Predictable. Not a word I’d use to describe 2016, but I managed to nail a few content predictions last year. (Humble. Not a word I’d use to describe that last sentence.) In particular, I witnessed growing interest in content intelligence and analysis, bridging silos with user journeys, and dynamic personalization at complex companies. And though they haven’t necessarily stated this, I personally attribute the growing success of Capital One’s content strategy and design team to a collaborative content vision.

What about next year? Pour a little Jameson in your pumpkin spice coffee, kick back, and pontificate on these ideas.

1. Content Capacity Gaps Will Widen

With the demand for dynamic, personalized content intensifying, organizations will face more pressure to offer the right content for the right person, exasperating their content capacity gaps.

content personalization potential
Many analysts tout the benefits of personalization

Now, the content marketing community says that if you can’t commit to doing content well, don’t do content at all. That’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is companies do not have a choice about whether to do content. Why? Because content covers much more than marketing. As every business function goes digital, content does those functions—sales, service, support, public relations, human resources, and much more. Content has many important jobs to do. If your organization is just dabbling in content, it will miss a big opportunity—and possibly feel a lot of pain—in 2017.

To assess your company’s level of content maturity and, consequently, understand the potential capacity gaps, don’t miss these resources:

2. Content Credibility Will No Longer Be Taken for Granted

Fake news. Enough said.

The Denver Post points out the Denver Guardian doesn't exist
The Denver Post felt it must point out that the Denver Guardian doesn’t exist since so many people had shared a fake news story from the Denver Guardian

But I’ll say a little more.

Earlier this spring, I caught a fascinating and scary presentation by Jeffrey Grant, Senior Vice President of Research at TBS, about dealing with disruption and the young media consumer. He explored the differences between millennials and plurals. I summarize the differences drawing on his research and my experience like this:

millennials vs. plurals

At the time, I felt a wave of excitement and concern when I saw that plurals care less about the content source. The upside? Organizations with a longstanding history or reputation will no longer be able to coast on that credibility. Those organizations will be accountable for offering relevant, meaningful content if they want to reach plurals. The downside? Being duped by fake news.

So, 2017 will bring a serious reality check not only about credible news but credibility for other kinds of content, too. We’re already seeing a well-deserved backlash against content discovery tools such as Outbrain, which for a variety of reasons tend to favor clickbait over substantive content. Even Upworthy, which applied sensationalism to deep topics with controversial success, has started to move away from manipulative techniques.

At Content Science, we will continue to study content and credibility, both on its own and as part of our ContentWRX content intelligence service.

3. Content Intelligence Specializations Will Emerge

Speaking of content intelligence, in 2017 I predict we will see three specialties emerge. These specialties will work toward better understanding content consumption and content perception—what people do with and think about content—so we can make more informed content decisions.

content perception data The need to understand content consumption and perception will drive new specializations

Voice of Content

This content intelligence focus is all about understanding the voice of your user or customer about your content. Wouldn’t it be nice to know answers to questions like these…

  • Do your users perceive your content as effective?
  • How do your users feel about your content, its topics, or your organization as a result of the content? What is their sentiment?
  • What do your users intend to do as a result of interacting with your content?

Content Microengagement Analytics

This content intelligence specialization goes beyond whether people visit a page, add to cart, share a link, or download a file. Content microengagement analytics explore answers to questions such as:

  • Did users scroll the page? To what point?
  • Where did users pause on the page?
  • What modules / components did users interact with? How?

Big Content

If you guessed this area of focus brings big data together with content data to drive personalized, relevant content, you guessed correctly. Marketing will drive much interest in big content, but I see it as useful for every business function. Though Gartner actually started talking about big content in 2015, 2017 is when we’ll see this specialization catch on.

These specializations are great news for those of us who embrace data-informed content decisions. I personally can’t wait to see what insights we gain from these additions to content intelligence.

4. Content Doers Will Need to Audit and Consolidate Content

I recently reviewed the fundamentals of auditing with an eager group at our Content Strategy Essentials workshop, and that rekindled my enthusiasm for the content audit. Even the most well-intentioned companies and organizations can find themselves with an unwieldy proliferation of content assets that:

  • Clog their search results.
  • Confuse their users or customers.
  • No longer support the user or customer journey.
  • Cannot be managed efficiently.
  • Undermine their brand.
  • Cannibalize their search engine optimization.

I see this as an intense need for organizations in 2017 who started content marketing a few years ago. Need inspiration? Don’t miss these two articles:

Another driver for this prediction? More companies will be changing their content technology or platform and, consequently, have to migrate their content. Smart organizations will not do the “lift and shift approach, where you mindlessly migrate the good, bad, and everything in between into your new content management system. Smart companies will audit their content first and migrate only the good.

Auditing is a great fix when your content assets seem to have multiplied faster than gremlins in water. But how do you prevent the problem from happening again? One key is automation.

5. Content Leaders Will Lean Harder on Automation

I love me some content automation—it’s in my blood.

(One day I will do a study of how many content strategists have at least one parent who was an engineer. My hypothesis is A LOT.)

Content automation is key to executing many of the above predictions. For example, after you audit your content and get rid of outdated assets, you might wonder how you can prevent outdated content from proliferating like gremlins in water. One way is to automate archiving your content based on criteria such as date published. In content management speak, that means defining the lifecycle of your content and telling the system when to consider the content expired.

Automation also is essential to predictions 1 and 2. And, the Internet of Things makes delivering content to refrigerators, bathrooms, glasses, watches, and more possible, further intensifying the need for content automation. Now when it comes to the question of how, I’m not a DITA diva; I see a variety of ways to automate content delivery and even creation. But two elements are key to success: metadata and modeling. Learn more with:

One Promise

When it comes to content, 2017 will be anything but boring. I promise to engage with you even more next year in sharing the lessons Content Science is learning here in this magazine, at our workshops and training, and at conferences and events around the world. And I invite you to contribute your lessons learned.

To your content success in the new year!

Share your content predictions and ask questions on Twitter with #ContentScience

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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This is an excellent post that talks about some of the real opportunities for content strategists and content marketers in 2017.

The picture of *Many analysts tout the benefits of personalization* sums up the trends beautifully, and I also liked the statement on content automation, particularly – “But two elements are key to success: metadata and modeling.”

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