While it’s a given content will increasingly be distributed and curated programmatically – as in by clever computers and equally adept algorithms – what are the chances it will be created by machines? It’s a curly question and one Richard Parker, Managing Partner & Strategy Director for content agency Edge, chose to tackle at the 2015 Data Strategy Symposium.
With content marketing and native advertising relatively new concepts many marketers are still trying to get their heads around, Parker began his presentation with a definition of the terms. “Content marketing is a strategy to create and distribute content to attract, acquire, and influence a defined audience,” he explained. “Native advertising, which is often mistaken for content marketing, is paid media that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. i.e. advertising that mimics the environment it’s delivered in. The primary difference between the two is that content marketing is the overarching strategy, and native is one tactic within that.”
Now that you have that clear in your mind, consider this: according to a 2014 PulsePoint study, 83% of marketers believe content marketing will be programmatic by 2017. This statement, Parker points out, mostly refers to distribution and curation of content. But not everyone is thinking along those same lines.
A programmatic prediction
Prashant Kumar, CEO of UM Malaysia and president, world markets, Asia-Pacific for IPG Mediabrands says: “It’s only in the natural order of things that the brand icons of the future will be built by content that is inspiring, yet programmatically curated, conceived, crafted and consumed.”
Parker says: “What he’s saying there is that content creation will become programmatic. That’s at direct loggerheads with what the majority of marketers think right now.”
Most marketers and publishers, according to a PulsePoint study, agree the data-driven, automated technology that powers search and display will soon be utilised for content marketing and native campaigns. And while many in the business can’t see technology getting involved in the creation and production process, it’s believed automation will help to scale content marketing and native, as well as enabling better targeting, measurement, and optimisation.
Parker says: “Most marketers today see programmatic being involved in content marketing, but they don’t see it being involved in the creation of the content itself. There’s a little bit of a tension there.”
So who is right and what will be the tipping point?
Enter artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence, aka AI, and it’s yet-to-be fully realised capability has the power to change the course of the future according to Parker. He says: “That’s the cataclysmic event most marketers are worried about right now.”
The idea that computers will take over the work, and ultimately the jobs of people, has a far-reaching impact well beyond the media bubble. Parker says: “It’s going to disrupt everything. I’ve been doing a bit of work recently around future business models, in a world where cars become self-driving, and you don’t service your car anymore, you download an update. It’s incredibly disruptive. The idea of artificial intelligence is going to change every industry.”
Whether artificial intelligence is looking to step up to the plate and put creatives and content producers out of a job is yet to be seen. As WIRED points out, it’s sort of already happening: “The Associated Press uses software to generate news stories on corporate earnings reports. Fox auto-generates some sports recaps while Yahoo uses similar technology to create fantasy sports reports custom-made for each of its users.”
More than a feeling
While it’s possible for a bot to pump out quarterly sales reports or sporting updates, the question remains whether a computer will ever be able to create content that elicits emotional reactions. Parker says: “I think it probably will. The more data you throw at something, the more you can learn from it. Ultimately, our brains work on data sources, it’s just that our data sources are very varied. They’re smells, tastes, and visual cues. At the point you can record all of those things, then you can start the process.”
For the most part, though, working with data of this nature still involves a human touch. Take the example of music streaming service Pandora and its Music Genome Project which can match music to individual tastes. How it works is “each song is analysed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst” who is a human. Until such time as a computer can gauge something as personal as how a song makes you feel, it appears there’s still work for actual people.
Ultimately, Parker concludes: “Programmatic will be more efficient at informing creative than creating it. And it’ll be more efficient at distributing creative. The rest is very far in the future and still requires a human to piece it all together and respond to it. Right now, the challenge is actually asking creative departments to think more about the data that can inform what they’re doing, than it is about worrying about getting rid of the creative department altogether and having a robot do it.”
Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.