The New Wave in Content

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Content has been an important feature of marketing ever since the first fishwife hawked her wares in the village square. “Fresher, cleaner, clearer of eye!” she screamed, drawing customers to her booth. Since that first day, the person doing the talking has needed to know what people want to hear about and the information has to be presented in a way people are comfortable accepting.

This fundamental is still true but the game has changed in so many other ways. And in a funny way, one of the ways it has changed has to do with reality television shows.

Whether or not you remember television before reality shows depends on how old you are. The very first reality show aired in 1972 (unless you want to include the original Candid Camera that first aired in 1949) but the genre really didn’t pick up until the early 1990s. An entertainment Writer’s Strike in 1988 and another one in 1992 had a lot to do with Hollywood producers suddenly thinking that reality shows (no writing, no rehearsing, no actors) looked pretty good to them.

A Trend Toward the Natural

But look at what would happen when television is gradually inundated with people saying real things, unhampered by a script. The language would get more realistic. More casual. More natural.

And that’s just what the new trend in content is like. It sounds like a real person talking.

A person who has been writing advertising copy for decades or, worse yet, scholarly articles may have a hard time making the change to this new voice. It might come more naturally to a young person but any competent, experienced writer should be able to make this shift, as long as they understand the reasoning behind it.

This is the language people are hearing and reading all around them. The language of Tweets, of Facebook posts, of reality shows. If someone “talks” to them in formal, ultra-conservative language, a lot of people are likely to turn away unless they really need something out of the article or content.

Knowing the Viewpoint of Your Audience

Another fundamental that has not changed is that a writer must still have a good grasp of the viewpoint of the person who is likely to read his (or her) words. Natural-sounding is great but the message must resonate with the reader. It must help him solve his problems, plan his future more successfully or at least make him feel better. This takes knowing the problems and goals of a potential reader, at least in a general way and as they relate to your product or service.

In part because of the changes Google has been making in the way their search engine works and partly because of this rather universal shift in language, much of what you will see online these days follows this pattern. Blogs even more so because nearly every blog is from an individual or a limited group of writers. These writers generate content that is pertinent to their areas of expertise, directed at the needs of their expected readers, and phrased in their own natural voices. It’s much easier to grasp this kind of content when it resembles the way a person would talk to you if they were just sitting down to fill you in. It’s a good trend, and a good thing to master if you are creating content for blogs, ads or websites.

Grant Boshoff