Introducing Content Intelligence

A riddle: What's the difference between your content and mashed potatoes?

Answer?

Nothing.

To the technologies that host and deliver your content, the stuff they deliver may just as well be mashed potatoes as text strings or image files.
Even marketers who spend lots of time tagging content know the process is very fallible, often out of date, and only applicable to a handful of pre-selected contexts.

The technology simply doesn't know what the content's actually about, or how it works. It's just content.
Mashed potatoes.

The same applies to marketers across the business.
That great video explainer that got made two years ago during another CMO's tenure?
It may as well be a little portion of mashed potatoes buried under a mountain of other mashed potatoes.

Enough of the metaphor. You get it.

Content intelligence changes all that.
It is technology that helps content understand itself - what it's about, how it speaks, how effective it is at accomplishing certain goals, what emotions it calls to mind, etc.

That may sound funny. It is. But it's not necessarily stranger than spellcheck in your word processor.
Thanks to a built-in dictionary, the processor knows that 'recieve' may not be right, and puts a little red line under it.

Content intelligence goes a bit further, in that it's continuously updating itself.
Iimagine a very smart dictionary that automatically absorbed neologisms and understood word choice given context ("you might want to say 'car' here instead of 'automobile'").
But the principle's the same.

And because content's the coin of the digital realm for all things marketing these days, content intelligence delivers a real kick:

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Your 7 content mega- giga- uber- supra- monster trends for 2017

It’s Groundhog’s Day, when a sleepy landpig emerges from his little mancave and entertains questions from the press about astronomical phenomena!
As good a day as any to share a few content trends where we at Forrester expect to see considerable acceleration this year.

Here are your 6 content trends and one wannabe-trend that won’t trend in 2017.

The first megatrend
Direct-to-consumer pushes CPG out of the brand advertising comfort zone

Direct-to-consumer plays by the CPG giants, and even more so the CPG small guys, will put substantial pressure on brand marketers to invest in content and experiences that drive action. That means more content for richer websites, email programs, product documentation, and paid and unpaid executions. Mondelez’s made a $10 billion bet on this, and Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club signals their interest in more direct subscription-driven sales.

What does it mean?
Digital agencies with strong content chops and some ecommerce nous will be the winners, as brand teams ramp up their direct marketing capabilities.

The second gigatrend
Stunts and experiential executions set higher bars for hero and community content

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US Marketers Spent More Than $10 Billion On Content In 2016

I've always dismissed efforts to size the 'content marketing market'. The definition of content marketing's very squirrelly, meaning:

a) if you size it including A, B, and C, then people will invariably say it should also include D, E, and F (but not B, or C), and
b) if you ask marketers to give you a number, then you're at the mercy of however each marketer defines it (combining apples and oranges).

Last year, when setting up our big annual survey of marketing leaders, we sidestepped the definition mine-fields by asking marketers to tell us how much of their budgets would go to content creation. Taking that data and applying some approximations (% of revenue going to marketing budget and total domestic industrial revenues) gets you to my headline figure: $10 billion spent on content (all of it, not just 'pull content', 'media content', or whatever content ghetto you want to define) in the US in 2016. Considering US GDP is about one-quarter of global GDP, that brings us to a ballpark figure of $40 billion annually in global marketing content spend in 2016.

The figure's admittedly a ballpark estimate, but at least it describes clearly what it contains (marketing content), and it's pleasingly well lower than other, more hyperbolic estimates for content marketing that I've seen bandied about.

For those with Forrester access who want to dive a bit deeper into spending figures, see the full content spending report.

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Here Are Your Native Advertising Options Mapped Out

Native advertising corresponds to many types of advertising, from paid search and social ads to the sponsored editorial offerings from media companies. Put simply, it’s confusing as hell to understand.

Success at native means both the user of a media site or app and the advertiser explicitly get value out of the experience. To understand if a particular kind of native advertising is going to be successful, marketers should assess four criteria: Format, reach, context, and identification.

The seven core types of native advertising** all function to varying degrees against these criteria.

For example, the paid search ad is a proven format that generates a reasonably predictable response rate; an in-feed ‘click to play’ cinematograph will be less predictable, and probably less reliable. Pinterest’s promoted pins provide considerable reach for some populations; a native ad appearing programmatically in apps and targeted for a specific behavior may have far lower reach. Likewise, there’s wide variety for context and identification.

To help marketers make smart decisions, we broke down all seven native advertising types against these four criteria, and explored compelling examples of each. For Forrester clients, have a look at the analysis – our Vendor Landscape: Native Advertising Technologies, Q3 2016. Not a client? This’ll have to do as a teaser. 

*** those seven types: paid search, paid social, in-feed exchanges, native ad vendors, publisher networks, publisher-specific custom native, and influencer activation.

Just Don't Call It Native Advertising

In the context of writing a report on the native advertising technology landscape, I was looking at many publishers' native advertising products when it occurred to me:

Nobody uses the same damn name for native ads, no one calls it 'advertising', and almost no one calls it 'native'.

Here's a word cloud of all the names used for native advertising products by 20 leading publishing houses (full list of the publishers below).

Not a single name for this product was repeated publisher to publisher.

Let me repeat that:

Not a single name for this product was repeated publisher to publisher.

Now, I get branding. Ford's not going to name their new car Chevy. But this isn't branding. Chevy and Ford can both agree that the Mustang and the Camaro are, in fact, cars. Ford doesn't call its cars Frisbees, and Chevy doesn't call them PersonTransporters, and think they're competing in wildly different markets.

Further, here's the hall of native ad product naming fame (or shame, if you will):

Top Prize For Most Orwellian-Named Native Ad Product: Mashable's 'BrandSpeak'
(apparently, this is a dialect invented on Madison Avenue, spoken only by a gaggle of editorial primates and consists entirely of CamelCase AdjectiveNames)

Top Prize For Advertising Not-Advertising But-Still-Advertising: Vox's 'Vox Creative'
It sits under the 'Advertising' category of the site, next to another offering called...'Advertising'. I don't even.

Top Prize For 'Let's Admit It, This Could Be Just About Any Old Thing': Economist's 'Content'

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United States of #Engagement’s Declaration of #Engagement

Just go with this for a moment:
 
We hold these #engagements to be self-evident, that all #engagements are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are #engagement, #engagement and #moreengagement.--That to secure these rights, #engagements are instituted among Men, deriving their just #engagements from the consent of the #engaged, --That whenever any Form of #engagement becomes destructive of these #engagements, it is the Right of the [brands/advertisers/publishers/viral video creators/social agencies/engagement metrics vendors] to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new #engagement, laying its foundation on such #engagement and organizing its #engagement in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their #engagement. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that #engagements long established should not be changed for light and transient #engagements; and accordingly all #engagement hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to #share, while #engagements are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the #engagements to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of #engagements, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute #engagement, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such #engagement, and to provide new Guards for their future #engagement.
 
Signed,
The #Engaged
 
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6 Reasons BuzzFeed's Revenue Miss Is OMG!

BuzzFeed's supposed to be the media company that holds the answer to the media business's future in a post-banner world. While the media world is dying, BuzzFeed's been hiring, growing to new markets, winning new investment on high valuations and projecting hockey stick sales growth.

But worrying signals that BuzzFeed was struggling were confirmed in an article by Financial Times, which cited a miss on 2015's revenue target and a halving of 2016's target. To this, BuzzFeed's chairman said "There's nothing cratering in the industry. It's better than ever." Meanwhile, he offered no evidence to the contrary, reminding this analyst of:

 Counter to Lerer's assurances and in line with FT's findings, there are some pretty good reasons BuzzFeed may be missing its numbers. I'll present them in true BuzzFeed listicle style (all gifs credited to giphy.com). Here goes:

1) BuzzFeed's tried to position itself and its expected revenue as a software play, but it's just....not.

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Facebook To Collect Brand-Sponsored Content Data

An announcement late last week by the Facebook media team may have been overlooked by many marketers, but it has intriguing ramifications.

Facebook announced that it would effectively allow any organization with a verified page to publish brand-sponsored content without asking Facebook for explicit permission first, provided that content was tagged to the brand. They said:

Today we're updating our branded content policy to enable verified Pages to share branded content on Facebook. Along with changes to our branded content policy and ads policy, we're offering a new tool that makes it easy for publishers and influencers to tag a marketer when they publish branded content. Publishers and influencers must use this tag for all branded content shared on Facebook.

What does it mean?

  1. Facebook's going to have lots and lots of data on which publishers work with which brands and how that content performs across Facebook. This 'new tool' is at the very least a passive instrument (clocking events), with the opportunity to turn it into an active program (reporting and optimizing events). MarketingLand moots the idea that Facebook may in future ask for a cut of that relationship, which seems unlikely; why would Facebook double tax in a way that potentially supressed creation and thus, as a knock-on effect, suppressed the content's distribution, which is where Facebook is playing? Rather, Facebook would want to use the data to encourage more partnerships.
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Half of top-performing marketers use UGC extensively

Last week Salesforce published its 'State of Marketing' survey results, which included some interesting findings for data-driven marketers.

First of all, the over-ambitious title* and the survey's methodology tell you to take the findings with a grain of salt. 43% of the survey's 4,000 respondents were either CEO or owner, which correlates well with the apparently 39% of respondents from companies of 1-100 employees.

To highlight best practice, the survey designers created a sub-set of respondents (18%) classified as 'high-performing teams' because they responded that they were extremely satisfied with the outcomes from their marketing investment.

Which leads to the first compelling data point (reflected in this post's title):

"47% of high-performing marketers extensively use UGC (vs. 19% of moderate performers and 8% of underperformers)"

Essentially, 'happy' marketers are 6x more likely to use UGC than their 'unhappy' counterparts. I believe that this story is much greater than 'SMB marketers use UGC because it's free'; this is a case of effective marketers expanding their brand governance to include input, interpretation and involvement from communities outside the immediate control of the brand (to tell the brand's story). A lesson here: If you can't get third-parties interested in what your brand's all about, your brand's relevance is likely dwindling.

The second intriguing datapoint relates to email tactics:

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GoPro: What Happened To The Content Marketing Child Prodigy?

GoPro’s like the preternaturally gifted kid at Content Marketing High. Its community of content creators churn out viral video clips like butter, and its online audiences are second only to Red Bull’s. The product’s actually a viral video machine, giving it this absurd business, marketing and content strategy alignment:

But all is not well with the valedictorian of Content Marketing High. Its market value has been decimated in the last half year, as its stock crumbled to less than 25% of its former self.

Given that this brand is such a content marketing wunderkind, anyone interested in content marketing has to ask himself: Is this a demonstration of content marketing’s impotence? I’ve asked another content marketing influencer, who wouldn’t really answer the question.*

My colleague, Ted Schadler, has the consumer electronics savoir-faire to diagnose GoPro’s real problem: The product has not become a mass market product; it’s been embraced almost exclusively by extreme sports stars and wanna-be’s.**

Powerful consumer electronics brands cannot
grow on snowboarders and skydivers alone.

GoPro’s success documenting inhuman feats by death-defying daredevils has come at the expense of documenting the content that real people might want to create from a first-person camera.

The brand is adjusting to the market headwinds by investing in its software, making it easier for anyone to upload and edit video footage. Democratizing its storytelling to appeal to everyman should get as much focus.

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