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Is Content Marketing in a Bubble That's About to Burst?

 

“Bubbles,” aside from their use in baths or for children’s amusement, typically refer to financial markets, like real estate or dotcom businesses back in 2000. They form when a particular type of asset becomes overvalued; investors get excited about it, buy into it, and push that value higher and higher. Eventually, it hits a point of no return, and when the value inevitably starts to correct itself, a wave of panic and selling drive the price back into the ground, causing the bubble to “burst.”

In the past several years, we’ve seen an explosive increase in interest in content marketing; what was once a niche strategy is now considered a must for any new business, due to its many benefits, and its role in powering arguably the largest factor in organic search engine optimization – acquiring inbound links – and tens of thousands of content marketing agencies and contractors are competing for the rights to develop content that gets noticed in an already-saturated marketplace.

Is it possible that we’re currently in a content marketing bubble, where the value of content marketing is overestimated? And if so, could that bubble burst?

Arguments for the Bubble

These are some of the top arguments for why and how a content marketing bubble could exist:

  • An overabundance of content. Your newsfeed is cluttered with headlines, most of which you filter out as clickbait. With millions of people pushing “new” content daily, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd, and even the best content producers need to invest more if they want their material to get seen.
  • Content hype and overvaluation. The public love and hype for content marketing has spiraled out of control. There are thousands of online resources dedicated to proclaiming the high ROI of content marketing, and how it’s the best strategy for attracting traffic and gaining new leads. I don’t object to those points, but it isn’t a perfect strategy, nor is it the only strategy out there.
  • Consumer awareness. It could be argued that the state of content marketing today has reached a level similar to traditional advertising; it’s overabundant, and consumers realize that it’s being used as a tool to manipulate their choices. When consumers see an article about “how to buy the best bike,” they realize it’s probably been written by a bike shop, or someone else trying to move them closer to a purchase. If this trend continues, trust in content marketing will fall sharply.

Arguments Against a Bubble

There are also some good arguments against the prospect of a content marketing bubble:

  • New consumers. The internet’s a big place, and it gets a little bigger every day. People who have never had internet access before are now getting it, and people are able to search in new, innovative ways, faster and more efficiently. With an audience that’s still growing, it’s nearly impossible to outpace demand.
  • New mediums. On top of that, we’re entering a world with new, unconquered mediums. High-definition video is more manageable than ever, and is still underutilized by most companies. Soon, we’ll have 360 experiences and virtual reality to contend with; there’s no upper limit to how complex content marketing can evolve.
  • Unexplored territory. No matter how much content gets created, there will always be new subjects to write about—if you know where to find them. Sometimes, that means writing more niche topics, and other times, it means investigating new phenomena, technologies, and trends.

How a Bubble Might Burst

Let’s assume for a minute that there is a content marketing bubble, and it’s going to burst someday soon. What would that “burst” actually look like?

These are the hallmark signs I envision:

  • Declining returns. The biggest advantage of content marketing has always been its high return on investment (ROI). If a content bubble does burst, it would mean sharply declining returns for any content developed after that peak. That could come in the form of fewer users interested in your content, or fewer opportunities for visibility.
  • Higher barriers to entry. We’d also see higher barriers to entry, especially as the best content marketers continue to defend a monopoly on their respective target audiences. With so much content in circulation, and higher costs to build a respectable content archive, it would be much harder for new entrepreneurs and marketers to enter the game.
  • New alternatives. One of the plus sides of a content marketing bubble could be the emergence of new alternatives to content marketing, which rely on similar principles, but in new, transformative ways. Rather than churning out articles and infographics like a factory, we could see more one-on-one interactions and personalized material.
  • Least likely but still possible, we could see a mass exodus from the strategy altogether. As an unintended side effect, this sudden lack of new content could eventually help to stabilize content marketing’s value and volume.

I know that the subtleties of investment bubbles don’t directly apply to abstract concepts and specific services like content marketing, but the overvaluation and popularity of the strategy are worth considering—especially if you’re preparing to enter the content marketing world, or if content marketing is a big part of your marketing campaign.

Ultimately, I don’t think that content marketing is in a bubble, and if it is, that just means you’ll have to adjust your strategy if you want to survive through the backlash. Keep your eye on your peers and your competitors, as always, and be prepared to turn on a dime.

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