This year, I’ve deleted more than 10,000 emails, screamed at Google more times than I can count and removed myself from Facebook.

You could say, I’ve fallen slightly out of love with content.

No this isn’t a mid-life crisis; this is the overwhelming feeling that the content online is becoming increasingly useless, and I’m getting exhausted of wading through the noise to find exactly what I need.

And I’m not the only one.

When I start this conversation in the office, I have two colleagues who are no longer on Facebook, and others who are quite willing to voice their opinions on the content they’ve found when carrying out a google search.

As we work in content marketing day-in-day-out, our strategies are built upon creating useful pieces of content that are beneficial to the audience. With all of our pieces generated from data led insight.

Yet here we are, close to throwing our computers out the windows and living in the woods; because there is still so much that needs to be done in the realm of content marketing.

Like everything, there is always the few that spoil it for the others, and the internet will never be policed by the content squad, so it will inevitably draw up results that are irrelevant and useless.

But forever the romantic, I have hope that things will change. To do this, like with all things, we have to look at the past, present and the future. To truly understand where we are and where we are going.

History of Content Marketing

Content marketing is nothing new. Brands have been telling stories for centuries to communicate with their audience and promote their business.

As detailed in this CMI infographic, perhaps one of the earliest forms can be found in 1732, when Benjamin Franklin first published the yearly Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his printing business.

The difference between then and now?

In truth, very little. Content can still be created and successful in a physical form, it’s simply that with online content we can now instantly see the results. Track the data and gain more insights than ever before on our audience.

The key thing we can learn from the past is that even more than one hundred years ago, brands knew their customers, and knew what could help them.

Take for example The Michelin Guide. By far one of my personal favourite examples of quality content marketing, and not just because I love a good meal.

This piece of quality content helped drivers maintain their cars and find lodgings while out and about. Giving their audience the reassurance, that with a Michelin Guide in hand, they could drive around and explore the wonders of the world. And most astonishingly, Michelin stars are as significant as they were in the 1900’s.

That’s some serious up-take from a century old marketing campaign!


Where are we?

As the below Google Trends graph shows, Content Marketing has been on the rise since 2011.

But in recent years it has jumped around dramatically as Google have updated and changed their algorithms to make content the lynch pin in SEO, and sophisticated tools have emerged enabling us to track conversions and quantify quality content.

Where once you could only handpick a few brands that are creating quality content, there are now yearly round-ups of brands both big and small that are making an impact with their content marketing.

With explosive growth in 2015, more publishers are turning to digital platforms to generate revenue, and sponsored content is becoming the new norm.

While you would hope that these changes would mean that quality is improving, unfortunately, paid content is often found in a rather grey area.

Unlike prestigious publishers who have a reputation to uphold, platforms are springing up across the internet offering paid packages that take no consideration into the quality of their content, or the audience.

Hence, you search the internet and you’re bombarded with information, that often holds little value to the audience.

As content volumes increase and third-party distribution platforms up their packages, it’s no surprise that as users we’re becoming disengaged.


Where are we going?

So where do we go from here.

As much as we’d all like to often disconnect from the the world wide web, the fact is we need be connected. Everything is online, and one-way or another we need to be a part of it.

Personally, I’m strongly of the opinion that we are at content saturation.

There is no way you can read and see everything online, and there is no way you can stay connected.

I don’t want to spend all of my time on the internet or on social media, and I don’t have enough time as it is.

This is a feeling being resonated throughout many demographics who have found the online realm exhausting and ultimately dissatisfying.

Are people switching off from content? I think we’re getting there.

So what does this mean for your business and content marketing.

With an audience who have an ever decreasing attention span, we have to get clever about content. And that’s a cold hard fact.

After all, we’re very busy and important.

Where most of the focus on the content marketing industry has often been about churning out as much written content as possible – and no body has time for that – the future will need to embrace all forms of content.

Video content is exploding. Snapchat has birthed a video revolution, with platforms such as Facebook and Instagram also adopting the medium, and YouTube now boasts more than one billion users worldwide.

Not only does content now need to evolve, but it needs to go back to it’s roots of being educational or entertaining.

We need to take a lead from the historic campaigns of yonder year, to develop useful content that is engaging, easily consumed, and effectively targeted.

Despite the growth of content marketing, there is a lot that still needs to be accomplished.

Content for contents sake is still rife, and very few marketers are doing much to change the tides. Many claim to ‘do things differently’, but very few actually are.

As a marketer myself, I will continue to test, learn and find strategies that can help our clients truly engage with their audience.

But as an online consumer, I find many brands that may need to re-think their strategy.

In the words of Aristotle, “Well begun is half done.”