predicting trends in content marketingWhat do you think successful content marketing will look like in 10 years’ time? It’s difficult to predict, but we can make our best guesses. Speaking to a few experts in the field, they expect content marketing to grow and mature over the next decade.

This means better content, better technology, and a high demand for content marketers — particularly those who are staying ahead of the following trends:

Much larger content marketing budgets: As we’ve seen year after year, content marketing budgets have continued to rise. In fact, 71 percent of brands plan to increase the content marketing budget in 2013, according to a survey by Econsultancy and Responsys. As content marketing has such great potential to provide brand value, I think we’re going to see that trend continue for many years to come.

More insourcing; more contribution: The most successful content marketers already understand the importance of insourcing content. By empowering every employee to write for your brand, you can cost effectively create large amounts of expert-level content. Examples of successful content insourcing have come from businesses like Zendesk, which turns its customer service questions into content marketing, as well as from less tech-focused industries like Marcus Sheridan’s client, U.S. Waterproofing, which rose quickly through Google’s search rankings by insourcing its content efforts.

Rich media content will gain popularity, and will expand into longer formats: As time goes on, content marketers are going to make content richer and richer. More pictures. More video. We’re going to put more value into every article. Want proof? Consider the words of Sharon Flaherty, Head of Content and PR at “It’s a bit old-fashioned now to just have an article. People expect their content to be a bit more interactive these days, so sometimes we use multimedia to add value to a piece of content, or an article.”

Content will bleed into parts of paid marketing: Related-content engine Outbrain is the perfect example of how content marketing can spill into paid marketing. Instead of using ads, which turn people off, the platform offers relevant articles, and companies pay for that traffic. Ads will become more than just sales messages — they’ll have to offer valuable content that’s worth clicking on in order to gain the audience’s attention.

The future of content marketing technology

Better content management systems will mean more competition in the content game: “In 10 years’ time, CMS will have evolved to be content production and distribution platforms,” says Steve Parks, Managing Director at Wunderroot.

“On the production side, there will be user-friendly development of text, audio, image, data, or video content. On the distribution side, there will be quick, easy, and templated repurposing of content to different platforms — from web to mobile to TV or even print systems. This approach will provide better flexibility and future-proofing [of content efforts]. The CMS will provide better integration with other systems. But above all, in 10 years’ time, most content systems will be open source,” he says.

If CMS become easier to use and more integrated with other technologies, content marketing processes will become easier to manage, which will allow for greater sophistication in the content being created. However, if even those who are less tech savvy will have content-rich websites, there’ll be more content competition out there.

More widespread and more mature marketing automation: “As marketing automation becomes more widely understood, it will be purchased by less sophisticated companies.” says Raab Associates marketing technologist David Raab.

In a decade’s time, marketing automation will be much more widespread and widely understood. So there’ll be lots more opportunities for consultants who can install marketing automation systems.

As for the more experienced marketers, marketing automation technology itself will likely grow much more sophisticated, as well. This will mean content creation based on insights from big data will become necessary, as will ultra-personalized sites, according to cloud consultancy firm Traction.

Better analytics will increase understanding of the true value of content: Analytics software will only get better over the next decade, which will lead to a greater emphasis on tracking consumers’ behavior on how they interact with content. It will become essential that we determine solid data on issues like how much one article contributed to a buying decision, how impactful a video was on YouTube, or how well a white paper drove conversions.

Future analytics will be able to use complex algorithms that can give us a dollar value for every piece of content. The closer we get to that stage, the easier it will be for us to justify (and increase) our content marketing budgets.

Future key players in content marketing

The rise of the content superstar: As audiences and companies become hungrier for really valuable content, there’ll be a huge premium attached to the work of marketers who can consistently create excellent content. I predict that this will evolve to the stage where great content creators become known as real superstars.

Copywriters with powerful imaginations (like Barry Feldman) would fall into this category, as would somebody like Marcus Taylor, who knows how to leverage big brands’ audiences with content. In fact, Marcus talked about this at a Distilled meetup (scroll halfway down that article to read about how he got retweeted by EMI and other big brands).

The death of content mills: High-quality content isn’t going to come from a “sweatshop” writer working for peanuts. As Google becomes more and more sophisticated, its algorithms will likely be able to eliminate articles of low quality and value from search results, so only high quality content will display. In my opinion, this signals the impending demise of content farms — or at least the ultra-cheap, ultra-poor-quality ones.

Computers will self write data-driven articles: Automated Insights is a company that uses artificial intelligence to sift through data, identify patterns, and create content that has the characteristics of human-written content. Brands that produce content on topics like sporting event results or fluctuations in housing prices can benefit from this computerized system, as these pieces are often created from pure data that has been formulated into an article. The cost efficiency alone means that publishers looking for inexpensive ways to produce more content will likely buy into this trend.

The rise of the marketing technologist: “Within 10 years, I expect that marketing technology should be fully assimilated into marketing,” says Scott Brinker, who is known for his Chief Marketing Technologist blog. “There really won’t be any aspect of marketing that isn’t powered by some kind of software. We’ll go through some awkward teenage years first to find our identity as technology-powered marketers, but by 2023, I believe we’ll be past the angst of that transformation,” he says.

Scott also believes there will be three types of marketers in the future, with each categorization dependent on the marketer’s level of technical proficiency:

  • Effectively, everyone in marketing will be technically savvy, at least to the degree of being able to apply technology in smart ways throughout their day-to-day activities.
  • There will be a role for the “master coordinator of marketing technology,” which Brinker believes will report primarily into the marketing department. This role could go by many names.
  • Then there will be many marketing technology specialists with engineering backgrounds who will wield code and data to help create remarkable customer experiences.

The rise of hybrid marketers: At present, there’s huge demand for people who have well-rounded marketing skills, and this demand will grow commensurately with the increasing sophistication of technology. A single person who has a wide range of skills will be able to take on many roles at once, where in the past, these roles may have required the work of several people — an effect PR 20/20 coined the term “hybrid marketers” to describe:

“Hybrid marketing professionals are trained to deliver services across search, mobile, social, content, analytics, web, PR, and email marketing. They provide integrated solutions that used to require multiple agencies and consultants.”

What does all this mean for you?

Will all of the above things happen? No one knows for sure — in 10 years’ time, unforeseen factors could change the content marketing game beyond all recognition. But it wouldn’t be surprising if many of these predictions did come true.

In terms of preparing for content marketing careers of the future, specialization is definitely the way to go. By 2023, perhaps you’ll be a content insourcing consultant, a content superstar, a marketing technology brainiac, or a hybrid marketer. Or maybe you will own a business that specializes in providing expertise in one of these areas.

Whatever your future in content marketing holds, the value of our industry hasn’t been fully realized or understood yet. At present, I reckon we’re only at the tip of the iceberg, but it looks like growth and new opportunities are definitely in the forecast.

What do you think? What do you think content marketing will be like in 10 years’ time? Would you disagree with any of these thoughts? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

For more expert views on the trends that are likely to impact the future of our industry, register to attend Content Marketing World 2013.

Image courtesy of Marco Raaphorst under a Creative Commons License