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Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016

An amazing year comes to an end, complete with videos going viral, algorithms throwing us curve balls and news-feeds getting chaotic. If content marketing is your game, 2016 would be the year it gets crazy competitive, and a lot more exciting! This is my list of trends and focus areas for 2016, something I’ll be pasting on the wall, and if I forget by the end of it.. Happy New Year 🙂

1. Videos will continue to dominate

It’s raining videos everywhere, from Facebook news-feeds to family groups on WhatsApp.  2016 will be the year of videos, more than 50% mobile traffic is already dominated by videos. Also, with 4G expected to become mainstream in ’16, Facebook will start injecting more videos in news-feeds (as it does in other countries). Videos are easy to digest, engages users, and is more likely to be shared.

I’ll be experimenting a lot with videos which engage users in 3-6 seconds, and get over within 30 seconds.

Also experiment with what I call ‘square’ videos (remember vine?). They are native to mobiles, no tilting, expectation is short and have been shared crazy. If you’re eager to get in the game: Start experimenting with video, hire a filmmaker, get better at telling stories in motion. Think story-telling not high production value. Startups have been doing zero-budget videos and killing it.

2. User attention span will continue to fall

Human attention span is at the all time lowest of 8 seconds, Gold fish is 9 seconds. Gold Fish! Heck I have twenty apps in my phone which shout for my attention all day. With millions getting on the smartphone bandwagon in India, and millions already consuming content on it, the real challenge would be to pierce through the content density and stay remarkable with your content.

Create content which gets to the point quickly and engages. If it is videos: engage in the first few seconds, keep everything front and centre (like a selfie); if it’s images: drop the collages (Facebook doesn’t like them either), make them crisp and clean, and for text: make it easy to consume.. listicles 🙂

3. Quality will beat quantity, hands down

News-feeds are already chaotic, organic reach on social platforms is non-existent, so the focus must be on share-worthy content and beat Facebook at its game. Competition is growing with low barriers to entry (everyone and their brother can create a meme today). Quality content rises to the top eventually, even Facebook now loves to bring back old ‘good quality’ content in News-feeds. Instead of creating a lot of content, focus on the kick-ass ones, which engage and deliver value to users. Remember the 80-20 rule?

4. Rise of Instagram + WhatsApp for content distribution

I’m placing my bets on Instagram and WhatsApp for video/visual content distribution. A lot of your content may already be going viral on WhatsApp, those annoying alumni, extended family and friends groups, hopefully we get analytics for WhatsApp in 2016. I’ll be experimenting a lot with creating native content for Instagram and WhatsApp and build them as an alternate content distribution platforms. 

5. Rise of branded content

No one likes Ads, ads have been shoved into our experiences everywhere. Ads by nature are self promotional, and users today can smell the BS miles away. 2016 will see rise of branded content, not ads masquerading as content but genuine content which is useful, relevant and adds value to users’ lives. Also, with Ad blockers becoming popular, content must earn the eye-balls. And the best way to earn eye-balls is to focus on the heart, not the eye-balls 😉 That’s where ‘shares’ come from. Brands must become a conduit for change.

6. Not visual, but virtual content

With Facebook and Google experimenting with 360 degrees videos and Virtual technologies, this could be an area to experiment with. Get a 360 degree camera, and shoot some fun behind the scene content. The second half of 2016 should see the rise of virtual content and with Facebook acquiring Oculus Rift, virtual reality could eventually become mainstream.

7. Think big but execute for tiny screens

When you’re reviewing any creative or video, the first questions to ask before any creative or story-telling logic: How would it work on that tiny screen? Mobile numbers are skyrocketing, desktop traffic has been on the decline, 2016 will see the mobile curve go way north. Think big, but execute for small screen size. For example.. Infographics won’t work, break them into easy to consume slide-decks, for small screens.

8. Multi-skilled storytellers in every team

The content marketing teams will need skilled story-tellers on the teams in 2016. With rapidly evolving platforms and to experiment in the untested areas, we’d need filmmakers to double up as designer, writers to pickup design skills, and filmmakers to learn how to write headlines. Above all, brainstorming must become a culture.

9. Keep Experimenting

I’ve always believed in operating like a movie studio, make ten movies hoping two become crazy successful. Let 2016 be the year of crazy experiments: try new formats, new features, get obsessed with your users’ lives and add value in every content piece.

10. There’s one more thing 🙂

I’ve been busy having a lot of coffee, digging up my notes and writing a book 🙂 About the story of learnings from the content marketing trenches, of how experiments became best practices for multi million views viral videos. About creating viral-worthy content, the art of news-jacking, earning users’ trust and coming up with topics for the next game changer. Join the mailing list and I will update you when it comes out. Happy Content Marketing in 2016 🙂

Aashish Chopra

Tweet me up at @aashishc or LinkedIn if you want to see me in a suit! (click-bait, no suit) 


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  1. brilliant insights aashish!!

    i’m a firm believer that short video blogs can do very well. need to start implementing them on trh!

    the user attention span is scary – but true. i know how many seconds i look at news in shorts 🙂

    but sometimes – the headline ensures a long piece gets read.

    check this story out – it’s super long. but it’s got 11588 views in less than a week (which is phenomenal for trh!)

    i love the “shoot some fun behind the scenes” idea – need to do it at the next OH for sure!!

    thanks for this aashish. keep ’em coming!

  2. I think Vertical Videos will be bigger this year. These are the videos which look small on laptops but look great while holding phone normally (Snapchat, periscope type).

  3. You bet, formats native to mobiles will work well 🙂

  4. Just loved “No one likes Ads, ads have been shoved into our experiences everywhere

    I think that another trend of 2016 would be that advertisers will increasingly use influencers to get their message across to the target audience. Influencer marketing is already big in US and India will follow suit.

    A shameless plug would be that our startup helps advertise to reach millions of people on social media with the help of influencers. So if you wish to promote your startup on social media / get early adopters etc then do give it a shot.

    We ran a special campaign for the Rodin-hooders in which we gave $10 free credit for the first campaign, so incase you missed out on it then send me a message and I will get funds added to your account.


  5. I think Video ads will compelling turn fortunes around of digital content monetisation.

    Consider this:

    – TV ads have always been the most dominant ad expense (In India, brands spend 20,000 crores a year on them)

    – These ads came to YouTube 3 years back (YouTube also became profitable in 2014)

    – The same ads are now mobile video rolls. In games, we have enjoyed CPM’s of 20-30 this December (USA/iTunes). That beats IN- APP sales hands down.

    Video ADS are the new Content Star 🙂

  6. asha – but did you read his point on 6 SECONDS!!!!????


  7. You bet, the next big thing.. I’m however excited about creating the content where these Ads will play 😉 Not just that, video ads can’t be the same ol TV ads re-imagined for the new medium. I believe the task ahead is to make them with repeat-value, share-worthiness and not just another blatant self-promotion shoved in our user expriences. Exciting times ahead 🙂

  8. Great article. I am definitely seeings Instagram is on rise.

  9. hey aashish,

    we’re half way through the year – any additions/subtractions to the list??!!


  10. it’s spooky how accurate the points came out to be, I still stick by them, except for instagram and virtual content.. haven’t made a big dent in the universe and it’s June already 😉

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