5 Content marketing trends you need to watch for in 2017

mountain-top-wallpaper-1Last year may have seen more than one crystal ball find its way into the waste disposal, but how content marketing shaped up has thrown some light on what to expect in the coming year. Audiences are seeking ever-higher quality of content. Push marketing is definitely on its way out and Adblocker is in. The desire for greater levels of interaction continues to emerge. Also, content which is either live or accessible on demand will become predominant in marketing. Another element central to all content, regardless of media or message, remains the continued thirst for strong, cohesive narrative.

So, despite 2016 bucking any measure of predictability, here are the 5 major trends in content marketing I think you should watch for in 2017.

1.      Live content

The demand for live content has been increasing steadily over the last few years. Live platforms such as Facebook Live, Periscope and Mixlr offer the immediate dimension of now to content which audiences experience as fresh and intimate.

2.      The audio revival continues

Last year saw podcasts like Jeff Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire and Freakonomics break records for downloads and revenue generation. Podcasts like The Black Tapes have started a revival in audio drama which shows every sign of continuing in the coming year. The opportunities for native marketing are manifold and early birds like Squarespace and Shudder are reaping the rewards.

3.      Newsletters via email

Almost all MSM platforms are shifting to newsletters to try and moderate audience defection to alternative media. The fake news wars are upon us, with neither camp proving invulnerable to criticism as the opening salvos hit home. Your inbox may well become the next theatre of this war in 2017.

4.      Narrative remains king

No matter the medium or subject, documentary or fiction, the story remains the thing. How inventive content creators prove themselves to be in mining seductive storylines will largely determine their success over the next 12 months. If you can identify the compelling narratives in your content and populate them with strong, authentic characters, then your audience will grow.

5.      Interactive content

Oxford-based behavioural biologist Rupert Sheldrake is among the first scientists to be developing an app which allows anyone to participate in his research. Although some decry this as a populist gimmick, the strategy of encouraging interaction has struck a chord with an audience who are tired of just watching from the outside and who want to be involved. Questionnaires, quizzes vox pops and polls will all become prominent in the most successful campaigns of 2017.

So, these are my picks for hot trends in 2017. The next 12 months will tell how accurate this pundit proves to be. But after the major events of 2016 made asses of the most seasoned prognosticators, I’m just glad most content I deal with has nothing to do with politics.

5 Reasons Why Podcasts Make for Sound Marketing

green-fractalHaving just reached its tenth anniversary in 2015, the podcast continues to grow exponentially as the new face of content marketing and entertainment. The most popular shows are generating massive revenues despite the humble beginnings of the medium, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps you may have considered getting involved in the podcast revolution, but aren’t sure if the medium could work for you. Here are 5 great reasons you should start your own podcast sooner rather than later.

1 Podcasts are the perfect consensual marketing tool

A podcast is an invitation to your prospective clients to form a relationship which is entirely voluntary. If the content you generate is of good quality, your listeners will subscribe to your podcast and your show will be automatically delivered to your audience upon publication. Podcasts become a part of the infotainment landscape of their subscribers and the relationship forms organically and naturally. A well-produced show with strong, informative content soon generates an intimate community of listeners which will grow. This is certainly the story told by the listenership data across the medium. With a podcast, you can speak directly to your audience and they will soon identify with you and your business.

2 Podcasts are easy and inexpensive to produce.

It really is possible to create a high-quality show with relatively inexpensive equipment. Publishing your podcast requires only a laptop, recording device, inexpensive or even free software, and an internet connection. It’s really that simple! Of course, you can tailor your budget to enhance production, and this is generally money well spent, but the barriers to getting into podcasting are very small. Even if you choose to have a professional audio production team do the technical stuff for you, you can become a regular podcaster for very little outlay.

3 Podcasts are intimate and highly accessible.

If you have ever listened to any podcasts, you’ll know how a well-crafted show draws you into the content. We are hard-wired to switch on to a human voice delivering information, especially if that information comes in the form of a strong narrative with engaging characters. The huge and enduring popularity of storytelling podcasts testifies to the power of strong stories, well-told. By presenting yourself and your business in this format, you invite your audience into a very intimate space where their imaginations begin to work with you. This is where the magic happens!

4 Podcasting is still young, but it’s growing fast and it’s here for the long-haul

After a modest start, podcasting is now really taking off in terms of audience size and range of content. With the advent of podcatcher apps and podcasting publishers the size of iTunes, Soundcloud, Podbean, and many others, the medium is really growing strongly now. People can subscribe and enjoy podcasts when they are at the gym, out for a run, washing the dishes or commuting. If you have a smart phone and you have discovered podcasting audio, chances are you are a subscriber to at least 1 or 2 shows. As the medium matures, strong content-driven shows will continue to widen their audience and reach more and more avid listeners, all the data trends are telling this story. There really is no better time to get involved than the present!

5 Successful shows are providing great models of how it should be done

We are already beginning to see the types of shows which have found the golden key. Without copying the hit podcasts, it’s already possible to target your audience by using some of the proven formats and styles of presentation. In the realm of business podcasting, shows such as Startup, The Broad Experience, and John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire have all shown the way in making engaging story-driven shows which hook their audience and deliver amazingly entertaining and informative content.

So if you haven’t started podcasting yet, perhaps you should seriously consider taking the plunge now, there really is no better time. I’m available via my email soundstorytelling@gmail.com if you would like to discuss this or any of my other articles.

 

Stories Rule the World

“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.”

– Rabih Alameddine, Author

It’s true. We inhabit a reality honed from the narratives in which we invest our belief.  Recently, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari focused upon this idea in his TED article Why Humans Run the World.  As Harari states, ‘We can cooperate with numerous strangers because we can invent fictional stories, spread them around, and convince millions of strangers to believe in them.’  This he posits, is what truly separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom and grants us primacy on the planet.  The fictional element is a moot point, but certainly the subjective perspectives we convey in our stories can take lifeless, neutral data and facts, and either recruit or repel others to feel and understand things our way or not.  Narratives are really that powerful.

Harari goes on to suggest that even concepts such as human rights exist only through belief and narrative, formalised through the legal system.  As he says, ‘In reality, humans have no rights, just as chimps or wolves have no rights. Cut open a human, and you won’t find there any rights. The only place where human rights exist is in the stories we invent and tell one another. Human rights may be a very attractive story, but it is only a story.’  So much we hold most dear, it would seem, is a factor of our beliefs and value stories, and not of any objective truth.  It is only through the integrity of the values with which we construct our narratives that we can create a reliable ‘truth’ out of the vast oceans of data with which our senses are assailed every moment.

As this idea sinks in, it becomes clear that more than raw facts themselves, we need ethically-sound narratives to help shape a benign reality for all earthlings.  We have the power, through stories, to render our planet a heaven or a hell for our fellow travellers.  Perhaps it’s an impossibility for us to take any facts as just the way things are.  The stories which bind these data and events ultimately drive our behaviour in the face of them.  And intrinsic in our stories are the beliefs and values which make us who we are.

Furthermore, Harari states, ‘The same mechanism is at work in politics. Like gods and human rights, nations are fictions. A mountain is something real. You can see it, touch it, smell it. But the United States or Israel are not a physical reality. You cannot see them, touch them or smell them. They are just stories that humans invented and then became extremely attached to.’  In a very real sense, we inhabit a largely fictitious reality.  Even the primary entity of economic interaction on our planet, money, falls under the category of belief rather than any concrete reality, yet the narratives concerning money are considered largely beyond debate in our society.

Harari concludes, ‘Whereas all other animals live in an objective world of rivers, trees and lions, we humans live in dual world. Yes, there are rivers, trees and lions in our world. But on top of that objective reality, we have constructed a second layer of make-believe reality, comprising fictional entities such as the European Union, God, the dollar and human rights.

And as time passes, these fictional entities have become ever more powerful, so that today they are the most powerful forces in the world. The very survival of trees, rivers and animals now depends on the wishes and decisions of fictional entities such as the United States and the World Bank — entities that exist only in our own imagination.’

It would appear that those who wish to effect the reality of our society must be involved in the crafting of the most compelling of stories.  There’s a lot at stake.

Sound Storytelling are here to tell your story in sound.  Contact us to discuss how we can breathe magic into your narrative.

Bonus Blog Post: Why Sound is Sexy.

(First published on LinkedIn on June 4th 2015.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.)

The spoken word is back.  Not that it has ever gone away, of course.  The common thread throughout our history as a species, regardless of location or technological development, is the power of the human voice and a tale well-told.  Today, we are witnessing a revival and democratisation in broadcasting, via digital channels and the podcast, such as we have never before seen.  So, listen up because sound is sexy!

The recent success of killer podcasts such as Serial, This American Life, and The Moth speaks volumes about how we have undertaken a quantum leap in accessing information and entertainment (And how these two entities have further become one).  We learn most when we are having fun and being entertained.  We also respond to oral narrative in an extremely active way, cognitively.  When we are listening to a compelling narrative, our brains’ visualisation and imagination centres are uniquely stimulated in ways which reveal that our natural response to strong stories is to become part of them.

“All stories have a curious and even dangerous power. They are manifestations of truth — yours and mine. And truth is all at once the most wonderful yet terrifying thing in the world, which makes it nearly impossible to handle. It is such a great responsibility that it’s best not to tell a story at all unless you know you can do it right. You must be very careful, or without knowing it you can change the world.”
― Vera Nazarian, Dreams of the Compass Rose

It’s not only purely narrative-driven podcasts which represent the vanguard of the spoken word’s resurgence in the digital age.  There is a vast and diverse range of educational and informative podcasts vying for precious ear-time out there in the cybersphere.  Review sites such as Digital Trends can help you navigate towards the cream but, as in all ages, it’s a question of separating the wheat from the chaff.  Quality is definitive.

People enjoy audio because it allows them to be entertained and informed while they are engaged in other activities.  That’s why sound is sexy.  It fits into the listeners’ lives almost seamlessly, conveying the golden thread of oral content in the gaps left around and behind whatever else they are doing.  Video can’t do that and neither can text.  In an increasingly hectic world, audio is king.

Strong narrative, captured in digital audio, can access the consciousness of listeners as no other medium can.  Identifying that narrative and crafting the audio which tells that story is a brave new world for educators, influencers, entertainers and marketers alike.  What is more, unlike the old broadcast media, there’s no need for narratives to target the lowest common denominator of popular appeal.  In the digital age, the audience and the podcaster participate in a consensual and mutual process of discovery.  Here, the best content is honed by the needs of the audience.  As I said, sound is sexy.  Are you making the most of it?

Coming up, next: How to identify and capture the mother-lode of golden narrative.

The what and why of the best digital audio.

“Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Taking even a cursory glance at the enormous range of podcast content available online it is clear that the good stands out from the bad and the ugly like a dog’s balls.  Quality is, as always, definitive.  This is as true for the realm of digital audio as it is of any medium.  But what is it that separates podcasting gold from the ‘also rans’?  In this post, I will put forward what I think defines the wheat from the chaff, with some insights gleaned from experts in the blogosphere, and I would welcome you to join the debate through the comments facility on this site.

So, what are the true gems of digital audio and podcasting?  Of course, there are the obvious Olympians such as Serial, This American Life, The Moth and Radiolab.  These giants all have a common provenance of the American public radio networks and indeed, this goes some way to explaining their large audiences.  American podcasts do appeal to the vast American market, not surprisingly, but there are plenty of American podcasts on American subject-matter which never achieve the huge ratings of the greats. Conversely, there exist a strong field of great podcasts which are very high-quality, they just appeal to a much smaller audience

For this reason, ratings are neither the most elegant or accurate means to define the quality factor.  The beauty of podcasting and digital audio is that it has opened the door to the niche broadcaster, linking the passionate expert with a global audience.  Some podcasts can never aspire to monumental audiences due to their subject specificity.  And yet, some of these minnows are still amazingly high-quality both technically and in terms of their journalistic standards.  Among these, I can personally recommend Mysterious Universe, A Podcast to the Curious, Mugglecast and Answer Me This!  Just because your audience is small, doesn’t mean what you’re doing need be anything but excellent.

Having listened to all of the above podcasts, what common elements, in my opinion, do these 5-star productions share?  I would say that the story behind the cast is always a key factor ( Not surprisingly, given the title of this blog!).  Added to the quality of the underlying narrative, the charisma and/or chemistry of the presenter or presenters, and indeed, any featured guests, is also crucial.  The podcasts above all have these elements in abundance.  Listening to the shows which excel is a pleasure because the people featured all appear to be enjoying themselves and the subjects they are tackling.  Another essential common element is that they all share a resonant quality of balance and rhythm in their content.  The presenters do not dominate with endless monologues, they avoid the tedium of listless irrelevance or unnecessary padding in the flow of the items presented.  Good editing is the secret to achieving this important factor.  The need for tight post-production editing is essential.  Most successful shows also have an underlying continuity in structure, if not in subject-matter.  Listening to any episode from a successful series, there exists a familiar character to what listeners can expect from the show.  These are the elements which all the above podcasts achieve consistently.  Add to these the idiosyncratic quirks of the production teams which also make the show uniquely appealing, and you begin to see where the magic of their success comes from.

The Audacity to Podcast is a great site on creating quality digital audio content.  In their 100 amazing podcasting tips feature, many successful podcasters give their advice on what makes a podcast successful.  Helen Zaltzman is a British comedian who is behind the Answer me this! podcast and also has recently launched another quality show called The Allusionist which deals with the study of words and their origins.  In her article, How to create a successful podcast: just say yes!, she addresses the pitfalls she had to overcome in creating her successful shows:  don’t give up, no matter how badly your first attempts turn out; use social media and blogs to attract your audience; publish your podcasts regularly and be disciplined about your schedule; and, last but not least, talk about something you like to talk about!

I urge you to have a listen to any of the shows listed above, just to get an idea of how different successful shows can be, yet still achieve something special and compelling.  While you’re doing so, ask yourself what sort of show would you like to listen to, perhaps it’s waiting for you to create it.

People often ask me: “How did you get into podcasting?” The answer is: “By not not doing it.”- Helen Zaltzman

Next: How to identify and capture the mother-lode of golden narrative.

The story, you see, is the thing…

Greetings!

Welcome to this, the first instalment of the Sound Storytelling Blog, celebrating the world of spoken narrative, podcasting and storytelling.

The digital age has heralded an overwhelming democratisation of broadcasting and the opportunity of telling stories to the world which would have been restricted to a tiny audience in times gone by.  Sound Storytelling was begun as an attempt to capture these stories and make them available to whoever wishes to listen, through digital audio.  I hope to inspire you to record your own stories, be they about your business or product, about an important event or a simple memoir, with confidence and the skills to do so with the highest production standards.  However, if you really aren’t interested in the technical side of production, but have a story which needs to be told, Sound Storytelling can provide full production services to bring your story to life for you.

At the heart of this project is the desire to honour what is perhaps among the oldest art forms of our species, the art of storytelling.  We can all recognise a tale well-told.  Somewhere within all of us there resides the ability to be swept along by a compelling narrative.  Centres in our brains are triggered when we listen to a story which activate visualisation and emotional responses to what we are hearing.  When we hear a good story, we are literally and actively participating in the action.  With the right narrative, we can be driving, washing up or exercising at the gym, and still be a world away, absorbed in the realms of our own imaginations, wherever the storyteller leads us.

So, it is the narrative which is central to the power of any story, and while this blog will be addressing the nuts and bolts of how to get your story to sound amazing using the phenomenal technology available today, I hope to give some useful pointers as to how to craft and capture the essence of any tale you wish to tell.  I will be including the advice of far better storytellers than I to achieve this aim!  For example,

“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.”

– Rabih Alameddine, Author

May this humble, yet well-informed blog inspire the storyteller in you and, in doing so, enrich the world of the collective imagination and the story-hoard of the human species.  I look forward to your company on the journey.

Next time: The what and why of the best digital audio.