I’ve really gone off predictions posts recently. Partly because there are so many really bad ones. And also because, well, none of us really know what’s around the corner do we?
So, having said that up front, you should know that this is in no way a predictions post. Rather it is a trend that has been picking up steam during the last half of 2012 and looks set to continue.
Content, content, content
We all know content is important in modern PR and marketing campaigns and, by default therefore, the ways in which we publish that content are also important. Gone are the days when Blogger and then WordPress were the main options to consider.
Last year saw a rise in the use of sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. And, as ‘easy to publish’ sites like these continue to grow, I get the sense that, while hardcore bloggers remain (and are perhaps even more committed to the artform) many are turning to other platforms instead.
Blogging on the way out?
We recently conducted some research which looked at the blogging activity of some of the UK’s leading tech companies and it showed this to be true: fewer companies are blogging. But those that do are blogging more and enjoying greater success.
Alternatives to blogs and blogging are nothing new. Sites like Posterous, Tumblr and Pinterest have been accepted by the ‘mainstream’ and the latter two – in particular – have seen significant increases in popularity of late.
These ‘off the shelf’ options give anyone the opportunity to publish original or curated content, for free, at the touch of a button.
Welcome the new generation
Last week, on Techcrunch, Ingrid Lungren wrote a post extolling the virtues of Tumblr and looking at its success. It seems that, whereas in the past, brands would likely shy away from hosted sites like this, many are now embracing it, dragged in (if not exactly kicking and screaming) by rising user numbers.
Twitter’s own answer to the Tumblr/Pinterest craze is Medium. A gorgeous looking site from Twitter and Blogger founder Ev Williams. Medium aims to be the place where those posts that need to be longer than 140 characters sit but Twitter is very much baked into the system. Yet to launch in public beta, it will be interesting to see how this contributes to the mix later in 2013.
And, of course, there are lots of paid options out there too, whether open source options that require a developer to saas and fully hosted CMSs, such as EPiServer and MyNewsDesk – both EML Wildfire clients.
Content platform trends
So what do these new, emerging publishing platforms have in common?
- Multimedia – blogs were traditionally hard to use with multimedia. We’ve now gone to the other extreme with sites like Pinterest and Tumblr putting images and video front and centre. At a time when visual content is more important than ever (just check out Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm), this is a natural step.
- Ease of use – just sign up and get going. There’s no need even to select a template. Often you can login through single sign-on with a Facebook or a Twitter account. And posting content itself could not be easier with browser plugins and one-click posting common.
- Curation – curating other content from elsewhere on the web is a central theme with both Pinterest and Tumblr and it is what I primarily use these sites for. Following the demise of Delicious, a way to curate and share the vast amounts of content out there has been needed.
- Clean, simple design – again, pointing to the ease of use argument above, these sites are frequently clean and clutter free unlike many traditional blogging platforms. The content does the talking and I like that.
- Social integration – Medium has the upper hand here when it comes to Twitter, but increasingly I think we will want independent networks that allow us to share content easily across many social channels.
- Mobile – the fabled ‘year of mobile’ was some time ago now but ignoring mobile these days is like ignoring print in years gone by. There’s no doubt that many of these new platforms are putting mobile capabilities first and foremost.
So where does that leave brands?
Well, chances are many will still be hesitant about using some of these ‘free’ sites as their main content publishing platforms and they would be wise to be hesitant. But there are some great examples of brands using them for specific purposes such as sharing products on Pinterest and using Tumblr to curate user generated content (see this great example from Microsoft).
So, as the importance of content continues to grow, the options available to us to publish content are set to multiply. Rising user adoption means that embracing some of these new options could be a wise decision.