20 Content Marketing Predictions for 2014

At Contently, we’re always thinking about the present and future of content marketing. Here are 20 predictions for brand content marketing in 2014 from around our Soho office:

1) The content marketing arms race will escalate. As brands invest in creating better and better content, they’ll battle to one-up each other. It should be fun to watch. -Shane Snow, Co-Founder and CCO (@shanesnow)

2) “Native advertising” will cease to be a buzzword or a bugaboo, instead both brands and publishers will talk about creating great stories. -Sam Slaughter, VP of Content (@samslaughter215)

3) Transparency will become a major buzzword as deceptive content strategies get brands in trouble. There are way too many lightly-branded sites out there that dubiously push a brands’ products, and those brands will start getting called out for it this year. On the flip side, brands that create great content and put their name on it will win consumers’ trust. Joe Lazauskas, Editor in Chief (@joelazauskas)

4) BS metrics will die. So far, content marketers still have not figured out how to correctly measure the return they are getting from their content marketing efforts. There’s no proper methodology to help them with day-to-day optimization. In desperation, they fall back to vanity metrics like shares and likes, but these are completely useless when it comes to measuring the impact a company’s content marketing efforts have on its brand. Existing analytics products are designed for publishers that monetize by selling ads and are inappropriate for content marketers. It’s the blind leading the blind. In 2014, we’ll see new methodologies, tools and processes being developed that will enable content marketers to measure the return they’re getting from their content marketing efforts and how to optimize their efforts on a day to day basis. -Paul Fredrich, Director of Product (@pfredrich)

5) User experience will count. Okay so, yes, as Contently’s UX designer, I have to say this one. But it’s true! Mediocre storytelling and marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore. A basic website is expected; design is no longer an afterthought. Marketers need to blow their consumers away with well thought-out experiences that are easy and enjoyable to use. These types of well-designed experiences will be memorable and more effective. -Kelsey Rahn, UX Designer (@KelseyRahn)

6) Agencies will announce mini-content shops/garages with silly names. -Elisa Cool, Director Business Development (@ElisaAnnCool)

7) We’ll see a trend towards “slow content.” Not that the Buzzfeeds, Upworthys and HuffPos are going away, but a parallel universe where longer reads, weekly publication and heavily curated experiences are preferred over listicle-happy, 10-second skimmers. And while Marissa Mayer may have computers curating your reads through Aviate, human beings are at the helm of these carefully-crafted sites. -Margit Detweiler, Strategist (@Margit)

8) Branded content will continue to advance in volume and quality. Companies not traditionally in the media business are becoming more sophisticated about content marketing, and a cornerstone of that discipline is the ability to tell a story. -Matthew Rothenberg, Strategist (@mmrothenberg)

9) Instagram will develop feeds (god willing) allowing individuals to filter content to different audiences/followings for different themes of work. -Elisa Cool, Director Business Development (@ElisaAnnCool)

10) 2014 will be for Content like 2010 was for Social — everyone is going to jump on the bandwagon, but not everyone is going to be doing it equally well (naturally). Smart CMOs will start asking questions like, “What’s the bottom-line ROI,” and companies like Contently will need to have a better answer than Social was able to provide. -Rob Haber, Senior Account Director (@robbyhaber)

11) Expect the return of the Esso Newsreel and the Camel News Caravan. The next logical step for native advertising will see brands come to the fore of content production, becoming sole owners of newspaper sponsors, magazine packages and television programming. I think 2014 is the year that you will begin to see major news organizations allow brands to directly sponsor stories and programming. It will require bravery on the part of both sides — the sponsor to surrender some control of the subject matter and to refrain from promotion; the news org to surrender the appearance of objectivity on a subject. This is not great leap but a matter of semantics. News and content have always been sponsored, this is just a matter of a single sponsor taking a larger stake in the production and owning a greater share of the audience benefits. This could even open some new doors to news orgs in terms of distribution and reporting access. Don’t look for anything radical here. I don’t expect to see 60 Minutes and Kraft partner on an “Obesity in America” piece, but expect some cool stories to be told in a cool new way. – John Hazard, Director of Accounts (@jhazard)

12) More companies invest in the long view of content marketing and hire in-house Chief Content Officers. -Dori Fern, Strategist (@DoriFern)

13) By the end of 2014, every major publisher will have a sponsored content offering. -Shane Snow, Co-Founder and CCO (@shanesnow)

14) Infographic overload will hit us, and we’ll finally start seeing fewer of them by next fall. -Jonah Bliss, Director of Marketing (@JonahBliss)

15) Photography! Data visualization! Video! These things enrich storytelling and we’ll see a lot more of them this year. Sites like Instagram and Vine are taking over and leading us down a more visual path. Written content is now just part of the storytelling equation. Things like maps, charts and timelines allow users to interact with online experiences which leads to higher engagement. Brands will use them to tell much better stories in 2014. -Kelsey Rahn, UX Designer (@KelseyRahn)

16) The Red Bull Effect will inspire more companies to take a page from the soft drink/extreme sports/music brand’s uber-cool style guide. They’ll find ways to connect with audiences more organically through innovative soft-or-non-branded content programming. -Dori Fern, Strategist (@DoriFern)

17) At least three brands will recruit a big-name journalist to helm their media division. Money talks. So does a budget and the promise of creative control (save for the battles with legal). Those are things that brands can offer, and they will. -Joe Lazauskas, Editor in Chief (@joelazauskas)

18) The agency game will change. Expect to see a lot more standalone “custom publishing” houses emerge, essentially new agencies that eschew traditional media plan building and sell services as content creators and content marketing strategists. -Colin Grigsby, Account Director (@ColinGrigsby)

19) At least one writer will win a journalism award for a story produced on behalf of a brand. -Sam Slaughter, VP of Content (@samslaughter215)

20) Brands will take the issue of business results seriously and start tying publishing results to business results. -Shane Snow, Co-Founder and CCO (@shanesnow) What’s the deal with the Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

Image by Patrick Feller/

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