The Future of Content: What It Will Look Like
You can find everything you need to know about creating great content on Quick Sprout.
At least, for today’s standards.
However, standards change.
As expectations increase, as technology improves, standards are raised.
And if you want to make sure that your content marketing stays effective in the future, you’ll need to adapt.
I prefer to look ahead to the future and try to stay ahead of the curve.
Would you like to do the same?
I believe there are 7 main ways that great content will be different in the future, and I’m about to tell you what they are.
You’ll see that the very best content today contains some of these elements. A few years down the line, all of these will be much more common and expected.
1. Control is one of the next big steps
No size fits all.
This old saying applies to content as well.
Even if you’ve targeted a specific audience that cares about the same things, they will still have different preferences when it comes to consuming content.
Some will prefer audio, and others will prefer infographics.
Some will prefer short content, and others will love lengthy content.
At this point, the most common strategy is to create content that is liked by a large portion of an audience.
You can see that on Quick Sprout.
While many of my readers like short content, they’ll still read longer content if it’s valuable, and the readers who like long content get exactly what they want.
If I did it the other way around and posted extremely short articles, most of my readers would be dissatisfied.
Additionally, I do mix it up once in a while so that everyone gets what they’re looking for at least occasionally.
But it’s not a perfect solution even though it still works for now.
The future solution – more control over content for readers: What if you could create content in multiple formats and offer it all at once?
What if you could create content of different lengths and let readers choose which one they want?
That would allow you to please almost everyone in your audience.
It will be more expensive for content creators—but worth it.
I don’t know exactly what it will look like in the future, but you can see some of it in current content.
For example, on the Crazy Egg blog, we often record audio versions of posts so that our audience can either read or listen.
It is also possible to hide certain elements of content.
This inbound post has an example of it:
When you click that link (or the plus button), a new section appears, explaining the “CRAP” concept in more detail:
Readers who love short content or who are already familiar with the content don’t need to expand the section, keeping their version of the content short.
Readers who want as much detail as possible or who haven’t heard of the concept also get exactly what they want.
There might be better ways of customizing content in the future, but this is a method you could implement today, and it’s pretty easy.
That adds a whole lot of functionality like hypotext (the showing and hiding of sections).
To use that function specifically, you need two parts.
Part 1 is the link, which should look something like this:
<a class=”btn btn-primary” role=”button” data-toggle=”collapse” href=”#collapseExample” aria-expanded=”false” aria-controls=”collapseExample”>
Part 2 is the section (“div”) that you’re hiding:
<div class=”collapse” id=”collapseExample“>
The href in the link should be the same as the id of the div.
Here’s the full bootstrap guide for further reference.
2. Data will play a bigger role
Data-driven posts always perform the best.
If you don’t have data backing up your statements, how will anyone know that they’re true?
And data is a big area where change is rapidly happening.
No doubt you’ve heard the term “big data,” which refers to incredibly large sets of data points.
As technology improves, more data becomes available, and it becomes easier to mine (even if you’re not an expert).
Already, top programmers can analyze billions of posts on platforms like social media.
In the next few years, there will be more and more tools that will allow even an average blogger to scrape information from hundreds of thousands or millions of web pages.
What this means is that there will be no excuse not to back up statements with data. Great content in the future will be almost entirely data-backed.
3. Specificity will win
Businesses have already started to narrow down their focus in order to be successful.
For example, if you were starting a blog tomorrow, you wouldn’t start a marketing blog (too general). You’d start something like a social media marketing blog for small businesses.
By narrowing down your target audience, you can not only “capture” your own space in their minds but also create content that’s targeted towards them.
However, narrowing down will not stop there.
As more and more niches are filled up, businesses will have to get even more specific.
People want solutions to their specific problems: Even social media marketing for small businesses can be too broad for many.
Imagine you run your own small plumbing business. Will a social media marketing plan for a personal accountant work for you?
Maybe, but you’d much rather read an article that shows you how to create a social media marketing plan for a plumbing business.
If you’re looking to capture a niche, get as narrow as possible (as long as there’s a reasonable audience left). Focus on creating content that has specific examples for your target readers.
4. Less content, more quality
One of the biggest issues facing content marketers today is the cost of content (budget):
Additionally, the phenomenon of content shock is only getting more impactful. So much content is being created that people drown in it, but most of it is low quality.
While it’s a complex issue, the short answer to the content shock problem is that your content needs to be of a higher quality than most to stand out…which is expensive.
The bar is going to be raised continually, and great content will become even more expensive.
The only viable solution is to decrease content quantity while increasing the quality.
In other words: quality comes first.
Now, this holds true even today to a degree, but it’s going to be essential in the future.
I suggest getting a head start by prioritizing quality from here on out.
5. Original research will rule
This prediction is tied to the earlier one that talked about all content being backed with data.
Today, what do you need when you’re trying to support a point?
You probably Google something like “content marketing statistics.”
You click on the first few collections of statistics, find a few that look good, and plop them into your content.
If you’re doing that now, you’re ahead of 95% of the competition, and that’s why it’s effective.
But as I said, as more data gets collected and analyzed, it will be a required element of content.
It won’t be just you citing the same research; it’ll be 100 other bloggers.
What will make your content better than that of those other bloggers?
When everyone uses the same data, it becomes less valuable because novelty and uniqueness are key parts to data’s value.
Since generally available data will no longer make you stand out in the sea of content, what will?
Well, I gave it away in the headline: data from original research.
There will be tools in the future to help you do this, but there’s no reason why you can’t do it today to some degree if you’re motivated.
- conduct a survey for your target audience and publish the results? (E.g., if you run a plumbing marketing blog, survey a few hundred of their customers and find out which characteristics of a plumber are most important to them.)
- manually analyze a few hundred pieces of content? (E.g., if you run a home decor blog, can you breakdown the most popular home decor projects on Pinterest and analyze which types of projects are most popular—tables, chairs, vintage, etc.?)
- hire a programmer to scrape a website (or multiple)? Freelancers can be hired affordably from sites like Upwork. (E.g., if you run a paleo recipe site, you could create a tool that collects paleo recipes from all the most popular sites. Then, you could analyze which types of recipes are most popular.)
- work with a business that has a ton of data but needs publicity? That’s exactly what I did with Buzzsumo for this post.
Creating original research does cost more and take more time and effort, but original research will get you a lot of extra attention (and extra backlinks from those who cite your data).
6. You won’t be able to get away with poor design
When a reader has only one option to learn about a specific topic they are interested in, and that option happens to be an ugly site, they have no choice but to suffer through their experience.
However, when there are multiple pieces of content about even very specific topics, readers will start choosing their options based on other factors such as design.
That’s why you can’t write a plain guide to SEO these days and expect it to get attention—there are thousands of others out there just like it.
However, if you put some extra effort into design, yours will stand out. It’s what I’ve done with all my guides on Quick Sprout.
You can still get away with a plain design for most content these days, but that will decline over time.
Bonus points for mobile design: It warrants a mention that it’s already worth making sure that your content is at least readable on mobile devices.
Google prioritizes responsive websites for mobile searches already because it’s so important.
When making a complex design in the future, make sure it displays well on mobile devices.
7. Relevancy will be more important
This one is going to hurt:
A lot of “evergreen” content will have to be updated to become more relevant.
I am a huge fan of evergreen content because it’s a really cost-efficient way to spend your content creation budget.
You create content once, and it stays useful for an extremely long time.
However, think about all the different factors that a reader has to take into account when assessing how valuable an article is:
- does it contain an answer to my problem?
- is it actionable?
- is it up to date?
Google knows that readers care about how up to date an article is. Often, it even shows the last update date in search results:
An article might still be factually correct but referring to out of date resources (screenshots of tools that look different now). Or it might have dead links. Or maybe a better solution has been created.
The amount of high quality content is only going to rise, which means more competition.
Even when you have high quality content of your own, you’ll need to ensure that it’s updated frequently.
This is a good practice to begin implementing now. Brian Dean constantly updates his guides on Backlinko:
It’s another way that creating and maintaining content will become more expensive, which further supports focusing on a small amount of really high quality content. Then, you only have to worry about a few dozen posts rather than thousands.
No one can know for sure what the future of content will be, but you can see the elements I described in this post already showing up in the very best content today.
Even though they aren’t requirements in today’s content world, improving your content now will only improve your results in the future.
You can either take the easy route, hoping that the standards of content won’t change, and do nothing, or you can up the level of your content and stay ahead of the masses.
I know which one I’m choosing.
If you’re planning to improve your content in any of the ways mentioned in this article, let me know which one in a comment below.