What is the future of content marketing?
I’m often asked, what will content marketing look like in the future?
People are surprised with my answer: Just like it does now.
It’s not going to be different, we’re not going to see some major new way of “consuming content” (I really loathe that phrase!), and there’s not going to be some new method of content delivery that we’re going to have to learn.
Because when you look at content at its barest essence, it’s just words, images, and sounds. That’s what it has always been, that’s what it will always be.
It was words, images, and sounds when cave dwellers drew on cave walls and grunted their delight. It was words, images, and sounds when the Ancient Greeks passed down knowledge with stories or told stories with plays. It was words, images, and sounds — well, not so much sound — when the first ever movie of a galloping horse was made or the world’s oldest surviving film, Roundhay Garden Scene, was made.
It was words, images, and sounds when newspapers, radio, and television all had their heyday and when they were replaced by blogs, videos, and podcasts.
Content marketing is no different from any other form of communication in our history. We’ve used words, images, and sounds to communicate the entire time. But the only thing that has changed has been the medium we use — the way the content gets
consumed read, watched, or heard.
Content creation tools don’t matter
And now, everything you could ever want — including samples of old newspapers, radio shows, newsreels, and TV shows — are all available on your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone.
You can read about how those media were made eighty years ago, or you can make and share a 21st-century version of it for other people to read, watch, or hear.
Because it’s still the same old words, images, and sounds.
And it won’t matter one bit how those are made. The secret to doing well at content marketing is to be able to do words, images, and sounds well.
You have to write well. You have to sound good. You have to know how to frame a photo or a video. You have to create things that are interesting. You have to know how to tell a story. You have to know how to capture your audience at the very moment they click your link.
The tools don’t matter.
I’ll say it again: THE TOOLS DON’T MATTER!
Years ago, I used to argue with people who claimed: “there’s no such thing as social media experts because the tools are too new.”
My response then is the same as it is now: I don’t have to be a tools expert, I have to be a communication expert. I have to be good at conveying a message in my chosen medium. The tools can change from week to week, and it won’t affect me one bit because I don’t have to master the tool, I just have to master the craft.
Think of it another way. A carpenter that has spent his entire life swinging a hammer isn’t less effective just because you gave him a pneumatic nailer. A chef doesn’t forget how to cook because you switch out her gas stove to an electric one. And writers aren’t suddenly reduced to creating doggerel just because they switched pens.
So when people think you need specific Mailchimp or Constant Contact experience to be an effective email marketer, that’s wrong.
When people think you need to know how to use Hubspot or WordPress to be an effective blogger, that’s completely wrong.
It’s like saying a photographer is not a good photographer because she uses Nikon and not Canon. Or that a writer is not a good writer because they use Apple Pages and not Microsoft Word.
The tool does not create quality content. WordPress and Hubspot don’t make you write well. Constant Contact doesn’t make you a good email marketer. The latest video camera doesn’t make you a good videographer any more than a great camera makes you a good photographer.
The tools do not make the artist. A good artist can make good art with crappy tools, but a bad artist cannot make good art with good tools.
So it doesn’t matter what happens to the tools: WordPress may go away. Hubspot may fall into the sea. YouTube could be eaten by a pack of hyenas.
None of that will change how content creators make their art.
If WordPress were to go away, bloggers aren’t going to be thrown for a loop or cast out on the scrap heap. We’ll just shrug our shoulders and continue to tell good stories on the new distribution method. And blogging itself won’t go away, it will just be called something else.
Podcasting won’t go away because there will be other ways to deliver episodic information and entertainment via audio distribution.
Videos won’t go away because — well, video’s just never going to go away. In fact, it just surpassed blogging and infographics as the most commonly used form of content marketing. (I’m still a little salty about it, thank you very much.)
The artists and creators will still have a way to make and distribute their work, even if the tools for that distribution go away, change, or die completely.
Remind me how is this about the future of content marketing again
My point is, when you ask about the future of content marketing, just remember, the core elements of content marketing — words, images, and sounds — are never going to change. We’re still going to read, we’re still going to watch videos and look at pictures, and we’re still going to listen to music and information.
The channels will change, the methods of production will change, and even the popularity of the content formats will change. (Freakin’ video!) But the need for quality content will never change. That’s the one constant you can count on.
So if you’re in the content creation business, just focus on improving your craft. Become the best creator you can. Learn your art so you can be one of the best creators around. Worry less about the technology, because that won’t affect whether you’re good at your job. And when the method changes, you’ll already know what you need to do.
Photo credit: Steve Shook (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)