Author   |    Speaker   |    Chief Content Officer


Content Marketing wakes up one morning in a place it doesn’t recognize, and tries to piece together what happened last night… and all the previous nights, too.

(Because, if it’s being honest, last night wasn’t an occasional bender—it had become a lifestyle.)

It takes a hard look at itself and wonders with a measure of regret: “How did I end up here?”

Everyone said Content Marketing had such potential.

Everyone said it was the hope for the future that would save marketing from itself.

Everyone said Content was the very thing that would align storytellers, artists, writers, technologists, and analysts.

Everyone said they’d all work together to create marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing.

The Content Marketing champions toiling and sweating in marketing departments worldwide stuck out their necks for Content Marketing, too. They believed in it, and they convinced their bosses and clients to believe, too.

Everyone said they’d create marketing that people actually wanted.

So what happened to all that? The promise? The hope? The plan?

In the harsh morning light of 2016, Content Marketing realized that somewhere along the way… it got lost. It got distracted.

Content Marketing admitted to itself that it had been impulsive and immature and short-sighted and (sometimes) lazy.

Content spent its parents’ money on crazy experimental things that may or may not have been good choices. It prized quantity over quality. It boasted too much about itself, instead of considering what its audience needed. It couldn’t exactly explain what its Snapchat strategy was doing for its B2B brand. It didn’t say No.

Content was letting people down. But, more important, it wasn’t fulfilling its true promise and real potential.

And right then and there—still lying in a strange bed, full of regret for the advertising it tried to pass off as “storytelling,” for the content farms, and especially for the 3 AM taco —Content Marketing grows up.

Just like that, Content exits its exuberant college years.

Maturity comes when you stop making excuses and starting making changes, Content Marketing thinks (and also makes a mental note to re-Pin that on its “Content Inspiration” Pinterest board).

Content Marketing decides to be a little more strategic and real: That means getting the necessary planning, processes, frameworks, creativity, and metrics in place to legitimize itself.

It’s time for Content to be taken seriously. We’ve got this.

Grown-up doesn’t mean boring and staid, though. Quite the opposite, because Content Marketing still has the heart of a storyteller, the soul of an artist, and the playful spark of spontaneity.

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing,” as George Bernard Shaw said. (Or was that Ann Landers? Content Marketing’s brain is still a little fuzzy from the… was it tequila?)

IMG_5885

So the stories that 2016’s Content Marketing tells are certainly more strategic. Its processes and metrics are locked in.

But so is creativity and craft. In 2016, Content Marketing tells bigger stories with a braver focus and a bolder voice.

“Onward,” Content Marketing thinks, as it leaves the place it doesn’t recognize, closing the door behind it extra firmly, to underscore the metaphor.

It steps out to the street, ready to take on 2016.

But first: PANCAKES! Because no one can work on an empty stomach. Not even Content.


everybodywrites-squareRead more about telling bigger, bolder stories and non-boring marketing writing in the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.

Pick up a copy or 2 (or 20) at Amazon or the book peddler of your choice.

.


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92 Responses to Content Marketing Grows Up: My 2016 Prediction

  1. Sarah says:

    This is gold! “Maturity comes when you stop making excuses and starting making changes” I’m reassured that all is not lost in the content marketing hype.

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  4. Simon James says:

    Love it! Great writing. Ties in perfectly with my (Brian Dean inspired) epiphany that I should be writing a few pieces of epic content rather than loads of instantly forgettable blah.

    • Ann Handley says:

      +100 — we don’t need more content. We need better content. Thanks for swinging by, Simon.

      • Quality over quantity is what will save content marketing.
        As a writer, I’ll admit I bought into the CM hype and that it would be an “easy” way to use my journalism chops to earn money. After lots of hard work and effort, I discovered it wasn’t an “easy” way to earn money. We’ll see what 2016 brings regarding content marketing, but until then I’m staying busy with my editorial clients.

  5. LOVE IT! But maybe part of growing up is realising that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, too write great content about something unless you have deep experience in that something. “Content” has two dimensions – style & knowledge. Take away either, and it’s not much use.

    • Ann Handley says:

      Thanks, Charles. Although I’d also say that it is possible… if you rely on subject-matter experts to be a kind of beacon of light.

      I worked for years as a journalist in the financial services industry, and the one thing I did well was knowing the right questions to ask of people who had that knowledge!

  6. “Closing the door behind it extra firmly, to underscore the metaphor.” Loverly.

  7. Stan Dubin says:

    Incisive. Not necessarily for the ordinary small to medium business owner who is trying to do content marketing on her own, as I think a good bit of this will sail over her head. But those of us for whom content marketing borders on religious, right on the money!

    The picture at the beginning was well worth the price of admission!

  8. Content for President! (and it never actually inhaled)
    Ann, you never cease to surprise, delight and inspire me…along with the occasional ass-kicking! xo

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  10. Leena says:

    Grown-up doesn’t mean boring and staid, though. Quite the opposite, because Content Marketing still has the heart of a storyteller, the soul of an artist, and the playful spark of spontaneity.
    — Aptly described.

  11. Yvonne Beale says:

    A super read ! As a start-up business owner essentially playing every role in the office, including posting on-line, it is very positive to read Ann’s words. For me quality just has to play over quantity as quantity simply isn’t on the books….. and now I know I’ve been doing it right ! To learn more about customers & how to deliver the stories they want in the most appealing manner will nurture my business. Grateful.
    Yvonne

  12. Brian Hansford says:

    We’re seeing a content hangover, almost with a movement into a trough of disillusionment. There ave been so many blogs waving the ridiculous flag stating “content is king” without a focus on the best content to produce for the intended audience.

    Growing up is a natural stage for us to move into, for sure. What i’m excited about is how this is a forcing function to help us be smarter in planning and execution.

    -BH

  13. Steve Peck says:

    So when I left college I was certain I had it all figured out. Confident that I’d arrived and had all the answers. 15 years later, realize that couldn’t have been further from the truth, and I’m still (and likely always will be) relatively ignorant when it comes to all wisdom life has to offer.

    So while I agree Content Marketing is well positioned to live a more responsible, less selfish and more impactful 2016, I have little doubt it will also periodically relapse into the borderline reckless college years described in the post above.

    Especially as Content Marketing makes further inroads into the main stream, who likely hold less respect for the for the power of thoughtful, selfless and “ridiculously good content” as you’ve described it on many occasions.

    As always, appreciate the humanizing visuals behind this post and will keep them in the front of my mind as I invest in the maturity of my own writing in 2016.

  14. Jayne Bodell says:

    Thank goodness someone is promoting quality content. I often struggle with myself: do I post something on my blog to post something, or wait to post something worth saying.

  15. Dean Shaw says:

    My prediction for 2016 is that Content Marketing will move back in with its parents and swear it will find work and finally get its act together. Instead, it will slide back into its old bad habits and blame “The Man” for its woes. It will continue to experiment with the latest shiney objects swearing it brings enlightenment but not be able to quantify it to anyone. It’s parents will patiently go along with content marketing’s act hoping that this will finally be the year it leaves the nest. Content Marketing will wallow in its mediocrity happy that as long as it’s folks won’t hold it accountable, it may as well stick to the status quo. Content marketing will also purchase a guitar and hang out with its buddies Social Media Advertising and Email Marketing and form a band called Bad Conversion but never play anywhere but the garage.

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  17. Karl Sakas says:

    “It prized quantity over quality.”

    Indeed… the world doesn’t need another “Top 10 Pinterest tips.”

  18. Tal Shmueli says:

    Great read! Fun and accurate.

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  21. Tony B says:

    Quality post – and I’m a waffle geezer, but…

    Quality oh yes plz – no more “I bet I can guess what’s on this post – almost word for word” before I click through.

    The art of storytelling and honesty brings a genuine uniqueness that’s so needed in content for 2016 and far far beyond.
    PS: I never did like that top 10/20/50 post approach – no matter what “everyone” else says!

    From Tony ‘content virgin’ B.

  22. Ajay Prasad says:

    Loved the lines, Ann

    “Content Marketing wakes up one morning in a place it doesn’t recognize, and tries to piece together what happened last night… and all the previous nights, too.”

    Storytelling at its best.

    One question though, Ann. I can see the “twitter count” up there. Am I hallucinating or the ShareThis has integrated the functionality after Twitter announced not to show the count?

  23. Niklas Myhr says:

    Thank you Ann, great post! I think that you are right in that the exponential growth in volume will necessitate higher quality content for success to be achieved. What strikes me, though, is that a few years ago, the pendulum was swinging the other way, away from difficult to achieve and slow to produce “epic content” toward more regularly published and at least “useful” content a la Jay Baer’s Youtility concept. The question now is how far back the pendulum will swing, perhaps it’ll find an equilibrium at an “Epic Content Light” level 🙂

  24. Mike Myers says:

    Funny, I had this exact same feeling (and wrote about it, although not nearly as well) right after CMWorld in September. I also have the same exact feelings about pancakes. Great piece, thanks for the rewarding and entertaining read.

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  34. S Murthy says:

    Awesome read.. But would still want to know more on role of content marketing in B2B space..

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  39. Stelio says:

    Hi Ann,

    Great post. I just bought your book as my Christmas gift and i already feel better prepared for 2016. However, i bought another book that says you should be postings at least 3 pieces a day (your own or curated material) to get the necessary results, which is not aligned to what you are saying in this post. Do you have minimum per day sort of strategy?

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  44. Mildred Center says:

    If one is tired of hearing about Content Marketing once they read Ann’s beautifully written post they will be inspired to take it on in 2016–Bigger, Bolder, Braver.
    Thanks,
    Ann

  45. Kaspar says:

    Excellent article – thank you for sharing.

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  47. Claire Miller says:

    I love the way that you phrase this article so that it’s relatable (plot twist, I’m in college) and your point is easily reached. As a third year marketing undergrad student, I am still getting my feet wet, and this article helps explain why fully planning a strategy before executing it is crucial to delivering your message successfully. I will definitely continue to read your blog! Thanks, Ann.

  48. Meghan Gilmartin says:

    I think content marketing had the same problem we are now seeing with social media. Everyone wants to get on the bandwagon as soon as possible so they just spew information out there without a great plan. I think when businesses get too excited about a new feature or product, they dive right in instead of thinking of a great marketing plan that will have great results.

  49. Brittany Arnold says:

    I really didn’t have much of an idea as to what content marketing was until I looked it up in the dictionary, but almost immediately upon looking it up I found that my thoughts and ideas about the content marketing that I had been exposed to directly matched up with this post. It seems as though if done correctly then it could be a powerful way in which to engage users, however, the current system in which content marketing is being used is failing miserably. I look forward to following this marketing strategy in the future and seeing the change it has made though!

  50. Joseph Brown says:

    I fully agree with your opinion on the matter of content marketing and its links to storytelling and the heart of an artist. This is how I have felt about content marketing and content creation. The two brands that i feel have done a beautiful job with content marketing over the past 5 years have been Go
    Pro and Converse. GoPro has leveraged users content to make beautiful “Year in Review” videos. Converse has used content and media from its “RubberTracks” recording studio to tell the story of its brand on multiple platforms.

  51. Erica says:

    In order for consumers to pay attention to content, we need to get rid of the white noise. If we bombard our audience with irrelevance and mundane content our audience will subconsciously filter through our important content and it will be looked over. Great story!

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  53. Awesome one!
    Great work Ann

  54. As a 3rd year digital marketing student at UGA, reading this insight is getting me closer to the dream job interviews out there, helping me be more confident in my understanding of industry insights, and helping me to become grounded as I begin career. Thank you for this incredible content (on content, subsequently)! You are appreciated by all of us ‘little people,’ also commonly known as hungry, eager students who are excessively excited about marketing strategy and the bold future it has in our society.

    THANKS!

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  57. Olwen says:

    Love it! As always, highly entertaining and informative wrapped into one well-written package. Developing content is so important, and I love that you make it so much more accessible. Thanks for writing, and thanks for sharing.

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  59. theNeedle says:

    Ann, are you sure this post is about content marketing and not about me 😉 (and… did you talk to my mom recently???).

    Great stuff, WHERE/when ARE THE NEW POSTS?

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  61. Anna says:

    Love this entertaining and witty content about content, Ann. +100 for the storytelling! There is a growing number of content curating tools and I have been reading a lot of the same content that are presented slightly different by many sites. Sometimes, it can be pressuring to just keep on publishing. This year, Im definitely going for quality over quantity.

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  67. shamsheer says:

    While we will see shining examples of content marketing magic in action, the sheer majority of brands will continue to crash and burn with their content creation and distribution efforts. Simply put, most brands resist telling a truly differentiated story; and even those that do aren’t consistent or patient enough to build loyal audiences over time.

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  69. Rasel Uddin says:

    Super-Duper post! I love it really!! . Thanks For Sharing This Useful Information .Would come back to visit soon, again Thanks.

  70. Puja Roy says:

    Thanks for this incredible post! Content marketing has always been great source to get new leads and relevant back links to money site which helps to rank higher in search engines. So I love it..

  71. Vicky says:

    Content marketing is useful to get attention of audience. Visual content is very important! This article is very useful. I saved it into my bookmarks. Thanks For Sharing This Useful Information .Would come back to visit soon, again Thanks.

  72. Tauseef says:

    Thanks for sharing such a informative blog . Its very informative and descriptive . Got many new ideas.

  73. Moneera says:

    Awesome post about content marketing. i like it and will share it with my friends also. thanks for the great post.

  74. Quite a useful post! I fully agree with your opinion on the matter of content marketing.

  75. Harshini says:

    Really an awesome post. I wondered by reading this blog post. Thanks a lot for posting this unique post which you have shared with us. Keep on posting like this exclusive post with us.

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