Five 2024 Marketing & Media Trends

1. Media source will matter

In 2024 the source of information, and the actual storyteller delivering it, will become almost more important than the story itself. Why? Because knowing and trusting the information source will be one of the only barriers to help distinguish what is truthful content, and what is not.

But beyond truth, it will also signal trust.

In an era where AI will enable the generation and distribution of bias or outright fake content through the written word, audio and video, having trust in the media source will matter. We’re likely to see an AI generated video, or audio recording later revealed as manufactured, which will have political ramifications in 2024. The US is just one of many countries going to the polls in 2024. Other notables include Mexico, India, the UK, and Russia.

We could also see a fictional creator – an artist, band or musician, where the music, photos and persona are AI generated. But the rise to fame will fool us all, before the origin story is revealed.

AI is set to enable a deluge of unoriginal, easily generated content.

With each successive exposure to content that could be manufactured, and churned out like a puppy mill, we’ll increasingly look to media sources we can trust to remove the uncertainty. And we’ll crave the first person narrative from real human content. The favored sources will be people, who have earned our trust through thought leadership, experience and research.

This will be an environment where referral networks are also just as important as SEO results, since social proof will matter a lot. Building trust will also gain you access to direct first-party data, which will become increasingly important as third-party data is withheld under security regulations.

Why is this happening?

AI as a tool promises greater speed and efficiency for many marketing tasks, including writing. There’s no stopping growth of AI in 2024, and with it, all the good and bad potential creative applications.

What does it mean for you?

Developing thought leadership, original content, and platforms to share it will be critical in 2024. Platforms where you can make a personal connection through video, in person events, and the written word, delivered 1:1 through newsletters, hold the most promise in solidifying thought leadership.

As AI becomes increasingly integrated, optimizing paid media and social will become more challenging. Utilizing your “owned media”, which is media you control, and where you are not relying on third-party data to distribute, will allow you to optimize at all parts of the buyer journey. Again, it’s about that 1:1 connection.

Creating content which shares personal experiences and insight, will set you apart from AI generated listicle style articles. Smaller local groups and meetups for fun and education, targeted at those desperate for connection in a post pandemic world, is another great way to leverage thought leadership as a trusted media source.

The use of content creators as influencers, that can surface content in this environment, will continue to be a growth area in 2024. They are real people with a network of human connection. Utilizing influencers, well known and respected in your niche, could help you tap this trend around the media source being important, in addition to your own content efforts.

But I also think that in 2024, whether you’re using influencers or generating your own content, the game will be less about reach, and more about attention and connection. Follower counts and list size will matter less than earning and keeping the attention of an audience.

Newsletters will continue to grow organically in this environment, based on the power of creator networks. Despite the near annual pronouncements of imminent death, email continues to be a strong channel for building audience, and gaining trust through thought leadership.  Fighting for attention with a social media algorithm that is not your friend can be tough. But using those social platforms to grow your own list of people who care is smart. That 1:1 trust will be super valuable in 2024, so be sure to never squander the privilege of showing up in the in box.


2. Changing nature of social media

In 2023 we started to see some major shifts in social media use and purpose. In addition to some new players like Threads, we witnessed the beginning of the end of Twitter (at least as we have known it).

But there is a bigger shift happening, which will dominate 2024. Social media is becoming less social, with a lot of interactions shifting to private closed networks. To be fair, this trend started in 2023, but it continues to gain momentum, and it will become mainstream in 2024.

The rise of video, prompted by growth of platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, is allowing social media to increasingly dominate as a broadcast entertainment network. In many ways social media, heavily weighted with video and a discovery based algorithm, has become more like streaming and TV.

Social part of social media goes private

The social part of social media is increasingly moving to private messaging. Social interaction is still there, but it is shifting away from traditional platforms. Platforms like Telegram, Discord, WhatsApp, Slack, Messenger and Snap Chat and Facebook private groups are dominating for 1:1 private messaging and private group conversations.

We’re still having great conversations around the digital campfire, but they’re increasingly in private, not in the open anymore. This will have profound impacts on relationship building with prospective customers.

Social media as broadcast entertainment

The platforms we traditionally know as social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), TikTok, LinkedIn) are increasingly becoming more content consumption networks built for creators. With an emphasis on content discovery and video in algorithms, the game is all about keeping users entertained. TikTok is driving it, along with Instagram reels and YouTube, but the collapse of Twitter is also a factor.

We’re still sharing and commenting on friends’ content in our feed, but much less so than a year ago. This trend is particularly acute with Millennials and especially Gen Z. Social interaction has gone almost exclusively to private channels and DMs for Gen Z. If you have teens or kids in their 20s, they may occasionally toss you an update on Instagram, but you know the real stuff is being shared in private groups and via direct messaging.

Why is this happening?

The shift to discovery based feeds dominated by video is being driven by the growth of TikTok, and the drive to compete by other platforms. Discovery based algorithms expose users to content from creators and people they may not know. Instagram, Facebook and YouTube have also all made changes to elevate vertical video. If you think about it, the resulting shift towards direct messaging makes sense – if the feed feels less about connecting you to people you know, and more about entertainment and exposure to new content through video, the conversations with close friends are likely to go elsewhere.

The shift towards discovery video for entertainment on social media is happening for another reason. It has become a form of competition to streaming networks like Netflix. In fact, in 2024 we may even see TikTok, with all its content created for free, become a formidable contender to streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Disney, where content production is a cost center. Or we could even see TikTok make a lateral competitive move into music streaming, and shake up Spotify and Amazon Music. They were a music platform originally as ByteDance and before forming TikTok after all!

What does it mean for you?

These changes will require a fundamental shift of strategy around social media. In 2024 social media will be less about having a social network to build community and service customers, but rather a content consumption network where you can get distribution and attract people. Social media is increasingly becoming – just media. YouTube and TikTok are leading this, and the rest are following.

A good strategy is to utilize the feed for exposure and distribution of information, but have a strategy to convert followers and true fans into direct contacts or members of your community, where you interact in private groups and connect through your own owned media, like newsletters.

Becoming part of a hidden community also holds promise, but you need to earn the right to be invited in. You can’t just wash up on the island and start shouting about what you’re selling. Of course the ultimate goal might be to create your own community. There’s also opportunity in co-creation with consumers, and collaborating in these private community spaces to further deepen the connection and bond.


3. Local journalism comeback & resurgence of print

Local news, and accurate, truthful content will be in demand in 2024, in light of AI capabilities and the potential for foreign influence bias on social media platforms. Should it concern us that 32% of Gen Z get their news from Chinese owned TikTok? I suspect, yes. The influence is less apt to be overtly corrupt though. I think it is more likely to show up as a “gentle hand on the scale” giving more prominence to certain views over others.

Being a news media junkie – both digital and hard copy, perhaps this is more hope than absolute promise, but I think 2024 is when local journalism will figure out a business model that works to support it.

Why is this happening?

After being almost wiped out at the local level, with the loss of ad revenues to social media, I believe people will again realize the value of investigative journalism to democracy, and truth in the face of easily generated fake news content.

The US presidential election, and the potential for foreign influence via social media, will also contribute to growing interest in supporting local journalism.

What does it mean for you?

Ads and paid subscriptions are the traditional model for supporting local news. But is there opportunity for brands to support small local newspapers and publications – digital and print, through sponsorship or enabling good journalism through a benefactor or foundation model? A foundation model would see wealthy people who care about the news and democracy, build a foundation that could support the news. Because ads in local newspapers have less company, they will more easily stand out. And the act of placing a display ad will be viewed not only as a way to generate business, but as a signal to readers that the company supports journalism and local business. Depending on the target audience, that could be a value that resonates.

However it happens, I do think there is opportunity in supporting local news and good journalism in 2024. Please tell me this isn’t just wishful thinking?!

Resurgence of print

Running a similar retro theme, is my prediction around the resurgence of print. Hopefully I won’t live to regret this, but I think 2024 will see opportunity for those who apply ink on paper.

Why is this happening?

Print requires up-front costs to design, print and distribute physical pieces, that will limit its use to legitimate players. Ink on paper may well come to define trust.

What does it mean for you?

We have postal service five times/week with 100% deliverability. The box isn’t crowded and it’s a way to stand out. Digital printing can be done in small quantities to keep costs down, plus it can be customized. In 2024, the media source will matter (see trend #1) and print is a major way to validate the source and gain trust. In an age where AI will enable easy generation of content, and the potential for unchecked news content, print will be a way to validate authenticity of source, as well as stand out and grab attention in a busy digital landscape.

Print also allows consumers to have an experience with the brand, then ask questions. I see potential here for catalogues, recurring print publications, and quarterly customer magazines, sent to loyal customers. As a B2B content marketing piece, print could have exclusive distribution through sales people as a conversation starter, or at conferences.

Lots of CMOs have forgotten they can actually market through print. Maybe it’s time to zig when everyone else is zagging with digital?

4. AI earns its place

AI dominated the marketing and media conversation in 2023. And it will continue to do so in 2024, but for different reasons.

This coming year we will focus less exclusively on AI as a content generator, dominated by the most prominent tool, ChatGPT. In 2024 AI will go mainstream – for behind the scenes work. And it will be seamlessly integrated into almost every tool we use – Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and all social media platforms. AI will earn its keep in areas like customer enablement, generating customer manuals, “how to” tutorials and enabling access to information. AI will also figure prominently in conversational advertising – using it in paid media to create conversations in real time with customers.

We’ll see interactive bots, distributed by paid media, used for interaction and sales. We’ll likely also see AI used for the localization of copy, language translation, and the creation of buyer personas, in addition to creating endless customizing options for individual customers.

Niche LLMs (large language models which AI utilizes) will become more common, as their use for pattern creation based on derivative content will offer incredibly efficient consumer targeting and needs recognition.

I also expect that Google will emerge as a dominant AI player in 2024. While Open AI and ChatGPT got most of the headlines in 2023, Google we be the Empire Strikes back in 2024. AI is based on large language models and data drawn from them. The data contained within Google search, YouTube and Gmail is both wide and deep. Google was leading the research and development of AI already, before the upstart Open AI jumped the gun with the launch of ChatGPT. They are not about to stand back and squander their previous leadership.

Why is this happening?

Technology always advances. And right now AI is in a competitive arms race like we’ve never seen before.

What does it mean for you?

It’s hard to predict where this will all end up, other than to know there will be AI assisted inventions and applications that we can’t yet conceive. Imagine predicting the creation of apps and what they would enable, when we were using Nokia talk/text phones. That’s where we’re at with AI. We simply haven’t begun to immagine all of the possible applications. Right now we’re in the infancy stages – applying this new technology to old tasks, like writing. It’s kind of like when we used to see banner ads on websites as the only ad application possible, because it was like a display ad in a newspaper. We were applying a new technology to an old model. That was before we invented social media, and the idea of targeting individual feeds with content based on tracked interests. We’re still at the new technology, old model stage with AI right now, but in 2024 that will change.

The best strategy around AI is to be curious, and experiment with new tools and applications to gain knowledge. Try it for various marketing tasks as new tools become available.

5. Paradigm shift in search

AI will introduce dramatic changes to search and SEO in 2024. Google has always dominated search, and with it a successful paid ad words model of revenue. But with the introduction of ChatGPT, and LLM models in general, the way people search for information is changing.

SEO was impacted with voice search, and only being able to deliver one answer – presumably the BEST answer. But AI used in a search capacity will change the game completely again. Rather than delivering pages of ranked content as possible best matches, the goal of AI is, like voice search, to deliver one succinct best answer, gathered from those top sources, without necessarily listing them. The degree to which credit, or links to original sources is provided, is still being negotiated. Many GenZ’s I know go instinctively to ChatGPT now for things most of us are accustomed to using Google search for. This is all putting massive pressure on Google to respond to the shifting competitive landscape and changes in consumer behavior.

Why is this happening?

ChatGPT delivers a single response, generated from scanning relevant content to create a custom curated answer. That’s quite different from Googles current model of delivering pages with links ranked by relevancy, infiltrated by paid search ads at the top of page one. Those paid search word ads are a major revenue stream for Google.

What does it mean for you?

Google is not about to let ChatGPT walk away with their search business, but to respond will mean significantly changing the current way search generates answers, and likewise the way businesses have been accustomed to appearing in search. This is likely to be a revolution, not evolution.

Anyone who has had to make adjustments following Googles most recent Helpful Content Update, will attest to the algorithm being in flux, but that’s nothing compared to the potential coming changes that could impact search.

If your business relies on search and ranking well for certain key phrases to drive traffic to your site, this is a trend you need to keep on top of. But despite ChatGPT having made significant in roads in 2023, I would never bet against Google. See my prediction #4. Just know that you may need to make adjustments in your approach to SEO in 2024 as Google plays big again in the AI space.

Since the current offering from ChatGPT threatens their ad revenue model of paid ad keyword search, I expect that they will need to address this in their AI response. Whatever that looks like, it is likely you’ll need to allow more funds to remain competitive in search as the AI paradigm shift takes hold.

So, do you agree or disagree with any points made here? Leave a comment with your thoughts! And if you would like to subscribe to weekly marketing tips, be sure to sign up for my Five-Minute Marketing newsletter, delivered direct to your in box every Sunday morning. Yes, it could be the start of our 1:1 relationship in 2024, and your gateway to marketing thought leadership content you can trust! Sign up HERE. 

Mary Charleson

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