subbrand The Wire. Atlantic president M. Scott Havens says in an interview with Digiday, “From a business standpoint to take that next step forward to what we believe can be a definitive news platform, it needs to have its own identity.”
Different types of subbrands, or microproperties, enable companies to deliver different types of content in different types of packaging. While The Washington Post is an extremely credible publication, its young cousin Know More is able to display content that doesn’t exactly meet the editorial standards of the main site. The microproperty also mitigates any collateral damage this experiment could have on the main site.
While firsthand experiments could result in the most lessons, secondhand learning is a much more cost-effective method of acquiring knowledge and understanding the reasons behind certain strategies of tactics. These content experiments being carried out in the world of journalism will be indicators into the future of content marketing, and staying on top will give you opportunities to act proactively and delight your readers and potential clients much more than your competitors could.