“Stop Doing Content Marketing!” Who’s Saying It And Are They Right?

You don’t have to spend long in the content marketing ecosphere before you come across an article saying “content marketing is dead!”

As a content creator, this upsets me. It upsets me because, for one, my day is spent making content and, two, my clients will be very annoyed if they find out the strategy we’ve crafted has a dead concept in it. When someone says “content marketing is dead” I’m left wondering “do they have a point?”

Am I sticking my head in the sand and suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance? It’s a serious subject, so perhaps it’s time to do some serious research. Join me as I get stuck into some of the 187 million results (as per a Google search) that make use of the phrase “content marketing is dead”.

Who is saying what?

Of these 187 million hits the first thing to note is that this is not a fringe idea that’s touted by some smaller blogs. Forbes, Business.com, Huffington Post and Relevance.com, all have articles that debate or conclude on this subject.

A quick count of the first 4 pages of results tells us that between 3 and 4 organic links for each page of 10 results are actually declaring content marketing as a dead duck.

The rest are using the phrase “content marketing is dead” to say that it’s actually not dead at all.

After page 4 the articles start to diverge into declaring that social media marketing, cold calling, and even the internet itself are all dead.

However, we need to be mindful that many of these articles are actually serious attempts to explain why the author feels content marketing is in trouble. I’ve read every article, top to bottom, in the first 5 pages that claims content marketing is dead. Without a doubt, there is some fine writing and some sensible points. Let’s take a look at some of the key arguments in play.

“Content marketing is dead because of the volume/quality of content.”

A point made by Gaurav Sharma in a Relevance article and elsewhere. It’s true that the amount of content has skyrocketed in the last few years. Gaurav makes the fair point that there has been an 800% increase in blogs but social shares of the same fell 89%. A Beckon report is also referenced that says content production across the board had increased 300% over a 12 month period. Meanwhile, engagement was poor with as many as 19 out of 20 pieces of content seeing little or no engagement.

To counter this, ROI on content marketing is still fantastic, with DemandMetric saying that per dollar, content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing. Look at it like this, if one week I gave you a dollar for every 10 cents you gave me, then next week it was a dollar for every 25 cents, you’d still do the deal.

I think it’s fair to accept that content creation is at an all-time high and engagement is lower than it was. This doesn’t say content marketing is dead, it’s just harder. You’ve got to create top quality content and get the target audience spot on. It’s a tough ask, but content marketing still offers great value if done right.

“Content marketing is dead because is taking its place.”

A point made by Shawn Amos over at Huffington Post and many others. [Insert here] is generally either storytelling, influencer marketing or just plain old marketing.

Remember when the word was that social media was taking over from marketing? Or before that when PR was taking over from advertising?

My point is that there is always a new concept or technique in business in general, and marketing in particular, that is the “next big thing”. It doesn’t mean that these new elements make the previous parts redundant. We still use advertising, PR, marketing, content marketing and social. We just use them in new ways and with differing strategies.

There are some key facts that offer insight here. We’ve already seen how much content is being created. If content marketing was on the way out we’d expect to see content decreasing. There is plenty of persuasive data that says content marketing is actually stronger than ever;

  • Marketers, 86% for B2C and 91% for B2B, say they currently use content marketing [Source, 2018 State of Content report by CMI)
  • Some 37% of marketers are planning on increasing their spend on content marketing, and 46% plan to keep it static. We can surmise only 17% are planning to reduce spending. [Source, MarketingProfs infographic]

These two statistics alone suggest content marketing is in rude health.  The thing to realise here is that digital marketing is not a zero-sum game. If storytelling, or influencer marketing, is working well at the moment, then use it as well as content marketing. Marketers are not known for looking a gift horse in the mouth.

“Content marketing is dead because people need to actually just do marketing.”

A point made most noticeably by John Ellett on a Forbes article in 2016. In a “cart before the horse” argument he says that content marketing needs to support general marketing, rather than being seen as a discrete type of marketing.

It’s hard not to agree with large parts of what he says. Content marketing flows from general marketing, that’s for sure. Without the prerequisites of branding, marketing, and sales being in place, content marketing cannot truly succeed.

However, if done correctly, succeed it does. I think here John is being fairly tongue in cheek with the “content marketing is dead” headline. It’s not dead, it’s just been firmly placed back in the marketing toolbox where it belongs.

OK; I feel I’ve given a fair and reasonable account of the main points people are making. There are some other minor points, namely around organic social algorithm changes, but these are generally subsets of the main arguments above.

As a result of my research I’ve got to say I’m genuinely feeling better. In my journey I’ve come across plenty of other content marketers who have looked at this and come to the conclusion that content marketing is A-OK.

What I feel I’ve found out, in a nutshell, is that content marketing is not dead, but rather it’s maturing. The heady gold rush period is over. With this maturation comes a change of emphasis. Brands cannot simply “spray-and-pray” their content out and expect results. Content marketing still works, but you’ve got to be better at using it. As a content marketer who has always focused on quality, I’m fine with that.

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