Is no one listening to your content marketing initiatives?
More and more people are spending more and more time consuming online content. Only about ten years ago the average internet user spent about 2 hours per day online. As the internet has become increasingly mobile, this figure has doubled. In 2015, over 80% of the population in Western Europe and the US were online.
Businesses are trying to reach this huge potential audience by creating an exploding amount of content. According to Trackmaven, an analytics provider specializing in content marketing, "content output" by brands has increased by nearly 80% in 2013 and 2014. But are people also reading and sharing this growing amount of content? Interestingly and somewhat counterintuitively, this does not seem to be the case. Content performance is failing, and there is research to substantiate this. Trackmaven reported that content engagement decreased by 60% in 2014. In fact, brand-generated content on social networks is seeing the lowest engagement rates ever since social media gained traction. Even professionally marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions today.
But what has caused content engagement to become so strikingly low? Apparently this has nothing to do with poor quality; even popular sites are increasingly losing traffic. A more obvious reason could be saturation. Even though they are spending more time online people might have reached a limit of content they can consume.
Different labels have been created for this phenomenon. Trackmaven calls it the "content marketing paradox": although they are blasting more content onto more channels, brands are losing their impact. A widely commented blogpost worked out that we may have reached a turning point in content marketing called the "content shock". This is explained using simple economic terms: an explosion of supply is faced with a shortage of demand. Thus, so the logic goes, the winners in content marketing will be the companies with big pockets, driving others out of business and raising the bar for entry. And thus, so the inevitable conclusion, content marketing is no longer a sustainable strategy.
This conclusion makes sense. Faced with an abundance of information in the digital age, people naturally become more selective in what they consume and share. And there are enough filtering tools out there such as subscription services and search engines that help them get what their interested in without having to be inundated with what they are not interested in.
So has content been pushed from its throne? And have content marketing initiatives, as a consequence, become futile unless lots of money is spent? "Content is king", the ubiquitous statement attributed to Bill Gates, expresses the significance of content as the main driver of online growth. But reaching saturated people has undoubtedly become very difficult. The internet has become a crowded place in which content creators are competing for attention.
Obvious analogies can be found in the past fortunes of print media or television. Only the most innovative businesses were able to survive very similar turning points in their respective industries. But if online marketers increasingly see their jobs as a fight for saturated consumers' attention, then they should put more effort in finding out who their target audience is, what they want and, probably most importantly, where they can be found in an increasingly complex online landscape.
Content shock shows us that content marketers have to first listen carefully to what people are talking about and sharing. Otherwise they will never be able to make them listen to their own messages. There could be no better business case for advanced analytics.