What’s Next for Content Marketing: No Content

Also published at the Huffington Post. Content marketing is all the rage right now, and for good reason. In a digital world, people’s attention is divided among a nearly infinite range of media choices. That means it’s harder and harder to push a message at them, the way you used to with traditional advertising and PR.

So instead, you pull, by creating compelling content that attracts customers to you — content marketing.

Hence the explosion of publishing activity by businesses, non-profits and other organizations, through email, social media, blogs, image sharing, games and more.

According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs:

“On average, B2B [business to business] marketers are spending 33 percent of their marketing budgets on content marketing, which is up from 26 percent last year. 54 percent plan on increasing content marketing spending next year…

This year, B2B marketers are most challenged with producing enough content, which is different from years past, when the top challenge was producing engaging content.”

There’s just one problem: it isn’t going to work much longer. Although it’s still on the rise, content marketing is already showing signs of becoming the victim of its own success.

In logic and economics, there’s a principle known as the fallacy of composition. In one form, it states that what’s true for one is not necessarily true for all.

Put another way, an advantage is no longer an advantage when it’s available to everyone.

For example, if I have a good stock tip, I might be able to profit in the market. But if everyone has the tip, it’s worthless (hence the futility of stock tips for almost all investors: the moment you hear about it, it’s already too late).

Similarly, if I realize, early on, in digital history that pull can work better than push, I’ll win customers with content. But as more and more people try the same thing, it works less and less well.

Then things gets worse. At a certain point, so much content is being produced that each additional piece doesn’t just have low value, it has negative value. People start trying to avoid content, by filtering, by declaring email bankruptcy like early (un)adopter Lawrence Lessig, or by disconnecting altogether, like Paul Miller.

The value of much of the world’s content is passing through the zero line. We shouldn’t be surprised. We saw it coming early on in digital history, with recorded music, which is now a loss leader for sales of concert tickets, merchandise and ad or soundtrack licensing.

So what’s next for content marketing?

If people now want less, find a way to give it to them.

After all, it was never really the content itself that they wanted. It was the meaning embedded in the content. So the way forward, probably involves less content and more meaning.

Call it No-Content Marketing. More on that next time.

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