Predicting the “demise” of media-related technologies can quickly get you into trouble. The next worse trouble prediction? Say there are no substitutes at all.
Watching me try my best to stay away from trouble.
Our journey began in 1995.
That year, we were 22 years away from the invention of the Internet. (This year, we are 22 years away from the “Friends” theme song “I’ll Be There for You” (ranked number one on the pop chart).) But I digress.
In February 1995, the then national printing weekly “News Weekly” predicted: “(N)o Online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can replace competent teachers, and no computer network will change the way the government works. “
The most ironic thing is that 26 years later, Newsweek is now available as long as On the Internet, tens of millions of students around the world go to school in a virtual way, and the impact of social media networks on the government can only be described as change.
But facts have proved that the prediction that the development of the Internet will kill traditional media formats is also wrong. In many ways, as Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride” might say, they are “mostly dead.”
When did you ask?
How do you know when to act? Is the old format worth sticking to? Is your B2B content marketing the same as Blockbuster video?
Marketers who work with us often ask these questions. A financial services company wants to know when it should stop sending thought leader emails with PDF attachments and switch to another format. An e-commerce company wants to know when to stop printing brochures in exchange for a digital version. A technology company wants to know when to develop its library of PowerPoint presentations and PDF files into other content.
Avoid anchor methods
Although traditional media formats successfully exist today, they may also become an anchor point that slows down a company’s ability to innovate and transform. Companies deliberately adhere to old media formats, or hinder perceptions of the evolution of the customer experience.
A good example of deliberate reasoning is the New York Times. In 2014, in its breakthrough and leaked innovation report, the internal team lamented that their transition to full digitalization was the “most difficult”:
The advantage of a company without a traditional platform is that it can fully focus on creating the best digital reports. For newspaper companies, making this transition can be so challenging that several of our competitors have already given us responsibility for daily affairs. [print] Give paper to small independent teams so that others can focus on digitization.
The original digital news organizations have recognized the benefits of investing fully in the digital consumer experience. But traditional brands like The New York Times are at a disadvantage because they started in the printing age. Therefore, they believe that any effort to accelerate digital transformation will help, because print news is now outdated.
A good example of blocked view inference is the Blockbuster vs. Netflix battle in the early 2000s. Now, it is too simple to say that Blockbuster “knows nothing” about Internet streaming and that Netflix is developing faster. With the end of a more balanced exploration of history, Blockbuster tried (and almost succeeded) to evolve into a digital business. This is the ability to convince shareholders that they need to reinvent themselves in a timely manner, coupled with the anchor (and high cost) of physical DVD management, this is doomed to the demise of Blockbuster.
But is this trap inevitable for all companies?
Context, not format features or quality, determines what kind of content experience consumers prefer today. This concept is called the holistic product theory-consumers choose more than the core (media) product itself. They choose the core product and the complementary and contextual attributes surrounding it.
In short: content consumers are more likely to value media formats because they are more suitable for the personal environment they require than new media formats that provide superior quality or have more features.
Therefore, just like in Blockbuster vs. Netflix, when a new and better media type appears, the traditional media experience will not become obsolete. When traditional experiences are irrelevant to consumers in the context, they become obsolete.
What do B2B marketers do?
B2B companies have seen the entire product theory at work. The past 20 years have been a long race to keep up with the development of digital content. Eight years ago, SiriusDecisions (now owned by Forrester Research) found that as many as 67% of the buyer journey was digital. Research firm Gartner found that B2B buyers spend 27% of their time looking at the content of their online independent research.
A 2020 McKinsey study found that “B2B companies believe that digital interactions are two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions.” CMI’s own research found that the largest investment by B2B marketers in 2021 is digital content creation (70%), followed by “Website Enhancement” (66%).
B2B audiences do have more expectations for today’s digital experience. However, most B2B resources or learning centers are legacy repositories of isolated assets divided and subdivided by classic static format types.
Conclusion: This is not the death knell of the classic digital file format, but in order to meet the needs of today’s buyers, B2B companies must evolve to create a more attractive digital content marketing experience.
To determine when is the best opportunity for change, start by thinking about the following four questions:
- Can we meet the quantity and quality of content needed to drive differentiated and personalized content experiences?
- To what extent is our content experience “interoperable” and integrated into our content marketing technology infrastructure?
- How measurable is our content marketing work?
- What capabilities do we have to collect intent data or provide interactivity through our content experience?
B2B content marketing is undergoing the same transformation as the New York Times, Netflix, Blockbuster, and all other media companies. We are no longer subject to or dependent on traditional processes, technologies and digital experiences. As marketers, we must be aware that new disruptive competition is emerging from all angles and be ready to answer questions-and take action based on our answers.
Cover image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute