Four things that changed content marketing in 2018

December 10th, 2018

Over the next few weeks, the CMA is going to be looking forward to 2019 and predicting which platforms, events and companies will shape the year. For now though here are four key trends that have changed content marketing in 2018.


In May 2018 GDPR, which had been troubling marketers for many months, finally arrived and companies were forced to clean up their customer communications in line with the new regulations or face monstrous fines. The huge penalties haven’t by and large materialised, but six months on and the fall out from the launch of GDPR continues. The biggest headache for marketers has been the pruning of email lists with some companies, most notably Wetherspoons, deciding that it was easier to start all over again. Anecdotally, and this has been reflected here at the CMA, others have said that while numbers of email subscribers have been dramatically cut the number of people who engage with corporate emails remains roughly the same.

From a company perspective perhaps the biggest drawback of GDPR has been the emergence of ‘consumer opt-in fatigue.’ Being asked so many times by so many websites to sign up and agree terms has clearly taken its toll and re-building those email databases has been an uphill struggle.

Another interesting consequence of GDPR has been the rise in the value of first party data. Consumers are realising now that the information they give away has a value and we might just be on the start of a road which will ultimately lead to them being financially rewarded for the details they share. Conversely, the value of third party data has dropped significantly. Digiday ran a poll this year and discovered that 87 percent of marketers say they plan to increase contextual targeting in the next 12 months as a response to GDPR.

Lastly, the arrival of GDPR has sparked a debate across the Atlantic as to whether the US needs a similar set of rules. Fear of transgressing the regulations has lead to many US sites barring European visitors (there is a list here), and at the same time, other groups have expressed that US consumers need rights in the same way that their European counterparts now have. This one clearly will run and run.

Facebook’s news feed algorithm changes

Hurt by accusations that they help distribute fake news which may have influenced both the EU referendum in the UK and the US elections, Facebook finally took action in January and tweaked the algorithm that powers its news feeds. The company proposed that people primarily wanted to see posts from families and friends so they apparently demoted updates from media companies and brands.

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For some companies, it was the final straw. In recent years Facebook has evolved into a pay to play platform and for many brands investment in social ads was rewarded not just by responses, but by organic growth too. So some companies have chosen to invest their cash elsewhere. Many of the brands who have remained loyal to the format have in some respects changed the nature of their content, providing higher quality, less clickbaity posts. Some have chosen to focus on video and upped their commitment to both standard footage and Facebook Live updates. It remains to be seen whether long term they will be rewarded with decent levels of consumer engagement.

Once again who knows how the platform will evolve in the coming year.

The audio revolution

The massive growth in popularity of podcasts in the last three years has largely caught brands by surprise. In April Fast Company estimated that there are over 525,000 active shows and over 18.5 million episodes. This year, however, there were signs that brands are starting to work out how to use the medium to engage with consumers. There is a split with some companies like Mastercard, General Electric, Penguin Books and Boots investing heavily in their own programmes, while others have opted to work smartly with existing popular podcast creators, creating content and advertising that subtly adds value to the podcast itself. With some podcasts posting incredible audience engagement figures podcasts are very clearly going to be on the roadmap of content marketers in 2019.

Download our free Audio Trends Report

The renaissance of print

In the UK printed branded content has never really been unfashionable. Savvy brands know that it is a very powerful way to reach consumers, especially those who might not spend too much time online. The standard of the entries for the print part of the CMA awards reflect the ongoing strength of the medium.

This year the CMA decided to pen a report about the growth of print and we did this for several reasons. Firstly the increasing use of print by digital only brands like Facebook which debuted its print magazine in the early summer. Secondly, the continuing growth of the indie sector which now yields many successful titles including The Gentlewoman, Sabat, Hole and Corner and Strong Words, which have now caught the attention of brands. Lastly the ongoing success of brands who use print and have done so for decades. Whether it be travel magazines, estate agency publications or titles aimed at pet owners branded print content is still king and is very much a key way for brands to connect with consumers. The CMA Print Report will be available for free at the start of 2019.



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