Our 2014 Content Marketing Predictions, Ranked

A year ago, various members of the Contently team made predictions about what would happen in the content marketing world in the year ahead. From worst to first, here’s how we did.

20. At least one writer will win a journalism award for a story produced on behalf of a brand. —Sam Slaughter, VP of Content

My boss, Sam, swung big with this one, and boy did he miss. We’re still years away from branded content winning any journalism awards, but when it happens, it’ll be fun to see Jeff Jarvis’ head explode.

Verdict: False

19. Infographic overload will hit us, and we’ll finally start seeing fewer of them by next fall. —Jonah Bliss, Director of Marketing

After the apocalypse, the only things that will survive are cockroaches, infographics, and Gawker.

Verdict: False

18. Instagram will develop feeds (god willing) allowing individuals to filter content to different audiences and followings for different themes of work. —Elisa Cool, VP of Sales

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Verdict: False

17. “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

While native advertising grows, skepticism—and straight-up freakouts—about the practice are still dominating the media conversation.

Verdict: False

16. At least three brands will recruit a big-name journalist to helm their media division. —Joe Lazauskas, Editor-in-Chief

While Microsoft, Basecamp, T Brand Studio, and several other brands and content marketing shops hired journalists with impressive résumés, no “big names” of note jumped to the “dark side” in 2014.

Verdict: False

15. We’ll see a trend towards “slow content.” —Margit Detweiler, Strategist

For the past 15 years, media minds have been optimistically predicting that long reads will finally begin to win out over listicles, and for 15 years, it hasn’t happened. Maybe in 2015?

Verdict: False

14. Expect the return of the Esso Newsreel and the Camel News Caravan. —John Hazard, Director of Contently Studio

While brands underwriting editorial content is on the rise—such as when Ford underwrote AOL’s “This Built America” series—brands sponsoring straight news still makes people a little queasy. Rightfully so.

Verdict: False

13. 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. —Dori Fern, Strategist

A number of brands tried this in 2014—specifically, everyone who worked with Complex—but we’ve yet to see anyone replicate Red Bull’s unique success.

Verdict: Inconclusive

12. Brands will take the issue of business results seriously and start tying publishing results to business results. —Shane Snow, Co-Founder/CCO

This conversation has begun, but brands are still struggling to effectively track content back to their bottom line.

Verdict: Inconclusive

11. User experience will count—marketers need to blow their consumers away with well-thought-out experiences that are easy and enjoyable to use. —Kelsey Rahn, UX Designer

Brands certainly upped their content design game on desktop this year, but they’re still struggling to design groundbreaking mobile experiences.

Verdict: Inconclusive

10. Agencies will announce mini content shops/garages with silly names. —Elisa Cool, VP of Sales

This happened, and they all pretty much follow the same formula: (agency name) + (content marketing buzzword) + STUDIO.

Verdict: True

9. The agency game will change—expect to see a lot more standalone “custom publishing” houses emerge. —Colin Grigsby, Account Director

Yep, this is happening pretty much every day. Is the name Herodotus taken yet?

Verdict: True

8. More companies invest in the long view of brand publishing and hire in-house chief content officers. —Dori Fern, Strategist

IMG, StyleHaul, and Machinima were just a few of the brands to hire chief content officers in 2014.

Verdict: True

7. B.S. metrics will die. —Paul Fredrich, VP of Product

The rebellion against the pageview and vanity social metrics was surprisingly strong in 2014, but despite Tony Haile’s most valiant efforts, they remain alive and powerful.

Verdict: Inconclusive

6. The brand publishing arms race will escalate as brands battle to one-up each other. —Shane Snow, Co-Founder/CCO

This started to happen in 2014, particularly in the finance industry, but by and large, brands have yet to pull out the big guns.

Verdict: Inconclusive

5. Branded content will continue to advance in volume and quality. —Matthew Rothenberg, Strategist

This was a safe prediction, but it certainly came true. Branded content is getting better, but when will it get great?

Verdict: True

4. Photography! Data visualization! Video! These things enrich storytelling and we’ll see a lot more of them this year. —Kelsey Rahn, UX Designer

Brands undoubtedly created a lot more multimedia content this year, thanks in part to upstart publisher studios like the ones at Vox and The New York Times.

Verdict: True

3. Transparency will become a major buzzword as deceptive content strategies get brands in trouble. —Joe Lazauskas, Editor-in-Chief

Nailed it! From Verizon’s Sugarstring, to Chick-fil-A’s Let’s Gather, to mega-sponsored content site Collectively, plenty of deceptive content plays got brands in hot water.

Verdict: True

2. By the end of 2014, every major publisher will have a sponsored content offering. —Shane Snow, Co-Founder/CCO

The New York Times and the Guardian were two of the last publishers to add sponsored content to their advertising offerings, but both jumped on board this year. The question isn’t whether you’re doing sponsored content, it’s how you’re doing it.

Verdict: True

1. 2014 will be for content what 2010 was for social—everyone is going to jump on the bandwagon, but not everyone is going to be doing it equally well (naturally). —Rob Haber, Director of Accounts

This is one of my favorite analogies, and it’s dead-on: Content marketing is still in its formative stage. Will 2015 be the year it has its Bar Mitzvah? For that, check out our 2015 predictions.

Verdict: True

Image by Piotr Marcinski

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