Is content marketing a lasting trend, or is it a fad that will fade away once content supply exceeds demand? As more companies jump into content marketing, experts are questioning whether it makes economic sense for businesses — especially startups, small and mid-sized businesses — to invest in arguably what may be today’s most effective new marketing trend. 

High Supply, Low Demand Will Create a Content Shock

Eventually, content marketing will no longer be sustainable for many businesses, Mark Schaefer asserts in Why Content Marketing Is Not a Sustainable Strategy.  People can only consume a limited amount of content. So, a content “shock” will occur as supply exponentially expands and people’s ability to consume it remains finite.

According to Schaefer, content shock will generate a number of tremors in marketing, including:

  • Companies put out of business. The cost of creating and placing content will rise so high that only big-name brands with deep pockets will be able to afford the creation process.
  • High entry barriers for startups. The price to enter the market will be impossibly high.

Content marketing isn’t necessarily doomed, but at some point it will no longer be a feasible marketing strategy for most businesses, Schaefer contends. Companies must determine the point at which creating and placing content no longer produces sufficient sales. To stay competitive, marketers must discover innovative methods to replace content marketing.

The Challenger: Shel Holtz Insists Content Consumption Will Continue Unabated

The concept that content marketing will crash is nothing new, and Shel Holtz shrugs off Schaefer’s prediction with “the information overload soothsayers are at it again.”

Holtz points out that Steve Rubel wrote a similar column seven years ago and called it “The Attention Crash,” yet that hasn’t happened yet, either. The fact that content is still here proves it will last, Holtz alleges.

He lists five other reasons as evidence that content marketing will never undergo a shock:

  • People aren’t complaining about an “overload.” A Northwestern University study in 2012 found that few Americans feel overwhelmed by the volume of news and information available to them. In fact, the information “overload” seems to empower people.
  • Consumers want niche content. Even though there seems to be an enormous amount of content (just look at a magazine stand), readers flock towards the publications that suits their individual needs. While the overall volume of content explodes, the amount of content about niche topics and their applications will remain manageable, according to Holtz.
  • It’s easier to find good material. Online curation tools allow consumers to filter through material to find the content they want to read.
  • Content relies on PR, not money. Holtz counters Schaefer’s claim that only those with money will win the content marketing war by insisting that great content relies on great PR, not money. Even if it’s published on a simple WordPress blog or Google+, content will still bubble to the surface if it’s promoted appropriately.
  • We’re not done innovating. New channels for content will emerge, and companies will find ways to exploit them as vehicles for content. Case in point: Vine and Snapchat, both which appeared last year.

Our viewpoint: Content marketing is rapidly transforming into native advertising.  Publishers now want to be paid for placement of sponsored content, causing content marketing costs to rise exponentially, as Schafer predicts.

As media placement costs for content marketing kick in and escalate, smaller brands won’t be able to afford the placement costs and will be forced to return to traditional PR methods for earned media placements.

Once it becomes too expensive to buy audiences through content marketing or native advertising, PR will have to step in to pitch to publications that already have large audiences.

Bottom line: whether or not there will be a shock that finishes off content marketing, PR and marketing trends and channels will change significantly over the next few years. Companies must be able to adapt to these changes and be prepared to innovate with new strategies and techniques (or return to proven approaches).

Which content marketing expert do you agree with — Schaefer or Holtz? What does the future hold for content marketing? Share in the comments below!

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