The State of Content Marketing in Australia 2016

This is an article I’ve had on my to-do list for a while — where is content marketing heading in Australia? Every second blog talks about how tough it is, how much time you need to get results, how our good friends at CMI abandoned us after daring to invest in the industry for two years!

From where I stand, the local content marketing industry is disrupting the model that has been around for eons: taking budgets from all the major marketing and advertising pots, with traditional media in turmoil as audiences and dollars move to earned and owned channels. Put simply, content is driving the earned and owned channels, and paid is moving that way with native advertising.

1. Content marketing is no longer a risk

When King Content launched, every marketer put us in that ’10 per cent bucket of risk’. You know the one: “Let’s give this content thing a try. Here’s a couple of grand. Let’s see how it goes.”

How times have changed! We’re seeing brands using their owned assets, driven by content marketing, as the centrepiece of their marketing activities. It’s been a perfect storm for the content marketing industry as mainstream media struggles with its business models and sheds its best editorial and content staff — people who in the past developed the very thing that advertisers wanted to be placed around.

Couple that with traditional audiences falling off a cliff and the pay-for-play mentality on social channels, and the only thing brands can trust is their owned assets. Brands are now using these assets as their direct-to-market channel and are incorporating native advertising to drive audiences back to those owned assets.

2. Native advertising and ad blocking

These probably both deserve a deep dive individually, but collectively they are by-products of where the advertising industry is going and what content marketing is. Consumers don’t want disruptive advertisements forced down their throats.

Ad blockers and native advertising are the result of the evolution of technology coupled with user behaviour. Neither are perfect, but both make life difficult for traditional media and both are great for brands using content marketing.

3. More isn’t better

One of the major changes in the past six years is the quality and quantity of content being pushed out by brands. In 2010 there was still a hangover from the Demand Media days of producing hundreds of pages of content each week so that Google could pick you up and rank you well.

Two animals called Penguin and Panda killed that model pretty quickly. Fast-forward to today and we’re seeing brands embrace the fact that a well-crafted piece of editorial or a great video is much better than 20 blog posts. More isn’t better — better is better.

4. We’ve only scratched the surface

Even though it’s been six years, the content marketing industry is still in its infancy in Australia. I’m confident that the advances and growth the industry has seen in recent times will pale in significance to what is coming in the next six years.

There are still major segments of marketing that haven’t yet dipped their toes into the space. In general terms we haven’t seen a huge amount from FMCGs, pharma, auto and, to a lesser extent, retail. Pair content with data and analytics and the future is very, very bright.

We are aware that everybody has a role to play in this disruption — from the pure-play content marketing agencies like King Content through to the custom publishers, PR agencies, SEO firms and digital companies who all need to tailor their business models to the burgeoning requirements of their clients’ content marketing needs.

5. The future of journalism

As mainstream media companies shed journalists at a rate of knots, there is no doubt that the traditional media model has been disrupted by the very people who used to fund these media companies to massive profits: the advertisers.

The advertisers have worked out that they too can generate great content (with the help of the content marketing industry at various levels) and have a direct relationship with their existing and prospective customers without going through an intermediary. They’ve realised that these customers don’t care where the content comes from as long as it’s good — engaging, entertaining, informative.

It’s taken the media a while to understand that they don’t need a mortgage on great content, especially when they have fewer people to produce it via their increasingly flawed business models. Brands can, via their owned assets, have a direct relationship with clients, analyse all the data in real-time and act faster because their resources aren’t funded by advertising or subscribers. It’s an unfair fight as the brand will always win.

6. No more price and product

One of the great arguments we’ve had with many of our clients is: “Why can’t we talk about ourselves? We’ve been doing that for years with advertising.”

Realisation is dawning, and with it the knowledge that price and product being rammed down consumers throats — when they didn’t want it and without choice — doesn’t fly. The consumer doesn’t like it and I can guarantee the next generation of consumers will like it even less!

As brands begin to recognise their role as media companies and publishers, they are starting to learn that they have a responsibility to develop relationships, earn the right to have a connection, entertain and inform. And they are learning quickly — to the detriment of traditional media.

Brands such as LEGO, Mountain Dew and the AFL are developing some great entertainment assets, and building experiences, and there is more to come.

7. Let’s be more creative

As with any new sector of marketing, B2B and tech normally jump in first. This was the case with search and social, and it was the same for content marketing.

Those brands with big-ticket sales could justify more spend per lead and it was very focused on earning a solid ROI. These brands propped up our business for many years and I suspect the broader industry as well. Lately, the B2C brands have made their presence felt and they are asking for creative content solutions for their marketing challenges.

As the local content marketing space matures, so will the creative opportunities.

8. The next wave: Content operations

Digital content is surging not just here but around the globe. Content fuels everything a marketer touches. Ironically, the exponential digital content growth has the potential to become marketing’s greatest obstacle.

Despite heavy investments in managing the surge of digital content, the operational side of content management is eating up a big chunk of marketing professionals’ time. Companies will benefit from developing and managing content under a centralised model. This will allow marketers to spend almost three times the amount of their time on branding and marketing activities.

Individual teams look to own the message, frequency and distribution of digital content, which can lead to silos within the business and contribute to inefficient processes and workflows, no central repository or reuse of digital assets. Companies will be smart to develop a more streamlined and orchestrated plan for creating data-driven marketing and multichannel content.

2017 will only get bigger. Make some predictions below.

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