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6 content marketing trends to watch in 2016

6 content marketing trends to watch in 2016 Rebecca Lieb

It's that time of year again. Columnists, bloggers, prognosticators all publish their digital marketing "predictions" for the New Year.

Personally, no can do. I'm an analyst, not a clairvoyant. And I don't possess a crystal ball. But as someone who continually keeps a finger on the pulse of content marketing and content strategy, and who conducts multiple research projects on the topics (as well as updates earlier reports), I'm trained in pattern recognition. That's what analysts do, and while not infallible, research-based analysis is a better predictor of what's to come than crystal-ball gazing, tea leaves, or reading entrails.

That qualifier out of the way, here are the content trends I'll be watching in 2016:

The content stack (again)

The content stack will continue to evolve. Rather than hundreds of point solutions, marketers will soon be able to look to one-stop solutions for their content marketing needs that incorporate most (if not all) of the eight content workflow scenarios. This will simplify processes and enable tighter integration with earned and paid media.

Senior roles focused on content

Enterprises will begin to hire more senior executives to oversee content initiatives. If 2015 was the year of the content manager or director, 2016 will usher in VP and higher roles. Content is not a channel; it's related to every aspect of advertising, marketing, and communications initiatives. As such, it requires senior, strategic oversight -- something companies are coming to recognize.

A continued need for strategy

Content strategy will accelerate, but not enough. My research findings correlate with other studies. Overall, we're finding that some 75 percent of enterprises regularly commit to content marketing while paying no heed whatsoever to developing and documenting a governing content strategy. Objectives, goals, systems of measurement, processes, and people -- all are secondary to the burning "we need more content, and we need it now" issue. I've been speaking with my peers who, like me, help enterprises develop content strategies. More and more often, they complain that prospective clients try to engage them to keep the blog bursting with content, but not to solve the "why" or "how" of that (and similar) initiatives. Mark my words, content marketers: without the strategy in place, you'll soon be spinning your wheels, not to mention creating excess costs in money, resources, and efficiencies.

Content measurement becomes more robust and meaningful

For too long, sales has been the alpha and omega of content measurement. Don't get me wrong, sales is the lifeblood of any organization. But it's not the only measure of success, not in content nor in any other marketing initiative. I've been researching how forward-thinking companies are measuring other crucial aspects of content initiatives. These aren't meaningless volume metrics such as "likes" and "follows," but ROI-related analysis you can take to the bank (or to the CFO). Companies wise enough to build content strategies have a huge advantage here -- they'll know what they can measure, as well as how to measure it.

Global content becomes a thing

My clients are working to figure out how to manage content on a global level. What should teams look like? What tools work for international cooperation? How much central authority should exist versus local and/or regional input? What channels, audiences, creative, and messaging can be the same, and what needs differentiation on different continents, or in different countries? As content rises in importance (and display advertising correspondingly diminishes), global content strategy will be a growing concern.

Content around new things

This is 2016's most emerging and nascent trend, but one that will be huge in subsequent years. As we move from mobile content into the Internet of Things, and into a world full of beacons and sensors, content will decouple from screens in many cases, yet be associated with a growing universe of objects and things. Content will permeate the customer experience -- the "who," "what," "when," and "where" of all interactions. Your car, printer, TV, refrigerator, fitness tracker, phone -- all these devices and more will interface, talk to each other, and share content. I'm fascinated by what kinds of content will develop in the next wave of technology, and will be keeping a close eye on the horizon of content disruption next year, and in the years to follow.

Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, advisor, and author at RebeccaLieb.com

On Twitter? Follow Lieb at @Lieblink. Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Rebecca Lieb has published more research on content marketing than anyone else in the field.  As a strategic adviser, her clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries. She's worked with brands...

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