Content marketing is one of those things which fires fierce debate. On one hand, you have groups of people claiming it is essentially dead while others say it is stronger than ever. Certainly, rumours of content marketing’s demise are greatly overstated since companies continue to enjoy profits from it.
Additionally, it has existed in one form or another for more than a century; according to experts, John Deere’s The Furrow magazine should be accredited for the beginning of content marketing in 1895. You would imagine an industry which has already exhibited such longevity is in no danger but changing times means nothing is safe.
In the industry, there seems to be an acceptance that content marketing will change and evolve with the times but there seems to be no indication of its imminent annihilation. Yet there is a school of thought which suggests the very nature of content consumption means the bubble has to burst one day.
Can You Even Afford It?
I’m not referring to the practice of hiring writers (many of whom are underpaid cough cough); I mean you will ultimately need to pay visitors to read your content. In simple economic terms, prices drop when your supply exceeds the demand and since your content is likely to be free (unless you run a subscription service), where do you go from there?
Perhaps the real problem is the huge levels of content available online; there is almost limitless material on virtually every subject so readers don’t have to go very far to find what they need. Even leaving aside the proliferation of dreadful content online, there is enough high quality material to go around 100 times over.
Once Upon a Time
It wasn’t always this way of course. In the ‘early’ days of the Internet, there were relatively few bloggers so quality content was fairly scarce. This was an era before Google’s algorithms for the improvement of user experience so marketers tried to fool the search engines by employing tactics such as keyword stuffing. While this was great for SEO purposes, it was less so for readers who were treated to nonsensical ramblings for the most part.
In many ways, it is ironic that Google’s dedication to improved content (through Penguin & Panda) being found easily by search engines users could potentially hasten the decline of content marketing. Previously, those who made the effort and devoted time to creating good content could still be easily found by users if they had a good SEO strategy; now they must compete with dozens of competitors with the same idea.
Devoting 4-5 hours a week to creating content could eat into your profitability if you are a small business since the money you would make for working those hours will probably NOT be recouped via your content marketing efforts.
Apparently, the amount of free content available online doubles every 12 or so months though some experts believe it to be every 24 months. Regardless of which is the true figure, there is a far greater amount of content available than what can realistically be read. The average person only has so much time and inclination to read what you write. Eventually, we may actually need to pay people either in terms of cash or incentives to get them to continue reading our content.
The End Result
Obviously, smaller businesses will find the ‘levelling’ effect of the Internet completely taken away from them as larger companies with big budgets can continue to afford paying readers to consume the content. Eventually, even the most obscure niches will be taken and the ensuing mess will also make it almost impossible for new small businesses to get a foothold in their respective industries.
The final issue will be the overall cost far outweighing the benefits derived from content marketing.
While you may get away with paying £300 a month to readers at the start, your company may need to increase this sum to £2,000 for example as fierce competition means you can’t hold back. However, the revenue from your content marketing campaign will not increase at anywhere near this level. Therefore, you will simply have to shut everything down.
All of the above is of course the ultimate in ‘worst case scenarios’ for the content marketing industry. For every expert who claims it is a matter of time, there are dissenting voices stating it is a hyperbolic Doomsday picture painted by those who oppose content marketing. Whatever your stance, there is no denying there is an interesting period ahead of us in the industry and those who adapt best to the forthcoming changes will find the greatest success.