The written word seems to be on the decline, at least in the online space. Articles and white papers have morphed into blog posts and status updates. Hashtags, acronyms and emoticons stand in for sentences. OTP, BRB, LMK, OK?
How low can you go? In a year or two, 140 characters — a miserly allotment now — will seem a luxury, a vestige of an era marked by logorrheic verbosity.
If you doubted it before, believe it now: a picture really is worth the proverbial thousand words. Maybe more.
Opinion? Sure. But the facts bear this out. Facebook keeps redesigning to feature bigger, bolder images. Oh yeah, and the company bought Instagram for a cool million. Videos now auto-play on the platform. Yahoo, meanwhile, snatched up Tumblr. Twitter continues to make images and videos a more prominent part of the user experience. And don’t forget the increasing popularity of Pinterest, YouTube, and SnapChat — you can easily see where all this is going.
Research, too, bears out the hypothesis that visual (and audio-visual) content is subsuming the written word. As an analyst, when I ask marketers about the types of content and media channels they’re leaning toward in the future, all forms of written content are on the decline, from press releases to blog posts. Investment is around multimedia and images.
The chart above highlights the reason behind this shift in the we communicate online: mobile. Simply put, no one’s about to read War and Peace on a smartphone. Mobile means a lot of things, but mostly it means that screens are getting smaller. The smaller the screen, the pithier information must be in order to be comfortably communicated and absorbed by its target audience.
Ease of use is key here as well. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter don’t create content, rather they enable its dissemination — and if no one updates their status, then these platforms don’t stand a chance. Clearly, it’s a lot easier to upload that shot of your Hawaiian vacation (or delicious lunch, or mischievous puppy) than to narrate in detail why such things are interesting — especially while using your thumbs and combating auto-correct.
Content Strategy Implications
That content is becoming shorter, less verbose and more visual obviously has tremendous ramifications for content strategy. Here are three major points to bear in mind.
Point 1: Mobile Matters
Screens are getting smaller and, like a new pair of jeans, content must shrink to fit. Sure, consumers still use laptops, desktops and televisions, but the “second screen” (very arguably the first screen) is omnipresent and in continual use.
Point 2: “Hire A Journalist” Is No Longer Sufficient
Five years ago, content marketing’s call-to-arms was hire a journalist. Journalists were a dime a dozen given seismic shifts in traditional media, and they were an ideal solution for churning out copy for articles, columns, blog posts, press releases, white papers and the like.
Writing talent will always matter (and as a journalist and author myself, personal biases run strong), but writing no longer represents an adequate spectrum of talent in an image-driven world. Today’s content strategist must also engage photographers, videographers, multimedia editors, graphic designers and, very probably, developers.
Point 3: Make It Modular
For efficiency of scale and consistency of messaging, content must be well equipped to travel across devices, platforms, formats, and media. The key to achieving this efficiently and successfully is in developing a content strategy that fosters the development of modular content. When images, headlines, body copy, charts, photos and graphs can be assembled and reassembled to serve different functions on a variety of platforms and channels (e.g. swapping out elements to create appropriate messaging for a web site, Facebook and Twitter), brands and messages will have the consistency and resonance required to rise above a cacophonous content landscape and converge into more signal, less noise.
Get the picture?
Image courtesy of Altimeter Group.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.