Gini Dietrich

Content Marketing Most Certainly is Not Dead

By: Gini Dietrich | January 28, 2016 | 

Content Marketing Most Certainly is Not DeadBy Gini Dietrich

Yesterday, I was recording a podcast with David Reimherr (which, at the end, we argue about Making a Murderer so stay tuned!) and I told the story of how, when I graduated from college and went into PR, my dad said something along the lines of, “I can’t believe you’re not going to be a writer.”

Fast forward to today and let’s just say I figured out how to take that passion and turn it into not only a career, but a business.

And, not only have I figured out how to make it a business, but a pretty, darn good one. Content has become the center of pretty much everything we do.

Heck, this very blog is a great example. Who would have thought, just 10 years ago, we would live in a world where bloggers could write about the things they love and make money doing it, too?

That was reserved for the journalists and everyone else had to rely on them.

No longer! It’s a beautiful, beautiful world in which we live.

Where We Are in the Hype Cycle

That’s why I get a little frustrated when I hear things such as “content marketing is dead” or “content marketing doesn’t work” or “we have content shock and that’s why it’s not sustainable.”

The 2016 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, shows that business-to-business organizations have seen a decrease in the effectiveness (from 38 percent in 2015 to 30 percent in 2016) of content marketing.

This does give great fodder for people brushing it aside and saying it doesn’t work. I mean, it decreased by eight percent! But, let’s be real, only 38 percent saying it’s effective to begin with is still a failing grade.

Yes, I agree we are overly saturated. I agree a good majority of the content isn’t good. But that doesn’t mean it’s dead or doesn’t work. It doesn’t even mean no one is paying attention.

It means we must do better.

In Joe Pulizzi’s editorial for the December issue of Chief Content Officer, he shows the five-step hype cycle that shows the adoption curve of any disruptive technology.

Gartner's Five-Step Hype Cycle

Before last year, we were at the “peak of inflated expectations” level and, starting around the time Mark Schaefer wrote about content shock 18 months ago, we began to hit the “trough of disillusionment,” which is where I believe we still sit.

But you can see we’ll be coming out of that soon to the “slope of enlightenment” and then to “productivity.”

Content Marketing Must Be Honed

It always makes me laugh to hear marketers and executives complain about all the junk in their inboxes, in their RSS feeds, in their Flipboard accounts, and on the web, in general, but when they get behind their computer screens at work they contribute to the gross mess.

They buy lists and spam via email. They only talk about themselves and their latest sale or their latest hire or their latest award. Their content is dull and has no personality. They quote industry experts, but never offer an opinion of their own. They’re scared to put anything out there because it might mean their competitors will copy them.

And so we sit in the trough of disillusionment, wondering if all this time and all of those resources around content marketing were worth it.

Sure, that kind of content marketing doesn’t work because NO ONE CARES.

Think about the kind of content you read or watch or listen to and can’t get enough of.

Let’s take the aforementioned Making a Murderer (to the two of you who don’t have Netflix, you can watch it for free online with a free month’s subscription…chop, chop!).

Tony Gnau wrote a great piece here, not about the show, but about how the video work, the production style, and the storytelling got much, much better with every episode.

If you’ve seen the show, you likely remember the first episode where people were walking into the camera, the shots weren’t set up at all, the lighting was horrendous, and it made you a little motion sick to watch.

In fact, it was so bad, I almost didn’t make it to episode three, but kept watching because everyone said, “Just wait until episode four.” (And, yes, just wait until episode four.)

The point is that they didn’t stop telling the story because they weren’t any good at it in the beginning. They told the story because they believed there was something to it and they honed their craft as they went along…and took us with them.

The Slope of Enlightenment is Coming

Every September, I republish our very first blog post both to remind myself how far we’ve come (I’m really bad at stopping to smell the roses) and to show all of you that overnight success takes years and years of honing your craft.

It’s not pretty. In fact, I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.

It’s almost as embarrassing as getting your Facebook memories or Timehop mentions from seven years ago when we still spoke about ourselves in third person.

I roll my eyes nearly every day at how bad it was.

But we got better. Though I wouldn’t call posting on Facebook a craft, with practice, we all figured out how to use it (and how not to use it).

We will hit the slope of enlightenment with content marketing and it’s coming soon.

Be in that 30 percent of organizations that content marketing works for because you’ve honed your craft, you’ve put yourself out there, you’ve told a story people care about, and you didn’t give up.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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21 Comments on "Content Marketing Most Certainly is Not Dead"


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Danny Brown
7 months 28 days ago
Ah, so many things to say on this topic… 🙂 The first “argument”, of you like, is the term content marketing itself. We’ve had a lot of discussions about this, and I wrote on why the term is a misnomer a couple of years ago. Simple fact is, it’s marketing, pure and simple – content is simply another tactic in the bigger arsenal. So it makes sense to hear people say “content marketing is dead”, because people are fixation on a very minute description. With regards “content shock”, I won’t go too deep into that, as it’s also a misnomer.… Read more »
Mark W. Schaefer
Mark W. Schaefer
7 months 28 days ago
Here is where I think there is a possible disconnect in the logic presented by you and Joe. The hype cycle largely has to do with adoption. There are early adopters that buy into the hype, problems are found, problems are corrected, and then the curve goes back up again. The trough we are in right now is not really one of adoption — I think the number is something like 80% + are now doing a form of content marketing? It is an issue of performance. You could rightly judge that we are in a trough because of the… Read more »
Sherrilynne Starkie
7 months 28 days ago

Love the photo used with this blog post. Timely and correct.

Pamela Wright
7 months 28 days ago

Oops, I missed the email. I didn’t know that content was dead. Dumby me I thought it was reaching its adolescence.

7 months 28 days ago

Hey… thanks for that shout-out! 🙂
–Tony Gnau

7 months 27 days ago

Yes! Just because so many people/companies are doing it wrong doesn’t mean it doesn’t work or is dead. It just means those that do understand how to use content to improve their customers and potential customers lives or work have an edge in the ongoing battle for attention, no matter how much content is being pushed out there.

7 months 24 days ago
The reason why some say “content marketing” is dead is because “content marketing” was never a thing in the first place — and people are becoming to realize that it’s just a buzzword. (And why are we trusting anything that the Content Marketing Institute says? They are not a neutral source — they making money off of making “content marketing” a thing.) All marketing is the creation of a message, the insertion of that message into a piece of content, and the transmission of that content over a channel to an audience. All marketing is “content marketing” because all marketing… Read more »
Danny Brown
7 months 23 days ago

Exactly, Samuel. Thank you. 🙂