It’s time to kick back, sip some egg nog-spiked coffee, and look ahead to next year. What will happen in the content space? From personalization to risk of death by content confusion, I explain my top 5 predictions here.

1. More Orgs Will Engineer Personalized Content Experiences

Ah, personalization. It’s a concept that is easy to understand—give the user relevant content—but very hard to implement. I remember talking about it in 2000 as a priority for a big website redesign. But the right technology and the content architecture weren’t there to support it. Also, users were not quite ready. Users were not using the web enough to generate enough behavioral data to drive personalization, and they often weren’t willing to share other kinds of data because it was too personal or too much work.

Today, whenever I mention personalization, someone inevitably (and understandably) mentions one of “the big As” such as Amazon or Apple, who have vast systems and plenty of users in place to drive personalization. Up until now, it has been tough for organizations without that infrastructure and scale to succeed with personalization. Occasionally, there are exceptions such as Mint.com, which brings together your financial data and relevant content into a useful, personalized experience. I’m hopeful more organizations will become empowered to personalize in 2015.

Take, for example, Sharecare’s AskMD mobile application. This app uses Apple’s HealthKit to access the health data an Apple user chooses to share, then combines that data with useful features and quality content to create an incredibly personalized experience. In essence, Sharecare leveraged Apple’s infrastructure and scale to engineer personalization. It’s gone so well that Apple recently featured AskMD both on stage and in their App Store.

Image of Apple engineer highlighting the AskMD application
Apple’s Craig Federighi featured Sharecare’s AskMD as a model of integrating with HealthKit’s data.

2. The Success Gap Between Content Doers and Content Dabblers Will Widen

More often than not, the payoff from solid content strategy and implementation takes time as well as sustained effort. 2015 will mark 5 years since awareness of content strategy, content marketing, and social media skyrocketed. Who has been doing the right things to build content capacity and who has been dabbling? Who is ready to scale and who is floundering? We will see more dramatic contrasts than ever in 2015. (I talk about this in my prediction for Intelligent Content Conference, as well.)

content success gap diagram
“Doer” organizations will enjoy dramatically more payoff in 2015 than “dabbler” organizations.

As an example, I anticipate we’ll see this gap widen in the travel industry. Let’s look at hotels. Marriott International has experimented with content for a while and just recently committed to a goal of becoming the “world’s largest producer of travel content.” Meanwhile, other hotel companies are still struggling to get the content about their hotels right. Yes, the success gap here is going to widen.

What will the content dabblers do? Are they simply screwed? If the content dabblers have self-awareness…in other words, if they recognize the success gap…and they have money, then they have options. One option is to buy or acquire content. That’s why I tend to agree with Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose that we’ll start to see the purchase of niche content.

Now, regardless of whether a “content dabbler” organization decides to bridge the gap by buying content or building it, that organization still needs to have the right people, processes, platforms, and practices in place or else risk facing another gap in 1-2 years. Every organization will need content capacity.

To help any organization improve its content capacity, I launched a workshop series for 2015.

And, because every organization will need a content leader, we instituted the Content Coach Certification. (Whether you take our certification or not, I encourage you to step up to content leadership opportunities in 2015. We need you!)

3. Content Shock Won’t Happen, But We Might Die of Content Confusion

Content shock will not happen. One sign is that Pew Research has found 72% of American Internet users like having more content available to them today. They report feeling informed instead of overwhelmed. If users / customers continue embracing content, then businesses will continue to do so, too. But, we could suffer a different and worse phenomenon. Let me explain. Do you ever feel so confused by conflicting but fairly plausible insights from pretty credible sources that you can’t make a decision? That’s a phenomenon I now call content confusion syndrome, inspired by the couple who died of confusion on Portlandia.

Now, we’re chuckling a bit here, but I do take this situation seriously. In 2015, issues of content credibility, user trust, and decision making will intensify. That’s why we’re going to conduct our second Content + Credibility Study next year. The last thing I want is for people to feel so confused or unconfident they put off a decision or action.

(Not incidentally, avoiding content confusion is a big reason why we need to get personalization right. See prediction 1.)

4. Big Data Frenzy Will Settle into Advanced Content Sense

During my keynote at eBay’s Content Strategy Applied USA last month, I asked, “Who here has heard of big data?”
Everyone raised their hands.

I then asked, “Who here is tired of hearing about big data?”

Everyone kept their hands up!

Big data has exasperated the problems many organizations still experience with their small data. For example, Content Marketing Institute found only 21% of content marketers succeed at tracking ROIWhole Foods noted at Confab Central that they have invested in getting more value out of their small data before diving into big data. In 2015, more organizations will focus on getting their small data ducks in a row.

What to do about this? At eBay, I shared three pillars of small data success (see slide 11), and Chief Marketing Officer Council will publish a full article about those pillars next month.

And if you want help getting an evaluation framework in place, check out my recent book “Does Your Content Work?” It’s now available on Amazon in addition to Pearson’s website (finally!).

Of course, at Content Science we’re continuing to evolve ContentWRX, our platform that brings together handy data about your content into a useful dashboard. We’re having a blast helping organizations make more informed decisions about their content. (Curious? You can give it a go for free.)

5. More Media Properties and Brands Will Experiment with Sponsored Content

Sponsored content / native advertising has largely proven the naysayers wrong. Too many successful or promising examples now exist everywhere from The New York Times to Upworthy to American Express to Content Marketing Institute. (I explain two interesting examples here.) And, media properties are still looking beyond digital display advertising to diversify their revenue streams. So, we’re going to see more ventures into sponsored content.

Bonus: There Will Be a Big Content Surprise

We have entered an exciting, though volatile, phase in content technology. Outbrain is poised to go public at $1 billion. Venture capitalists are sniffing around the content marketing space. The number of content and marketing technology products has proliferated. And, the demand for both content as well as solutions to content problems is unprecedented.  Something—perhaps even several big things—will happen next year. I expect at least one unexpected acquisition, merger, or alliance to shake up the industry.

Originally published on the now-archived Content Science blog in December 2014.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the CEO of Content Science and cofounder of ContentWRX. She regularly consults with executives and practitioners to improve their strategy and processes for content. Colleen shares insights and guidance from her experience in these highly rated books:

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