The Shape of Things to Come: Looking Into Content Marketing’s Past to See What Its Future Might Hold


If you take a long, hard look at the journey of content marketing over the last ten years, one theme emerges pretty quickly: the content itself is getting shorter. This doesn’t necessarily have to do with the fact that people’s attention spans are getting shorter, although this is certainly a part of it.

Instead, it has more to do with just how busy people are. Their attention is constantly fractured – every time someone buys a new mobile device or gaming console, they’re getting bombarded with yet another source of information that you now have to compete with for attention.

Push notifications are constant. Emails are never-ending. Breaking news alerts are overwhelming. People’s attention can only stretch so far and you have to do what you can to adapt to that or die trying.

If this all seems overwhelming or confusing, that’s certainly understandable. But many people fail to realize that one of the best ways to better position yourself in the content marketing world today has nothing to do with trying to predict the future.

Instead, it’s all about taking a look at where you started and how far you’ve come and using that information to your advantage. If you really want to see what the future of content marketing might hold so that you can continue to innovate and break new ground, you’ll need to take a cold, hard look into its past. This will require you to keep a few key things in mind.

The Age of Snackable Content

Enter the age of “snackable,” bite-sized content. If the content is getting shorter, you need to learn how to get across the same essential information as quickly as possible. After all, brevity is the soul of wit.

A large part of this will ultimately come down to your ability to understand visual formats and what their strengths are, which then lets you apply each one to your specific message in the best possible way.

We touch on this in our previous video series “Make Information Beautiful.” By learning how to avoid the most common design mistakes made by non-designers, as well as factors like the five things to create stand-out visual content and more, you learn how to make every second count.

You shouldn’t create a beautiful infographic with a tool like Visme (which, for the sake of transparency, I founded) because you read an article about how effective Infographics are. You should do it because it’s the best way to take your message and distill it into something bite-sized and snackable right now.

Depending on the message, maybe an Infographic isn’t the right format at all. Maybe a beautiful presentation is more appropriate for the circumstances.

By pairing the right format up with the right message, along with acknowledging that content is getting shorter and the time of your audience is precious, you unlock one of the keys to surviving the content marketing transition as it continues its own evolution moving forward.

Learning From Your Audience

While it’s true that you should always pay attention to current content marketing trends and patterns to see where things are headed, this shouldn’t come at the expense of one of your most valuable resources of all: your audience.

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Essentially, you’ve got two different paths ahead of you. You need to both look at the shape of content marketing as it exists today and what techniques are being used, but also look at what your audience has responded positively to in the past as well.

These will not necessarily be the same things, but that is perfectly okay. Part of what you’re trying to do is find the point where these two distinct paths intersect. You need to answer the question “based on what I know about my audience and the people who will actually be viewing my content, what can I take from current trends and patterns that they are most likely to be receptive to?”

When people JUST rely heavily on trends and what is popular today, they risk taking a far more reactive approach to content marketing than they should. They’re always chasing the next big thing instead of trying to carve out something new and unique for themselves.

To use a sports-related metaphor, someone once asked hockey giant Wayne Gretzky how he managed to be so good for so long. He thought about that for a second and gave a beautifully simple answer: “I didn’t go where the puck was, I went where the puck was going to be.”

This is exactly what you’re trying to do, too. You’re not trying to go where content marketing is, necessarily. You’re trying to anticipate where it’s going to be and take the shortest path to get there. Part of this is always staying up to date on what is on the horizon, but in the context of your own long-term goals a major part of this is listening to your audience, too.

In the End

An old saying tells us that those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. While the stakes in terms of content marketing aren’t quite that high, there is a bit of truth in this to be sure.

Content marketing is constantly evolving – as evidenced by the fact that millions upon millions of people now use ad blocking software as they browse the Internet each day. So much of what you’re trying to do involves communicating with your audience – getting the right message in front of the right person at exactly the right time.

To do that, you need to always work hard to pay attention to just how the conversation has and will continue to change. Looking into content marketing’s past to see what the future might hold, along with looking at what your own audience has loved prior to now, are great first steps towards accomplishing exactly that.

About the Author

Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics,  and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.

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