Slick digital marketing cannot conceal crappy content

By Michael Taggart

The ways in which we consume content are multiplying at a such a dizzying clip that keeping up is a fool’s errand for anyone old enough to know the joy of two-day hangovers.

I mean WTF is Plerkrr*, anyway?

But it doesn’t matter. Well, not as much as you think.  If your organisation is to become a master storyteller, it is essential that it understands one golden rule of content strategy in 2017:

Quality is not only the most important factor in whether your content will be consumed; it is increasingly the only factor.

The not-so-slow death of loyalty

This is because of a transformation in consumer attitudes and behaviours. Loyalty to media brands has collapsed along with particular preferences for distribution formats and even the hardware itself.

We care less and less who produced our podcast, TV series or article and how it got in front of us…so long as it entertained, informed or educated. We couldn’t give a rat’s ass what screen our video appears on, so long as it is looks good on the device we are using at that moment.

We don’t care whether our morning radio programme comes out of the TV or the tablet so long as it sounds good and continues seamlessly when we move around the house and get into the car to drive to work.

In fact, the distinction between televisions and smartphones, tablets and computers, radios and laptops is increasingly irrelevant. The big screen in the front room is starting to look more like the Internet while the Internet starts to look more like TV.

Netflix and Amazon Prime are, for the first time, the favoured ways for Britons to watch TV series thanks to their ability to accommodate the busy schedules of millennials by allowing users to binge watch programs at their leisure.

This trend has led to a collapse in the dominance of established media companies in the online content space. In fact, nearly every company in 2017 is a media company and this fact is blurring the lines between branded content - i.e. content produced by companies - and independent content.

We are all media companies now

In this paradigm, John Lewis can take on the best media outlets on reach and engagement on YouTube with its Christmas adverts. Similarly, Ford, Sonos and Microsoft are producing podcasts that are among the most listened to in the world.

This is a huge opportunity for brands that are prepared to invest in content that is produced to the same standard as any TV series, film, radio show, newspaper or magazine.

And this is key - it can’t just be the best content that the company has ever produced, it has to be as good as the content that media companies are producing.

When paid and earned attention merge

The flight to quality has also spilled into advertising. Both traditional publications, like Elle, and online-only magazines, like The Pool, are employing editors, journalists and film-makers in their advertising departments who are collaborating with brands to create their advertising.

Even social media advertising is rewarding high quality advertising content. For example, it is no longer sufficient to put a big budget behind a promoted tweet and expect it to work well for you. It will be far more successful – cheaper and more widely-seen – if there is engagement, such as comments, shares and likes.

Earlier this year, Instagram updated its news feed algorithm to one similar to Facebook's, placing popular posts at the top of its feed. In a similar move, Mark Zuckerberg vowed to end fake news on Facebook.

At the same time, 2017 is the year where ad-blocking is no longer just a threat – it is a cold, hard reality and it’s primarily affecting low quality content.

As a result, brands are beginning to create ads that don't obstruct user journeys or eat unnecessary amounts of mobile data.

For businesses, this means the demise of the ideology that online success can come with little investment, that tweeting can be left to office juniors, and that social calendars should be filled up with everything and anything.

Quality is what counts.

*This is a social network that I might build one day and it might make me rich. It currently exists only in my head.



Michael Taggart

Co-founder of Foco, the fintech content marketing agency