If recent headlines about the great podcasting craze of 2019 feel a little familiar, there’s a good reason why. Remember 2017’s great pivot to video? You certainly do if you’re a journalist. Publishers from Mic to MTV laid off large portions of their newsrooms to accommodate video-first content strategies, with many brands following suit. It made sense to many at the time, as Facebook and the like touted video-friendly algorithms and extolled the stopping power of visual-first content.
Well, a lot has changed since then. For starters, there’s the fact that Facebook knowingly inflated its own video metrics, their impressive view counts playing no small part in the great pivot to video in the first place. Also, the rise of podcasts can partially be explained because they so perfectly accommodate modern behaviors in a way that video cannot. Podcasts are the ideal media format to function as a sidekick for our commutes and daily chores, a pleasing white noise to help us get through our daily lives.
But somewhere in between the stopping power of video content and the passive backdrop of podcasts lives an often overlooked format for content marketing that’s still very relevant. Say it with me, journalists: text content. And now more than ever, text-based branded content is like the San Antonio Spurs of content marketing: It’s not terribly flashy, but it almost always gets the job done efficiently.
To that end, here are three reasons why brands shouldn’t sleep on text content as they allocate 2020 marketing budgets.
The right level of interaction
Our current era of brand experiences happens entirely on consumers’ own terms, and in a sense, this feels at odds with the tactic of engineering thumb-stopping, interruptive social videos. While it may be anachronistic to argue this, modern text content regularly offers a choose-your-own level of experience to its readers that neither video nor podcasts can deliver.
We’re increasingly seeing text function as the latticework between various other media formats in an incredibly thoughtful way. WeTransfer’s owned content platform WePresent is a great example of this, bringing the brand’s value prop as a conduit of creativity to life by marrying various media types together (photos, GIFs, text interviews, long reads) in an arresting and entirely self-guided way.
As such, brands shouldn’t feel defeated by the fact that over 40% of people admit to skimming blog posts. By providing a mix of formats and leveraging tactics like pull quotes, bulleted lists and subheads, you’re encouraging your audience to seek out what’s relevant to them and move on. And guess what? People find this useful. In fact, according to a Reuters Digital News Report, nearly 80% said they rely on text over video as a vehicle for news, with the primary reason being that reading or skimming text is more convenient than watching video.
The right level of investment
Part of the explosion in volume of new podcasts comes down to practicality, and that the low (to no) cost of entry has enticed everyone to get in the game. While that may be true from a general perspective, there are additional hurdles when trying to develop a branded podcast that people might actually seek out. Because so much of the relative success of podcasts hinges upon having skilled hosts, facilitators and/or best-in-class storytellers, there’s an immediate cost in acquiring the right talent for any brand that wants to stand out.
I’m certainly not saying that text content requires no skill, but as a format, it’s often less dependent on a marquee name or talent to help it succeed. Instead, it’s a tactic that’s perfect for exploring any number of topics adjacent to your brand in a timely, inexpensive, scalable way. And let’s not forget about the long-tail effect of regularly publishing from your brand’s website, never mind the fact that according to a 2018 HubSpot study, a brand’s website still ranks as the top channel for learning more about a brand across generations above social and video content. In other words, these are all impressions waiting to be captured outside of social’s pay-to-play world.
The right time to hop on
Now is probably a good time to point out that text-based newsletters are having a moment of their own to rival that of podcasts. Indeed, once considered a yawn-inducing lead-gen tactic in b-to-b marketing, newsletters have become a preferred means for consumers to mainline relevant information directly into their inboxes on a weekly and even daily basis. And the very format speaks to the first point about the right level of interaction, as newsletters allow readers to skim pithy bullets until they find something of interest and click through for a deeper experience.
A fair word of warning for brands here is to ensure that this experience is in some way additive to your audience’s lives, which means not simply copying and pasting headlines from owned content efforts and calling it a day, but rather embracing a curator mindset. The good news is that there’s an overwhelming baseline of receptivity to text-based newsletters among customers that have done business with a brand, with one study revealing that over 90% of them want to receive branded emails at least once monthly.
In closing, here’s another way to think about it: While video was so 2017 and podcasts are so 2019, let text content be an evergreen component of your brand’s marketing strategy to complement other bigger bets in your overall portfolio. In my opinion, it may never be the flashy line item or shiny toy for marketers, but it will always be an important one that you may ignore at your own peril. After all, the last I checked, the Spurs have made it to the playoffs for a record 22 consecutive seasons and counting.