The Role of Written Content Today
Written by John Hyslop, Creative Director at Prose Media.
In many ways, we’re living in an audio-first world. Podcasts, audiobooks, reels, and other forms of audio-rich media dominate the content landscape. Audio content has an obvious appeal: long-form passive listening experiences allow for multitasking, which can be great for busy consumers constantly being bombarded with brand messaging. Unsurprisingly, audio content tends to be more popular with younger demographics; according to Edison Research, 70% of podcast listeners are 18 to 54 years old.
But where does that leave written content? Despite audio content’s prevalence, written content is still overwhelmingly popular with both consumers and marketers. In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, email campaigns (87%) and educational content (77%) remain the top content marketing methods used by B2B marketers to nurture their audience.
At the same time, social media (94%), blog posts/short articles (80%), and email newsletters (74%) are the top three types of content B2C marketers used for all-purpose advertising in 2018 and 2019. Below, you’ll find some of the key qualities of written content that help explain why it’s not only surviving in today’s audio-rich environment, but thriving.
Written Content is Informative and Quick
When it comes to relaying information, audio content has some important strengths, allowing users to take in information passively while completing other tasks. Having said that, written content offers some important benefits when a consumer needs to get their hands on information quickly.
In general, reading a piece of written content like a blog post or white paper takes far less time to consume than continuous audio content like podcasts. Critically, written content can also be skimmed, increasing ease of access to information. Timestamps in podcasts mimic this feature of written content, but don’t completely replicate the experience. And because written content can easily be reread and studied, it’s often better at relaying complex and technical information.
Another important thing to consider when choosing what type of content to invest in is the reputation of the formats. Audio content is generally associated with entertainment—when it is associated with information intake, it’s usually connected in some way to entertainment, as when listeners turn to a podcast to “learn something new.” Keeping that reputation in mind can make sure you get the most out of your audio content, too.
As a result, written content might be your preferred format if you’re aiming to convey serious or trustworthy information, and quickly at that. It’s for that reason written content can play a valuable next role in the sales funnel, avoiding any less desirable “infomercial” or advertising connotations sometimes associated with audio and video content. Note: Here’s some script writing tips on how to avoid those styles.
Written Content is Searchable
Rich, original, and entertaining audio and video content is a critical part of any brand awareness campaign, helping companies to make a splash, attract new eyes, and demonstrate to consumers their commitment to providing first-rate content.
While written content can also help with those objectives, it has a critical role to play on the more technical side of brand-building. In particular, text-based content is an essential part of achieving stronger SEO results and more effective user experiences (a strong SEO signal these days). That’s because search engines won’t “read” audio or video content, instead relying on text to rank content. That’s why podcast show notes, video transcripts, and YouTube descriptions are vital to SEO success; viewers and listeners can find what they need in a jiffy and search engines can fully understand the context of your audio/visual content.
Even when your brand strategy calls for an emphasis on audio and video content, you’ll likely need to spend some time thinking about how to incorporate them into your broader SEO strategy. Typically, that will mean investing in written content in the form of supplementary text for your audio and video content, especially when stretching and repurposing audio and video content is the smartest way to make the most of audio/visual endeavors.
Written Content is Cost-Effective
If you’re investing in audio, working with trustworthy companies that know how to produce professional-level audio content is a no-brainer. That’s because you’ll have access to the company’s technical expertise and recording and editing equipment. That expertise, however, comes with a cost.
Generally speaking, written content is cheaper to produce. For one thing, you won’t need to invest in any equipment, and there’s a much lower skill cost when writing a blog post compared to podcasting, explainer videos, internet video ads, etc. And of course, you can use the writing skills of your internal team if you have the time, or outsource to a content writing firm like Prose Media which saves on time costs to allow your internal teams to focus their efforts elsewhere.
Another critical upside to written content is the potential it allows for content recycling, like the repurposing we touched on earlier but done with just written elements. For instance, if a brand invests in longer texts, like whitepapers, these obviously offer value in and of themselves. At the same time, they can also easily be broken up into shorter chunks of content, including social media posts and blog pieces, which can then be aimed at specific audiences and can then be updated every so often to grow on the solid foundation the written content built.
According to a recent survey by HubSpot, 51% of companies said that updating old content has proven to be the most efficient content marketing tactic they’ve implemented.
Written Content is Approachable
Audio content like podcasts are wildly popular and have recently made inroads in new demographics. But while members of the 12-34 age group comprise around 56% of the podcast listenership, users who come from the age group over 55 make up only 26% of the listenership.
Because older demographics still lean toward preferring written content to audio or video content, and are a growing majority of the general population, text-based content marketing still has a clear role to play in today’s audio-rich environment. Especially for brands who are looking to make their messaging applicable to the widest range of demographics including the aging population.
Written Content is Authoritative
Of immersive media formats, research has shown that audio is the most effective at increasing trust, memorability, and a sense of connection with consumers. Proving your trustworthiness to consumers is vital in today’s crowded marketplace, but when 98% of marketing teams cite written content as their most-used content type, it’s also important to consider what benefits written content can bring to the table.
Well-written, strongly argued, and clearly researched writing is one of the best ways for brands to establish authority. According to research by SurveyMonkey, 74% of readers find content more trustworthy when it demonstrates traits typical of effective writing like the use of strong data and real-life examples. And when more than a third of American consumers today say it’s crucial for them to trust brands before they buy from them, authority isn’t something brands can skip out on.
Written Content is There at the Right Times
Today’s brands have more tools at their disposal than ever when it comes to launching effective content marketing campaigns. But that also means it’s more important than ever to maintain a clear-eyed view of what different formats can offer. Understanding how written content functions and what needs it meets, versus audio or visual content, is critical for putting it to its best use.
The best way to think about the role of written content today is as a reliable, consistent, and affordable media format that continues to fulfill the basics of its traditional role by providing clear information and in-depth analysis, while also undergoing new developments that support broader SEO strategies and other media formats.