Does a Future Still Exist For Content Marketers?
Will AI-generated content put content marketers out of a job? Maybe, but not in the way many are talking about it.
You may know the story of the Luddites, a group of textile workers in the 19th century who protested against the use of machinery in the production of goods. They believed the machines were taking their jobs, and responded by destroying the machines, often violently.
We see now that those who embraced this new technology were made incredibly wealthy. These machines gave producers leverage, lowered the cost of production, and made clothing far more accessible. Just look at the clothing industry today. No one owns just one or two dresses (or pants, or shirts) as was common prior to this innovation.
But can content marketers expect a similar future? Will their ability to generate more content lead to a similar outcome?
Content marketing is a fundamentally limited market
What saved the Luddites was a lower cost of production opening up a larger addressable market. But will that same dynamic play out in the business of content marketing? It’s hard to see how that happens.
If we define the market as the number of Google searches on specific keywords or volume of content people consume, it’s harder to see the market expansion happening. Maybe content marketers can now allocate more of their time to generating better-targeted content, or more thoughtfully weaving it into acquisition funnels. But at the end of the day, they’re operating in a fundamentally limited market.
To take a positive view, you’re forced to consider reallocating jobs to marketing efforts that were previously too costly, or maybe even entirely new forms of content marketing enabled by AI itself. Can you write content that an AI is even more likely to ingest? Can you write content that trains an AI on your specific product, better enabling customers to flow through your website?
The lack of imagination is what led the Luddites to violence, and humans often will think “faster horses” vs. “cars” when asked to predict the future. We may be guilty of that lack of imagination here!
That being said, the reality of a fixed volume of “information demand” and as a result, “buying demand” is threatening. If this market wasn’t saturated already, it will be soon. Content marketers will need to reinvent themselves, and quickly. They will either learn to use the new tools well, or find other roles. They will learn how to run the factories, or learn another skill.
As Sam Altman of OpenAI recently tweeted, “good skills for the future: adaptability and resilience…embracing change will be important.”
good skills for the future: adaptability and resilience. i think these are learnable!
hard to answer the question of ‘what jobs will be safe’, but humans always find new things to do, and the future will likely be amazing.
embracing change will be important.
— Sam Altman (@sama) December 7, 2022
Imagine a world where content marketing teams are 5-10x as productive. Adaptive and resilient content marketers are moving from the factory floor up to the factory control room. Instead of spending much of their time being heads-down writing content, they can take a step back and focus on other things like:
- Targeting specific customer profiles and journeys
- Identifying important emerging keywords or trends to cover
- Weaving the entire strategy together
As roles change, so should the measurements of success. Particularly in this macro environment where cash is king, paying for content marketing tools works, but only when there’s quantifiable ROI on the back end. And it’s not a matter of taking production-oriented KPIs and increasing them. It’s also about pushing content marketers to take ownership of the higher level KPIs in the business (e.g., influenced pipeline, MQLs influenced by marketing content). This is an opportunity for those who want elevated responsibility and ownership.
We’ve long lived in a world where “thin” content works just fine. Things have changed somewhat, but a large portion of content remains not particularly novel or useful. Put some basic SEO content out, you hope your content matches users’ search interest, and that they’ll click through. But as we discussed above, there are a limited quantity of searches, of eyeballs, of interest.
Said differently, the speed of content production will hit “fast-forward” to eyeball saturation. Ben Tossell gives a good example:
Content repurposers beware… AI turns podcasts into audio and video clips.
Soon: record a podcast, and have 10 clips automatically scheduled to go out to every social channel.
— Ben Tossell (@bentossell) December 9, 2022
So how do you drive engagement and conversion in a world flooded with content? Improve the underlying content.
People have gotten away with writing thoughtless, repurposed content for too long. Value in the next decade will accrue to the thoughtful humans and those who have helpful and original ideas.
Long-term implications of AI in content marketing
What happens when AI beats humans in writing original content? Some may be skeptical we’ll get to this point, but we view it as inevitable. After all, what do humans really do other than synthesize ideas they’ve seen in the world, connect the dots, and repackage those linked ideas into “original” content?
This is when communities will really be critical. Human-to-human connection will always have a place, and maybe even more so in a world inundated with advanced AI marketers on the scene. Communities, however, take time to build—and by the time you’re seeing ROI in content marketing drop off, it may be too late.
As always, the best time to invest in the long-term is today.