There is no Next Big Thing in content marketing.
I was asked about that at a talk this week. “What’s the future of content marketing?”
I told them, “Nothing is going to change. There will be no dramatic developments, or exciting new technology that will change what content marketing actually is.
“Content marketing is just marketing. It’s persuading people with words, images, and sounds.
“What major changes can you make with that?”
Oh sure, I’ll grant you that developing a written language was pretty major, because we could finally write our oral traditions and stories down on papyrus, like the Sumerian version of Epic of Gilgamesh in 2000 BC, making it one of the first examples of early literature. But even marketing goes back nearly that far, when Egyptians used to put sales messages on papyrus.
Then in 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press, and we could produce books more quickly and cheaply, instead of carving pages out of blocks or wood, or copying them by hand. Advertising was done with town criers and posters containing images and not words, since citizens couldn’t read.
In 1978, at age 14, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai invented email, and in 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, launching the world’s first web server on a NeXT Computer, a company founded by Steve Jobs. With that, we could share words, and later, images and sounds, with the entire world, and then spam the bejeezus out of it.
The next big switch was the advent of smart mobile phones, but even that’s not a major change. It’s the Internet on your phone. It’s Tim Berners-Lee’s invention miniaturized.
We’ve created websites, blogs, Tumblr, and Twitter. Flickr, Picasa, and Instagram. YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, and Vine. Streaming audio, Internet radio, and podcasts. We get it all on our desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. We create amazing new layouts, like Starbucks’ Instagram feed, the I Hear Of Sherlock Everywhere Flipboard magazine, or the Tuneage tumblog.
It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t create anything new. With all new technological developments and all the different ways to use these tools, there is one constant: we’re sharing good writing, interesting images, and pleasant sounds.
You can change the tools, you can invent new tools, you can come up with new technology. You can invent a 6-word microblog. You can create a 3-second video app. You can build a website that’s filled with nothing but selfies and kitty pictures. (It’s called Facebook.)
But even 10, 20, or 100 years later, people will still want and share good writing, interesting images, and pleasant sounds.
The only thing that will change about content marketing is the name. Someone will come up with some new name, and that will be it. In fact, that’s already happened; now we’re calling it Owned Media (affiliate link).
I don’t care what happens to the web. We could get it on our glasses. We could have it beamed directly to our brains. We could shut it off tomorrow. We will still need people to create the stuff that goes into the machine so we can read it, watch it, and listen to it.
So if you’re wondering what you should do to jump on the next wave of content marketing, forget it. Don’t try to capture the next wave. Focus instead on being a good writer, photographer, videographer, or sound producer. That will outlive every technological change for the next 4,000 years.