OCTOBER 1, 2016

What does content look like in the years to come?

2015 was the year of clickbait headlines, promises such as this or this were begging us to click them. And click we did. News sites and brands saw this explosion and were only too willing to hop aboard the hype train, offering jaw-dropping titles that were impossible to ignore. The truth of the matter was that the content often disappointed, minds were not blown and we certainly did not cry.

Even now we’re still drowning in a sea of superficial content lacking in research, quality and originality.

This is likely attributable to the downturn in formal training in the art of writing. In fact, over the past few years, the number of journalist posts have been in sharp decline, while remuneration for written content has gone the same way. By all accounts it seems likely that you have read a post that was algorithmically written by a robot.

As the race to the bottom continues, brands have become more and more willing to churn out shallow content and the quality of the written word has suffered as a result. But in order for brands and websites to maintain the interest and loyalty of their readers, content needs to become more authentic and original.

Don’t expect things to change over night, but the next year or so may usher in a new age of pithy, original content creation. Brands will begin to think less about the commercial aspect of content. Rather quality will win over quantity, and only the best will survive.

Below are some predictions of how we are likely to see online content change:

Long form content will win out in the search for quick answers

It’s taken a few years to mature, but Google’s Knowledge Graph has become a genuinely insightful and helpful tool. It has answers for many long-tail searches and quickly provides users with what they’re looking for. Voice operated assistants, such as Siri and Cortana, are also looking to get in on the action. This results in the likelihood of a click through to a website diminishing, as searchers find their answers within the search results before even needing to click through to a site. Websites that provide quick answers are likely to be affected most by this. It should then push brands to writing longer form content around more in-depth subjects.

Video will grow in stature

The demand for visual content is growing as the web becomes ever more saturated with the written word. The IAB suggests that the average UK home has 7.4 connected devices. Second-screening has become second nature, and smartphones have become central to our daily lives. Video has been freed from the shackles of dodgy internet connections and 3G service. We’re in an age of impatience and attention deficit; consumers want answers, and they want them now. Video can offer that.

Netflix and Amazon Prime are leading this charge, to the point where they’ve already taken great chunks off the TV broadcasters’ usual territory. This is a great opportunity for brands. The future looks set to see brands creating short, content rich and specialist videos, which can be watched on the go.

Brands will claim content curation

At present the web is beginning to look saturated of content. It may make sense for brands to switch roles, from that of creator to curator.

Audiences will over time turn towards names they trust to bring them the best of the best in online content, from a variety of sources. Consumers tire of the over-promise, under-deliver nature of clickbait headlines dominating their timelines. Brands will begin to see results from pairing ‘best of the web’ content with their own carefully created offering.

The rise of authenticity

In recent years, brands have been aligning themselves with social media influencers. This is in no small part due to the desire of consumers to read ‘authentic’ and trusted voices online, before that of a brand.

But 2015 saw this relationship take on an even greater commercial spin. Top tier influencers saw high demand and knew they could command higher monetary reward for their time and effort. Brands also came to see the commercial value an influencer could have in driving sales and shifting product.

But consumers have come to spot this in online content, calling it out as inauthentic. This relationship is unsustainable, and in need of a change, with more honest partnerships taking place between brand, influencer and subsequently consumer.

The mobile age is truly upon us

Recent Ofcom research has shown that one in three internet users take their smartphones to be the first port of call in going online. This means brands will be faced with a choice take mobile seriously or face irrelevance.

Brands need to ensure device usage is front and centre of mind when creating content to cater towards device hopping and to ensure the audience receives a consistent brand experience, regardless of screen size.