The Issues With A Growing Content Marketing Industry, Explained

By Kyle Gibson

Originally published on BostInno

No matter when, where, or how you look at it, you can see that the content marketing industry is growing. For example:

  • More people are searching for “content marketing” on Google, according to Google Trends.
  • 2% more B2B marketers will use content marketing in 2016 than in 2015, according to the Content Marketing Institute.
  • By 2019, content marketing will be a “$300 billion” industry, according to Marketing Mag.

As any self-described “disruptor” or “influencer” will furiously tell you, growth is a good thing. As the content marketing industry expands, more brands will start producing helpful and entertaining content for consumers to engage with, and the marketing landscape will be a much more consumer-friendly environment.

Related: Why Content Marketing Is Like Green Energy

With all growth, however, comes growing pains.

The most obvious problem that could come from a growing content marketing industry is content saturation, which is being called the “Content Shock,” or put simply: Too much content. When there are other brands within your niche producing similar content, then you’ll be competing over a smaller share of the potential audience.

There have been some some great proposals out there for how marketers can “survive the Content Shock,” including Streetwise Studio’s mantra: Diversify your content. But, content saturation is not the only problem that a growing content marketing industry can cause for marketers.  For instance,

Paid distribution costs will increase on social networks, search engines, and other distributors

The most straightforward solution to “surviving the Content Shock” is paid distribution. If you’ve read our guide to finding the best advertising network to promote your content, you know that there is a large selection of distributors like Google and Outbrain that can send your content directly to your target audience.

Here’s the issue, though: As the content marketing industry grows, and as the effects of the Content Shock start to work against more marketers, more of those marketers will start relying on paid distribution methods to drive consumers to their content to generate leads or sales.

On advertising networks like Facebook Ads, which use Real-Time Bidding, advertisers bid against each other based on their target audiences. (Read more on this here). With more advertisers bidding against each other, the cost-per-reach for even the most basic target audiences will increase.

There is already evidence of this price increase currently happening. For instance, according to research from Nanigans, the average CPM for Facebook Ads increased 142% between Q2 2014 to Q2 2015.

Advertising networks like Facebook know that increased prices on their platform might drive marketers away. One thing they can do to keep the relative cost-per-reach down when more advertisers start bidding, is increase the number of ads that are served on their platform. Facebook did exactly that in August of 2014, and you’ll notice in this chart from the Nanigans report that CPM prices stopped increasing around that time:

Nanigans Research Facebook Advertising Cost

Instagram recently underwent a massive increase in advertising, as well. Increasing the number of served ads, though, especially on a platform like Facebook, is a dangerous game.

For advertisers, more ads on the network mean more competition for users’ attention, which means lower engagement rates with individual ads.

For users, obviously, more advertising means more interruptions and a less enjoyable experience. That brings us to another, closely related issue that comes with a growing content marketing industry:

Adblockers will get better at blocking native advertising and sponsored content distribution

Adblocking is a contentious topic in marketing right now. Some have called content marketing itself “the answer” to worrying adblocker statistics like

On the face of it, content marketing does seem like a good “answer” to the question: If so many users on the Internet are blocking ads, how can marketers reach consumers? By producing branded content that consumers want to engage with and share with their friends.

But, as we’ve been discussing, marketers are finding it more difficult to have their content perform well organically as the content marketing industry grows. So, more and more of them are distributing their content through paid advertising, with methods like native advertising.

In an interview with eMarketerJustin Choi, the founder of Nativo, explained the predicament that native advertising networks find themselves in:

“Native began to get a ton of attention in the second half of 2015 thanks to the importance of many other digital trends, everything from ad fraud and viewability to ad blocking. Our advertisers are actually starting to use words like ‘customer experience’ and being really mindful of ad executions that are less interruptive and more engagement-oriented.

“With all of these issues, particularly ad blocking, any technical workaround is not going to be a long-term solution if the quality of the advertising experience is poor. So if native becomes an irritable form of advertising, if any advertising becomes irritable and delivers a bad experience, there’s going to be an ad block for it.”

Adblock Pro did block native advertising networks like Nativo and Outbrain in the past, actually. But, after Adblock recently started the “Acceptable Ads program,” they stopped blocking native advertising services by default.

Adblock Pro is only one option out of many adblocking tools, though, and adblocking is becoming more prevalent on mobile devices. It is safe to assume that no methods of digital advertising are completely safe from adblocking, so marketers will need to be extra vigilant moving forward about what advertising networks they are using to promote their content and how easily users can block those services.

Adblocking is only one of the many unpredictable moving parts in the marketing world today. To name just a few more: The shifting popularity of social networks, the evolving habits of media consumers, and the rising threat of fraudulent bot traffic. Not to mention, artificial intelligence…

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Artificial Intelligence

With so many uncertainties and disruptions changing the marketing world, it can become difficult to keep up. In only a few months, your successful content marketing strategy could stop working altogether, and your marketing team might not be equipped anymore. With a growing and changing content marketing industry,

The content marketing skill gap will grow, too.

In the most recent annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks study, conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 32% of surveyed marketers reported difficulty with finding trained content marketing professionals. Thirty-four percent cited a gap in the skills and knowledge of their existing team, as well. In other words, marketing managers are finding it more difficult to build and maintain a well-equipped marketing team as the content marketing industry grows.

In a way, what’s happening with the content marketing skills gap is similar to the Content Shock, just in reverse. As more companies are producing branded content, more professionals are hired to produce that content, and the supply of professionals dwindles.

Jay Acunzo of Sorry For Marketing calls this the “Talent Crunch,” which he explains with this graph:

Image title

It’s difficult to gain meaningful experience in roles and skills that are relatively new and constantly changing, such as native advertising and content optimization. Luckily, there is a simple solution to this, as well as the issues mentioned above.

No, really:

Here’s the one solution to overcoming Content Shock, Adblock, and the Talent Gap in a growing content marketing industry: 

Partnering with publishers for custom content.

Many large publishers have recently started offering custom content packages, including BuzzfeedVoxThe AtlanticAdweek, and the Wall Street Journal. These partnerships usually work like this: Brands work together with the publisher’s in-house content studio to produce branded content that lives on the publisher’s website, which is then distributed both on the publisher’s site and through the publisher’s distribution channels.

Here’s how this kind of partnership solves all of the problems listed above:

  • Since the content lives on the publisher’s site, where large audiences already go to look for content, the problem of content saturation on open distribution platforms is eliminated.
  • The buy-in cost of these custom content offerings is usually a lot higher than the minimum amount you can spend on Facebook Ads, but you aren’t competing against other advertisers and the prices are set for months or years at a time. So, the problem of increasing cost on open advertising networks is eliminated.
  • The issue of Adblockers is eliminated simply because custom content is usually distributed with proprietary networks on the publisher’s sites, which are immune to ablockers.
  • And finally, the talent gap issue is eliminated because you are partnering with a media company, which will by nature have the tools and the in-house experience to produce and distribute content. They will also have extensive data and insights into what kind of content will speak most effectively to their audience.

Custom content is one of the many opportunies we offer for marketers at Streetwise Studio, and for the many reasons described above, it is the most complete solution for marketers having trouble with their content marketing strategy.

2 thoughts on “The Issues With A Growing Content Marketing Industry, Explained

  1. I happen to agree fervently about the talent crunch. While we need more Chief Digital Officers, Chief Content Officers and Chief Digital Marketing Officers to run strategies for content marketing, we may have the junior level experts advising them on what will work best.
    I believe CXOs will have to get their hands into the actual transactions to be able to effectively strategise. Dennis has always been a pro-hands-on approach supporter and that perhaps is the way to go in the digital content world.

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