Posted by: The CMA
After several years of consolidation UK Publishers seem once again to be innovating and taking risks with the type of content they produce. It isn’t just indie websites either, but mainstream publishers like The Mirror Group. So what the are the key trends and what opportunities might they offer to content marketers?
1. Social Media influence design - Arguably the bravest re-design of a website by a mainstream publisher this year was the Mirror Group’s re-invention of The People. The company threw out the rulebook and plumped for a home page layout that was clearly more influenced by social media sites than by anything rival publishers have produced. In particular the site sports large images in a format not too dissimilar from that pioneered by image site Pinterest.
The permalinks also sport large images and the thumbnails on the side, which encourage the reader to click on, feature images that are almost as prominent as the main ones. This is clearly a very visually driven site.
Even the headlines are different. Not for the The People The Daily Mail’s long keyword stuffed heads, they are instead shorter, lighter and more emotionally driven.
This design strategy appears to be very motivated by a strategy to drive traffic to the site via social media. So there are large social sharing buttons on each page at the side and again at the bottom. It seems that The People, as befitting a viral news site, are aiming for social shares more than they are for readers who reach the site via search engines.
There are other examples of sites that have taken their cues from social media. For example it is clearly an influence on the bold and rather beautiful design of the fashion site Never Underdressed.
Also several recent UK launches have clearly been created with mobile, and in some instances tablets, in mind. This reflects the way in which Responsive Design has evolved from being a template created for a desktop that works on mobile to one that is in some instances is designed for smaller screens but also works on desktops.
Needless to say that the media companies driving the social media influenced designs tend to be targeting young and often female audiences, and it will be interesting to see if and when brands who are also aiming for those demographics follow this trend.
2. Games and Quizzes - Until recently branded games have tended to have been created largely for apps, some for use on mobile devices, others embedded on Facebook. They were often expensive to create and brands sometimes struggled to help them achieve a wide audience. The last year has witnessed the explosive growth of the online interactive quiz. While there have always been quizzes online the new breed, as developed by usvsth3m, BuzzFeed among others, tend to be much more visually exciting.
They have also been optimised for mobile to enable people to play the games and quizzes while on the move. In particular usvsth3m has had several huge hits with its quizzes.
The quizzes, which quite often use the old publishing trick of revealing something about the player, are also very social media friendly and much of usvsth3m’s growth has been driven by people playing and sharing quizzes on Facebook.
There are huge opportunities for brands to produce viral quizzes like these. They are relatively cheap to produce now and brands, if so inclined could create them on a regular basis. The issue for brands is what kind of level of engagement does the user have with the brand and how is this implemented within the quiz? For example does the quiz have to deliver key brand messages? Or is a call to action at the end of the quiz enough? It is early days for these type of quizzes and games and it will be fascinating to see how brands use them.
3. Viral content - Can a brand use viral content created by someone else (for example images of cute objects etc) as part of its marketing arsenal? Several brands have been working with BuzzFeed, most notably Toyota, to deliver content in this way. At the moment this tactic has largely been driven by advertising agencies working with publishers, however it could be that in the future brands might curate stories using other people's content that they post on their own sites on a more regular basis.
There is little evidence of this happening so far in the UK, but if brands start to demand it content marketers need to be in a position to offer this.
4. Data - Finally it is worth having a look at the latest project from the Mirror Group, ampp3d, which harnesses data to tell stories. It is a bold and innovative project. Creative posts such as this and this highlight how effectively numbers can get a message across and these type of posts could prove very useful to content marketers in sectors like auto and technology.