The New Era of Content: The Shifting Trends Marketers Need to Know

Content is king. Right? For years marketing pundits have been shouting this phrase. However, now marketers are entering into a new era where content still rules, but with some additional caveats.

As consumers continue to be bombarded by multiple marketing messages, it’s common for people to feel overwhelmed, or even annoyed, with the number of ads vying for their attention. Too often we’re seeing this result in ads, emails and tweets getting ignored.

It’s time for marketers to take a new approach.

In this new era of content, we’re seeing two distinct trends take shape that marketers need to be aware of in 2017.

Trend #1: Curation & Personalization

It’s an age-old battle for marketers: quantity or quality? With the rise of SEO and social media, B2B and B2C companies alike raced to create as much SEO-rich content as possible so they could get found on websites such as Google and Twitter. At the time quantity was rewarded, and quality naturally took a back seat.

Yet this is exactly what has led to today’s epidemic of content overload. It’s become hard for consumers to actually find valuable content that satisfies what they’re looking for. Even though several search engines have recently made adjustments to their algorithms to prioritize quality, consumers are still crying out for more curation and personalization.

Brands today need to understand that consumers don’t necessarily want more content, but rather quality content that’s curated and personalized to their individual needs. No longer are people willing to spend hours searching for relevant content. If it’s not filtered, personalized and native to their environment, then your brand’s content can be easily overlooked or disposed of.

We’ve seen proof of this at Pandora. Highly personalized and curated music discovery is not only the backbone of our product, but also what makes us unique. But we, too, were seeing an increase in demand for more personalized curation. So, last year we launched Thumbprint Radio, a playlist personalized to each individual listener, curated with songs they’ve “thumbed-up” plus new ones we think they’d like based on their listening history. Today it’s the single most popular station on Pandora with over 25 million active listeners and over 509 million hours listened.1

Trend #2: Original Content

The success of brands such as Netflix tells us one thing: people want original and exclusive content. In fact, Netflix just recently announced that they have plans to make 50% of the content on their platform original programing. They even attribute their recent growth in subscribers to "excitement around Netflix original content."

We’re seeing other companies jump on this trend, like YouTube with their YouTube Originals channel. Facebook, too, has declared a shift to creating more original scripted and unscripted videos. Jim Lanzone, CEO of CBS Interactive and CDO of CBS, discussed CBS's investment of original content during his session at CES, saying, "There's no shortage of content in this world, but there is a shortage of quality content. Premium content, and the engagement and quality of that content, is going to be the biggest thing for online media this year. We're growing from about 200 original programs to almost 500."

Podcasts are also making a comeback in part because they offer this same concept of original content, personalized to people interested in any number of topics. Pandora introduced podcasts to its content offering last year, with Serial and This American Life. We’ve seen huge success with both programs, with the Serial season 2 finale alone garnering 8.4 million total listeners.2

The success of original and curated programs on Pandora spurred yet another concept that we introduced earlier this year: an original content series on Pandora called Questlove Supreme featuring the famous Roots-drummer, Questlove. This weekly show navigates the global musical landscape featuring DJ sets, conversations with celebrity guests, and interviews with artists. With over two million listeners already (the show just launched in September of 2016), it’s clear that demand for original content is his among.

As we look to 2017, we can expect to see quality, personalized and original content continue to capture the attention of consumers and the investments of publishers. The aisles of CES 2017’s showroom are filled with technologies that will make finding this kind of content easy and seamless for the connected individual. For marketers, aligning with content that embodies these characteristics will be a powerful way to ensure you’re capturing the attention of your target consumer this year.

Be sure to follow along with our #PandoraCES hashtag to keep up with all the happenings at CES this week.

Sources: 1 Pandora Internal Metrics, September 2016 2 Pandora Internal Metrics, March 2016