Long-Form Journalism’s Resurrection
Joe Coleman is CEO of Contently, a platform that helps agencies and their clients build brands through original storytelling. Follow him on Twitter @joedcoleman.
To the joy of journalists everywhere, long-form content is making a comeback. Publishers are realizing that readers want some essays with their status updates — and a good e-book with their blogs. But what does this new content trend mean for brand marketers, who just finished perfecting their tweets and status updates? The Internet is changing, and great long-form content is emerging as the most effective way for marketers to achieve that all-elusive engagement with consumers.
Understandably, many brand marketers are still scrambling to catch up with trends of the first decade of this century, when platforms like Twitter and Tumblr brought short-form content into style and content farms proved that listicles and SEO-focused content, when produced at scale, could generate a lot of page views.
All that mass content created a very noisy ecosystem, though, and made content discovery and consumption difficult — so much so that the next iteration of publishing products focused heavily on curation and recommendations. News readers like Flipboard and Zite made it easier to discover interest-based content, platforms like Twitter and Tumblr got better at recommending relevant content based on a user’s social graph, and industry-based aggregators got great at distilling the most important stories on the Web. The next generation of blogging platforms are actually being built with curation baked in.
We’re now at a point where curators rule the content world, by collectively deciding whether content gets amplified or lost. As a result, quality of content is again starting to win out over quantity, with an assist from smarter search algorithms and the death of content farms. As power continues to shift to the curators, great long-form content continues to increase in value, as it’s shared and consumed by more and more people. Today, one exceptional, widely shared essay is far more valuable than a thousand disparate tweets.
All corners are screaming for brand marketers to move from expensive search marketing and ineffective display advertising toward native advertising. It works brilliantly on mobile devices, where users’ attention is hyper-focused, thanks to the lack of multitasking. With mobile devices on pace to capture the lion’s share of Web traffic by 2016, native advertising appears to be the best, if not the only, form of advertising for mobile readers.
A lot of brand marketers are now embracing native advertising and creating content, but too often, that content is bland, self-promotional and gives readers no reason to share it. Few brands are investing in the type of content that will help them get noticed above the noise, but those that do are discovering that great long-form content is a marketing goldmine.
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