The Looming Flight Towards Format-Agnostic Content Creation: And Why It Matters (Now) For Creators

To get ahead of the curve, consider leveraging easy win syndication opportunities that straddle distribution formats

The camera, the condenser microphone, or the pen: which creative tool is going to dominate for tomorrow’s content marketers and creatives? What if the answer were: it mightn’t really matter? Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

I’ve mentioned my prediction before that we’re sitting on the precipice of some really significant changes in the “content creation” universe.

These dynamics won’t take us past content saturation. But they will change the way content is delivered in a way that will — belatedly, deservedly — shift the focus away from who is saying what to …. just who’s saying what.

In other words, we’re about to see a really big shift towards a renew focused on the that content delivers and the message. Not how it’s said. All wild speculation courtesy, of course, of me.

I call this the looming age of format agnosticism in content marketing. To make that sound more dramatic let me repeat that sentence in title case:

The Looming Age Of Format Agnosticism In Content Marketing.

It’s coming. And creators should start preparing now.

What’s going to happen? (Hint: much of it already has):

  • Any gaps that that make the process of converting from text-based content to video content and vice versa difficult are going to be rapidly closed.
  • Content consumers are eventually going to get sick of dealing with providers (see: YouTube) who attempt to monetize or may it needlessly difficult to quickly jump between formats, like video and audio. We know that there’s no good (technical) reason why video content can’t be easily played in the background of smartphones, for instance. We’re going to get sick of being asked to fork out for that minor concession. Ditto for video transcripts. We know that YouTube have them and that they’re mostly pretty good. Why can only creators currently download the autogenerated files? Eventually I predict we’re going to see the emergence of new ideas marketplaces who focus on making all this as easy as it should be.
  • If methodologies to make those jumps exist — and they mostly already do — then content consumers are very soon going to start these as if they were their natural rights. See: above. New platforms will step into the fold or existing major tech platforms will be forced to change tact.

How can creators leverage this:

  • This would be a great time to explore all the various “jumps” I’ve included in the infographic below. There’s a lot of great tech already on the market including some of the more ambitious gap-closing initiatives that I’ve cited.
  • Before platforms emerge that make it simplistic to do so, we can take advantage of the fact that converting from text to video and vice-versa is already easy. Free: no. But there’s an opportunity to widen distribution by jumping channels and formats for anybody prepared to invest minimally in doing so.

Some other predictions:

  • We’re going to see a greater demand for stock videography in the near future. Likewise, AI-generated video is going to be a growth space. As it will increasingly become standard for even (hitherto) text only bloggers to share full length and short videos on video hosting platforms, we’re going to need more platforms that will allow us to make the jump. Sure, this could mean lots of growth in video marketing. But to make content marketing as cost effective as we’ve become accustomed to it being, AI is going to prove the more viable option.

And some recommendations. As usual, partially made to myself.

  • If you only blog right now, consider syndicating to audio and/or video. Take a look at the product categories highlighted below.
  • If you primarily create video based content right now, do the same and check out the other ‘gaps’ in the text to video spectrum highlighted. Namely how viable and easy it might be to distribute podcast (audio only) versions of your videos. And how simple it may be to finally get those down into text format. Remember: you can still embed the video!

And because it’s sometimes easier to read words presented in images rather than just words, here’s the infographic. To not be a hypocrite, I’ll be working on podcast and video versions of this post soon too.

The (Just-Beginning) Flight Towards Format-Agnostic Content Creation: An Infographic

The above infographic and this post are both released under the following creative commons license: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

My Content Predictions In (Self-Administered) Q&A Format

Where do you think it makes the most sense for the creators of today and tomorrow to focus their efforts?

Without a doubt, in my opinion, the answer is video.

Video may be more expensive to produce for creators (and businesses), but it’s at the peak of the pyramid. At least, as I see it. The expense factor might actually be a good thing. More thoughtful and original creation which could take us a step back from content saturation.

It may be beyond simplistic, but I think it’s nevertheless worth thinking through all the fundamental differences between creating content for distribution in text, audio, and video.

When we create text-based content, like a blog post, we’re fundamentally limited in terms of how we can communicate by the confines of text-based communication (not considering things like diagrams and photos).

When we step up to audio-based content, we have the nuances of vocal communication to add to the richness of the communication experience. Studies affirm that tone of voice confers a significant amount of human communication. Of course we lose some things. We could link to images and graphics from a show notes / description. But we’re really at the mercy of the syndication destinations in terms of how nicely they render these. And needless to say if you’re listening to a podcast while commuting to work we can’t deliver visual elements.

Finally , by the time we get to video, we have it all.

We can add those same ideas we would have blogged about and integrate them into either a script or other elements like titles. We can voiceover that script and then it’s kind of podcast layered onto imagery. Or we can have a voice-to-camera setup and then we’re already hitting just about the peak of how we can currently digitize human communication.

This makes video more stressful to produce, in a sense. I can write a blog post while sick or exhausted and my readers mightn’t be any the wiser so long as I express the ideas well. With video, there’s not much room to hide.

I also really like the idea that video is the most advanced form of communication we currently have and therefore it makes sense on that basis to utilize it — whereas text-based communication has been around forever (even if the way we distribute it, the internet, is much more recent).

We’ve been writing since about the dawn of human history. Sound reproduction has been with us since the late 19th century. But we have to get well into the 20th century before we start seeing full color resolution let alone the type of high resolution video creation that we now have at our fingertips.

There are fascinating advances taking place in video at the moment. Stabilization systems that would have cost thousands of dollars are now available for a couple of hundred dollars.

Do you think working in only video is a safe bet for a small brand?

We’re seeing a flight towards short based videos right now which is being led by viral video hosting platforms aimed at a younger demographic such as Tik Tok etc. More mature video hosting platforms like YouTube are rolling out their own bolt-ons as a response to that.

This creates a kind of distribution network just within video. But it also means that we have two social ecosystems taking shape within the same format. And one could play into the other.

You have your full length video up on, say, YouTube, and you distribute teasers or promos out to other networks that are more optimized for those shorter snippets. One might be referring traffic onto the other but you’re sticking with video the entire time.

A lot of content creators are going out to audio and then text just in order to cover all their bases. As I mentioned above, I don’t think this is a bad idea at all. But inevitably I do think there’s going to be a kind of crunch.

Which format is going to lose out? Sadly my bet is on text.

Audio has a definite use. When we have other visual cues — like we’re commuting or exercising — we can still immerse in audio-based content almost to the maximal extent possible. AI based vision aids are going to undermine that advantage. But probably only partially, at least initially.

Video: if you want the full shebang or are too tired to really engage with an interface to say open up a blog post then video provides the ultimate experience. Lie down on your couch and watch YouTube.

Click on a button to download and add the episode to your ‘listen later’ queue on a podcatcher. Click another one to automatically pull down the (near perfect) AI-generated transcript and read it in a tool that uses a little bit more AI to parse the segments and output that in traditional blog format. That’s the kind of thing I’m envisioning.

But where does that leave content creation that as text?

What role do you see artificial intelligence (AI) playing in all this?

Having done lots and lots of writing over the past few years and gradually and painfully moved up through the client ranks, I wouldn’t be even slightly sorry to see the bottom of that market swallowed up by algorithms. I doubt anybody would. I’d go so far as to say that I hope that it goes so that newcomers don’t need to waste time doing bad work for companies that couldn’t really care less about it. That type of work is most fertile for replacement by AI.

The seedy underbelly of the internet — fake reviews playing off affiliate marketing schemes, black hat keyword stuffed SEO content — all that could be eliminated. Very few people would shed a tear.

The solutions aimed at bridging the gaps I mention. At least you can say that they’re more mature and fulfill generally useful purposes. Take Rev for instance, which is a tool that I use a lot and greatly appreciate. Done well, AI based video creation tools that take audio and then identify the best stock footage and render into video could be useful too. Although I suspect that many videographers might reel at the thought much as I would if you told me that a bot could generate great and thoughtful writing.

But ultimately we have to be practical and realize that most brands don’t require the services of a Shakespeare or a Spielberg. So I do think that various types of AI will end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting in tomorrow’s marketing.

You’ve spent your career to date in text-based marketing. Does the above make you worried?

In the same way that many journalists have been forced to repurpose as content marketers, many news videographers have gone into corporate or governmental work. Similar dynamics have swept across two creative fields.

I think that videographers and content marketers are going to work a lot closer together in coming years. If more content marketing moves towards video marketing and away from text (perhaps text will be leveraged only as a syndication destination), then we’re still going to see a strong demand for all creatives involved in producing video. I think that there are spaces for former writers to ply their trade there. Perhaps script writing or layout planning or directing or producing video.

Another option is audio. But again my thinking is that we’re going to start with the highest order form of creativity and then work down to other formats in a process that is increasingly fluid. So I reckon there’s going to be the most work at the top of that pyramid rather than as marketing moves down through the channels.

What’s the summary version of the above?

Let me try bullet points:

  • Tomorrow, those who consume content are going to care a lot more about the … content … than how it’s going to be delivered.
  • In marketing terms, I think we’re going to see less CTAs like “subscribe to my channel on YouTube” or “follow my podcast on Spotify.” Maybe we can just get to “subscribe!” and then we’ll have a new platform that integrates all bases: video, podcast, and text (blog).
  • I think that the gaps that divide between text, audio, and video are going to be eloquently closed and rather soon too. Platforms at these junctures will be very profitable and highly useful to creators.
  • I think video will be the best of these three spaces to be in because it represents the most immersive experience of the three — sort of the pinnacle of humanity’s creative advancement (until we have something that can integrate the olfactory sense, that is). Content will flow down across the channels from there.
  • AI will swallow up some lousy content marketing channels and prove tremendously useful for others. Which I think overall will be a good thing for the world, and those working in it.

Daytime: tech-focused MarCom. Night-time: somewhat regular musings here. Or the other way round. Likes: Linux, tech, beer.