In late 2018, the Content Marketing Institute interviewed 85 experts to see what their predictions were for content marketing in 2019. It’s an 88-page document, but we’ve distilled down the essence of the report here, so you can better plan your content marketing strategy for the coming year.
Our favorite quote comes from true marketing guru Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor Content Marketing Institute.
“I see three primary trends in 2019 … The first is the continued meteoric rise (or buzz if you prefer) of artificial intelligence within the content tech stack. There will be a distinct need for marketers – and content practitioners specifically – to begin to understand where AI actually fits in the business,” he says. “The second will be the need for scale of content operations. Businesses will finally take content seriously enough to invest in strategic operations. And, third, is the continued rise of the importance of content marketing and first-party data in the new era of GDPR and other privacy laws and regulations that are coming online elsewhere in the world.”
We saw these themes repeated over and over in the report, so let’s break each one down.
1. Meteoric Rise of Artificial Intelligence in the Content Marketing Tech Stack
Innovations such as machine learning, chatbots, and natural language processing are changing industries from healthcare to auto manufacturing to hospitality. Content marketers should be aware of how they can both prepare for the challenges and maximize the opportunities of AI, which will help to inform and optimize the type of content they create, its timing and how and where that content is distributed.
As Val Swisher, CEO of Content Rules, Inc., says, “Chatbots and voice interfaces will continue to be a key way that we interact with our customers. Content marketing professionals will find innovative ways to use these technologies and other AI-based services that are finding their way to the market.”
A combination of the possibilities of AI and the creativity of the humans behind it will most impact content marketing in 2019.
“We will begin to realize the opportunity of an AI-driven content marketing strategy,” predicts Michael Brenner, CEO – Marketing Insider Group. “If 60-70% of the content we create goes unused, AI will begin to force us to reconsider what we create and why. Second is employee activation. AI will tell us what to create, but our best storytellers are our existing employees from across the business. Every company needs a strategy to activate these employees – as both creators and as the most effective distribution channel we have to share that content. This is the paradox of AI. The more the robots tell us what to do, the more we will need our internal experts to create and share that content.”
Content specialists and content strategists shouldn’t expect their jobs to be completely taken over, however. Successfully leveraging AI in your content marketing means using it to augment human efforts and help you make smarter strategic choices, not letting a robot write your blog posts and design print ads.
“I think the solutions offered by the adoption of artificial intelligence will start making headway in 2019, but in addition, I think that brand marketers will also see some of the shortcomings that AI will still need to work out,” says JK Kalinowski, Creative Director of the Content Marketing Institute. “AI will offer some exciting solutions across the board, but the need for the human element (experiences and emotions) will still be in demand for successful strategies that implement AI.”
2. Scalable Content Operations
You’re creating lots of content, but are you getting it out to the right people? This will be the burning question of 2019 and one we’ve seen lean marketing teams struggle with as they try to evaluate the impact of their content marketing efforts.
“If content is king, distribution is queen. In 2019, content will become more authentic, personal, and interactive, with more widespread distribution via video, social channels, web, email, etc., in addition to increased personal distribution via employees and thought leaders,” says Britta Schellenberg, VP of Brand Operations at Brightcove. “More is less, and the less will be targeted and personal.”
In 2019, content marketers will have to consider how one piece of content could be multiplied and reborn as lists, Instagram posts, tweets, etc. One idea can produce 10 pieces of content served 10 different ways.
“Content marketing teams will adopt ways to improve their productivity. They will invest more in agile methods such as Scrum and COPE (create once publish everywhere) to produce better content with no extra costs,” says Cassio Politi, Founder of Tracto.
Cathy McPhillips, VP of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, predicts an inverse relationship between creation and distribution.
“Creation will decrease, distribution will increase,” she says. She foresees that the Q&A blog posts will “have a little shakeup and that publishing will decrease to a manageable consistency where there’s actually something relevant and valuable to say.”
“On the flip side,” she continues, “new, exciting and experiential distribution methods will emerge. Just because we’ve seen the content over and over, doesn’t mean we’ve gotten it in the hands of our current and potential customers when and where they need it. We need to think about how we can refocus on the needs of our customers and think about how we can improve their experiences and their engagement with us through our content, and also through the technology necessary to help us share our message.”
3. The Importance Of Earned Attention
The newsletter is back. Actually, it never went away, but the importance of having customers actively opt-in to engaging with your brand’s content will continue to grow in 2019.
“‘Hold up,’ you’re thinking. ‘EMAIL? Is this 1999… or is this 2019? Isn’t this the age of AI and Facebook Live and video and <insert BSO* here>?’ (*bright shiny object),” jokes Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, who relaunched her personal newsletter in January.
She says one of the aspects of the newsletter that gives it its power is that it’s the humans, not algorithms, who are in control. With opted-in forms of engagement, customers are choosing to see your content; your content was not chosen for them. Earning that engagement will push content marketers to be more creative in the content they create and how it aligns with the interests and pain points of their audience.
“2019 will be the year that we stop complaining about GDPR and start thanking the privacy gods for reinforcing the notion that our job as marketers is to earn someone’s attention (and ultimately their loyalty),” says Stephanie Stahl, General Manager of the Content Marketing Institute. “It will reinforce quality and creativity in content more than ever.”
Content marketing has become the lifeblood of modern brands, which means that your customers are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content they’re exposed to in a given day. In 2019, smart marketing teams will prioritize quality over quantity and be thoughtful about creating the right content distributed to the right audience via the right channels, leveraging the right mix of technological tools along the way to help them deliver on this goal.