A year ago I made five content-marketing predictions for 2017: http://globeedge.ca/content-marketing-trends-2017/

How did I do? (I’ll spare you from reading the whole post. One thing I did poorly was write too much.)

Podcasts and newsletters had a banner year. Webcasts? Not so much.

Paid social was everything I’d expected, and more. Benchmarks are definitely undergoing a shift, but it’s a work in progress. Trust remained an issue (thanks Donald Trump). And article pages have moved closer to becoming the new landing pages.

Here are my five predictions for 2018. This time I’ll keep it brief.

 1. Blockchain

One of those words that gets tossed around in general conversation with little understanding of how it works or its practical applications (it’s not just about cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or litecoin).

As this chart points out http://cdn.chiefmartec.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/blockchain_martech_landscape.jpg it’s early days for blockchain in the marketing space, but some major categories are already filling in. As the technologies mature, and as blockchain adoption levels increase, this chart is going to look a lot different.

Blockchain solutions will provide more transparency and lower costs for campaigns in areas such as loyalty, customer experience and branding. Early entrants doing interesting things worth examining include Brave, Augur and the Papyrus Project

2. Augmented reality

There was a time not long ago when virtual reality was sucking up all the conversational oxygen in marketing circles. Augmented reality was mentioned, but it lacked the sizzle factor.

Now AR is expected to draw more spend in the next five years and it’s a trend likely to accelerate over time. Why? The short answer, as AdWeek points out, is that AR enhances user reality instead of replacing it.

Now that Apple’s iOS includes an ARKit that enables developers to more easily build AR apps, Google has an equivalent in ARCore, and AR is becoming easier to build on mobile web, it’s time to get in the game and experiment, if you haven’t already.

3. Facebook and Google run the world

Okay, maybe not quite literally, but according to eMarketer, the ‘duopoly’ is expected to have gobbled up more than 60 per cent of digital ad investment in the United States in 2017. Globally that number is closing in on 50 per cent.

Their reach and their targeting abilities are off the charts, and given Instagram and YouTube are part of the mix, it’s hard to see this spending trend going anywhere but up in the foreseeable future. That said, P&G’s chief brand officer in 2017 undertook a review of his company’s annual digital advertising spend, in particular with the duopoly, giving industry players until the end of 2018 to address issues of fraud, transparency and brand safety. Unilever, J&J and Bank of America have been making similar rumblings.

Major players, Facebook and Google among them, have already reacted to the statement, and they’re expected to do more to keep their biggest advertisers happy. It will be interesting to see where it all shakes out.

4. Smart speakers

Amazon says it sold tens of millions of Echo devices globally during the holiday season, outselling every other product it offers. While Google has yet to release figures for Home, the fact is audio-triggered devices are here to stay, despite any lingering privacy concerns, and it’s time for marketers to have a strategy to deal with it.

Is there a rush to get in market? Probably not. Most consumers are still getting used to the devices and their capabilities. It’s once their use gets more common and more advanced that more effective advertising opportunities will arise. That should start to happen before the year’s out.

5. Improved web design

Too many marketers deploy a spray-and-pray strategy when it comes to content, assuming that the more you push, the more you’ll pull.

In 2018, expect a shift toward more high-impact media experiences (click through for a recent example from my team). From a production standpoint, this storytelling requires a greater investment of time and dollars. As a consequence, any increases in quality will decrease quantity in a campaign.

That’s not a bad thing. The success of the strategy, of course, lies in the numbers. Engagement matters. Will more people consume, share and take action on an improved content experience? Enough to make up for the decrease in quantity?

I think the answer is yes. Let’s revisit in January, 2019.

Sean Stanleigh is managing editor of Globe Edge Content Studio. Follow him @seanstanleigh on Twitter and @sstanleigh on Instagram.

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