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Five years ago if you were a brand and you wanted to make a video, you went to a video agency, begged them to make it more viral than h5n1 and paid through the nose for the privilege.
If you wanted an infographic you went to a design agency, if you wanted to write editorial you went to a PR agency etc…
Your content creation was almost completely outsourced and, unless you had a reasonably serious budget, a great content marketing campaign was probably beyond you.
That couldn’t be further from the truth today, brands have a wealth of tools that allow them to create highly professional content without the traditional agency brief.
The following are just five examples of the kinds of companies that are driving this change.
Set up in 2010, Contently bills itself as an anti-content farm. It pairs up brands directly with freelance journalists to help them create more compelling editorial.
Its marketplace pre-qualifies freelance journalists then lets brands issue editorial briefs, all within one big editorial management system.
SeenIt is a new company that neatly sidesteps some of the issues with UGC by helping brands easily direct and collect their own video from smartphones.
Brands publish a shot list to their 'crew' (anyone who downloads the app and enters the brand's crew ID), who can then use their smartphones to capture clips aligned to the pre-defined shots from the shotlist.
These clips then automatically upload to an online editor where a brand marketer can edit them together to produce near real-time video whilst remaining in control of the editorial process.
Dollar photo club is the latest stock photography play by Fotolia aimed at brands who consume a lot of imagery (e.g. brands that are active across social media).
The innovation here isn’t so much a technical one as a business one. As far as I know it is the most aggressively priced ($1 per image) stock photo offering out there and offers consistently high quality.
Its success would seem to be predicated on an exponential increase in the amount of imagery consumed by brands and in my mind that’s a good bet to make.
If you want to create a mind-blowingly great infographic you’re still going to pay for it but a few tools are starting to make me question how long that will stay the case.
Both sites allow you to create attractive visualisations of data and publish it easily to the web. Both will offer professional / personal templates if you’re willing to fork out once though.
Of note is that infogr.am also allows you to create video infographics (though I’ve not tried this out yet so can’t vouch for the quality.
Finally comes audio, this is not so much a space that is being disrupted as a space where recent developments are making it easier and easier for event he smallest teams to create great content.
Even low-tier smartphones now have the capacity to record very high quality audio, apps like recForge for Android make editing it on the fly easy and sites like SoundCloud make audio incredibly easy to handle online.
It is now a totally free process to create a good podcast and whilst this might not be a huge development in technology, the levels of expertise necessary to use these technologies are low enough to make it worth mentioning.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the shift towards a more DIY approach to content generation is one of the most important developments over that period.
As the traditional creative & agency hold on branded content begins to shake loose, as that shift happens, a new breed of technologies are moving in to help brands create more and better in-house content.
This isn’t to say that agencies don’t have their place in creating content anymore, they definitely do, but new technology is changing the way that content creation happens, bringing down the technical barriers, the “can we create this?” question to creating good content and increasing the conceptual, the “is it a good idea” barriers.
When technically good content becomes ubiquitous, the competition moves to focus on the concept and that is where agencies can still set themselves apart.