Content marketing 2014: year in review

Well, what a year that was. 2014 was a tumultuous twelve months for content marketers as they attempted to manage the explosion in content production, not just by agencies on behalf of clients, but (increasingly) by the brands themselves. It’s all too clear that it isn’t enough to produce content, it has to be truly excellent if it’s to stand out from the crowd. And you have to have your distribution/promotion strategy nailed if anyone is ever going to read or view your painstakingly crafted content. Here’s our look back at the big issues that have fuelled the content marketing headlines for the last year:

1. Recommendation engines

By no means new but experiencing unprecedented success in 2014, recommendation engines like Outbrain and Taboola really hit the mainstream this year. Audiences were heard to complain about content sites that linked endlessly from one piece of clickbait to another, frequently crossing from one site to the next in a seemingly interminable, unsatisfying user journey. 2014 was most definitely the year of the mystery headline. Of course this is just one way of growing a following for your content – we looked at a few more in our special four-part series on building an audience.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 14.10.32

2. Print’s not dead. Yes it is. No it isn’t!

We’ve lost track of how many times print has died in the past decade. In fact, it seems print has more lives than poor old Kenny McCormick from South Park, the unfortunate eight-year-old who comes to a sticky end at least once per episode. Getting the presses rolling this year was fashion brand Net-a-Porter with its shiny newsstand mag Porter – a fine example of super aspirational content. At the other end of the glamour scale, PetPeople, a magazine from pet insurers Petplan made huge waves by climbing to number 12 in the list of top 200 magazines in the UK (by circulation).

3. Blockbuster success

While some brands have been exploring magazines after the medium fell out of favour in the last few years, one company decided to blow it all out of the water by doing something that has never been done before. That’s right, we’re talking about Lego, the Danish brick-building brand that released its own cinematic movie in theatres across the world this year. With a stellar cast and great script the film was a runaway success. So who’ll be next to step into the director’s chair?

4. The rise of wearables

When Google launched its Glass product in May 2014 the brand heralded a new era in tech. And by association, a new era for content marketing. Increasingly marketers will have to produce content that’s wearable-ready, be that smart watch or eye-wear or personal implanted micro-chip. We really are living in the future!



5. SEO and content marketing: feeling the love

2014 was also the year that two feuding forces finally buried the hatchet and became friends – we’re not talking about some dodgy soap opera storyline though, we’re talking about SEO and content marketing. While the two fields have traditionally been at odds, the increasingly clever algorithms that power Google and other search engines means quality content is rising to the top of the pile. These two reconciled frenemies are so tight now they even write love letters to one another.

6. A new dawn for content

This past year has seen significant increases in budgets for content marketing. Travel agent Thomas Cook even went so far as to change the very nature of its business, revealing earlier this year that it now allocates as much budget to content marketing as it once did to the good old fashioned travel brochure. Bigger budgets are great news for content strategists, but they also put more pressure on producers to deliver meaningful results. Expect to see budgets rise further in 2015, but for expectations of ROI to climb with them.

7. Content brands of the year – our picks of the bunch

As regular readers will know, Speak Media’s content team publishes a weekly ‘Content Brand of the Week’ post – but which are our top choices from this past year of content? Glad you asked. Well, we loved Gap getting a headstart on Christmas with some seriously quirky content. Then there was Beats by Dre, dominating media coverage of the World Cup, despite not being an official event sponsor. And what about Art in the Age, a startup brand with homespun charm? Check out our full Content Brand archive here.

8. Kevin Spacey

Yes, in 2014 content marketing finally won Hollywood acceptance with none other than Kevin Spacey offering his thoughts on what makes great brand storytelling, during his much-reported keynote speech at Content Marketing World.

Expect to see Jerry Seinfeld at next year’s event, talking us through how to create laugh-out-loud (are we still allowed to spell that out in full on the internet?) content marketing moments. Or not.

Over to you: What other trends have you noticed in 2014? Are you expecting big changes next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media.

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