As a content marketer, I’ll dote on content marketing for days — I just can’t help myself. It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to marketing and advertising, and marks a deviation from the hard-persuading borderline-manipulative advertising styles of old. If executed correctly, with a solid strategic backing, earning a high ROI is easy (especially over time), and almost any business in the world can take advantage of it.
Among content marketing’s greatest strengths are its practicality, its simplicity, its multifaceted effects, and its timelessness — the fact that it will be relevant forever.
Then again, forever is a long time. What if content marketing is just a fad? What if all your “permanent” efforts aren’t really permanent? Is content marketing truly timeless, or are we too short-sighted to learn the truth? Let’s break this down.
Arguments for Timelessness
On one hand, I understand why so many content marketers think that content marketing will last forever:
· Information demand. We’re living in the information age, but information has been commoditized and sought for millennia. Our prioritization of presses, libraries, universities, and public records are a testament to that. Content marketing has only gained popularity by that term in the past decade or so, but the creation and distribution of informative, helpful content is something ubiquitous throughout human history. There will always be new things to learn and demand for people to provide that information; therefore, content marketing will always exist.
· Evolution of mediums. Some proponents of the “content marketing will die” theory assert that people will no longer want to read articles, and therefore, demand will inevitably decrease. There is some truth to this; more users are relying on mobile devices for online interactions, and therefore can’t read or access certain types of content as easily — but “types” is the operative word here. Even though content marketing will invariably evolve and change form, the core concept of content marketing will likely remain in place.
· Web permanence. Looking at a smaller, closer level, the articles you write and content you produce aren’t going to go away. Futurists suggest that the internet will likely evolve beyond present-day recognition, but for as long as the internet exists, your articles will likely remain in place. Every piece you produce will continue returning value to you, borderline indefinitely, and even if the internet as we know it eventually disappears, it will only do so gradually.
· Lasting reputation benefits. One of the most important benefits of content marketing is the strategy’s effect on your personal or brand reputation. When a visitor reads a piece of content you wrote and finds what they’re looking for, or otherwise sees a strong demonstration of your authoritativeness and knowledge in a particular niche, they’re left with a positive impression of your brand. Strip away the content, strip away the internet, and that reputation impact will still remain. In this point, content marketing may not always be a viable tactic, but the work you do will always work in your favor.
Arguments Against Timelessness
Okay, but what about the other side of the fence? What evidence is there to suggest that content marketing isn’t really timeless?
· Transience of mediums. Mediums evolve — that’s a principle I used in the previous section to argue for content marketing’s timelessness — so why is it here? If articles one day become obsolete, and we all watch videos for the vast majority of our content needs, any articles you’ve written will cease generating new value. Apply this principle on a broad scale, and any medium, form, or trend you chase will eventually give way — meaning even if content marketing does stick around indefinitely, you’ll always be hopping from one lily pad to the next.
· Centralization of content. Information is becoming widely centralized, with Wikipedia doing an amazing job of collecting and organizing knowledge from around the world, and the Google Knowledge Graph attempting to fill in the gaps with its own provision of information for user search queries. Today, users are already heavily relying on these services to collect the majority of their information, from doing in-depth research to answering simple questions, and these systems will only grow more sophisticated in time.
· Competition and user fatigue. The effectiveness of content marketing has led to a dramatic increase in its popularity. That means more people producing content, and higher competition for visibility across all channels. Accordingly, users are inundated with content, and they’re already starting to show signs of fatigue. There may eventually be a user backlash against content marketing, in the same way that users grew tired of direct advertising, and a new marketing tactic may need to rise to take its place.
· Artificial intelligence (AI). AI has already taken significant steps forward in taking over the world of journalism. Though it may never fully replace human writers, it could automatically generate much of the world’s news and content in just a few years — meaning there wouldn’t be much room for other content marketers to break into the scene (at least not cost efficiently). In this scenario, content still exists and is still effective, but it isn’t people or even brands that are producing it. This complicates the problem of centralization as well.
What to Do
In 20 years, we may be laughing about the fact that we ever used “content marketing” as a legitimate strategic term, but even though our platforms and technology may evolve, I’m confident content marketing will continue to exist in some form. It may not be comparable to what we practice today, and there will likely be new hurdles to overcome, but consumers will always crave information and prioritize the brands and individuals who give it to them.