Content Marketing in 2021: 5 Key Trends to Shape Your Strategy

January 22, 2021

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Jenny Coppola


Meisha Bochicchio


This year has been a whirlwind for companies — to say the least. Stay home orders have forced companies to adopt remote work policies and digital customer engagements almost overnight. How companies do business and communicate with their audiences has fundamentally changed. So, how are brands adjusting to this new digital-first world? And what’s trending in the world of content to embrace this shift?

In this webinar recap, we’ll explore:

  • Changes in content consumption and creation during the pandemic
  • New ways marketers are using video and audio content
  • How to run an engaging and memorable virtual event
  • Useful video marketing data pulled right from Wistia
  • Insights from 2020 State of SMB Marketing Report
Action Item
Be sure to check out the full webinar for more insight and key takeaways!

Before we dive into the trends, let’s take a look at how the pandemic has changed the way we live and work.

Remote work is the new normal

We know more folks are working for home — but exactly what does this look like? To borrow a buzzword from 2020, remote work has become the new normal. And, though more folks are slowly returning to work, many are expecting to stay home through 2021.

This shift had opened the door for folks to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle, including more freedom to choose when and how they consume content. Your content strategy will need to address this shift.

“42% of the U.S, workforce is now working from home full-time, and 25% plan to stay home through 2021.”

Digital adoption accelerated at an unprecedented rate

Employees weren’t the only ones impacted by the pandemic. Stay at home orders left many companies scrambling to find new ways to conduct business and communicate with customers. This led to a massive leap in digital adoption.

“We have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”

Budget cuts mean marketers are feeling the squeeze

Businesses and marketing teams are feeling the squeeze. A survey Wistia conducted last year revealed that 68% of marketers experienced budget cuts, with cuts averaging ~19% across the board. Marketers are being asked to do more with less!

“68% of marketers experienced budget cuts in 2020, averaging 19% across the board.”

With these changes in mind, let’s dive into our top content marketing trends for 2021!

Trend 1: Content Creation Has Increased

Remember all of that planning you did for 2020? Well, 70% of companies reported adjusting their content strategy last year to address new consumer behaviors. We did this here at Wistia, and we’re sure many other companies experienced the same frenzy last spring.

Companies are leaning on digital content to fill the gap in in-person interactions. A recent NewsCred report revealed some interesting insight on where marketers are ramping up their efforts:

  • 67% increased webinars
  • 66% increased social posts
  • 57% increased blog content
  • 50% increased video content

This increase is a trend we’ve noted at Wistia. Before March of 2020, we saw a 42% increase in weekly video uploads from 2019 to 2020. This number averaged 121K at the beginning of 2019 and increased to 172K at the beginning of 2020.

Since early March, the year over year increase has jumped to 120%. We’re now seeing an average of 280K videos uploaded to Wistia each week.

Of course, our data is specific to video content, but it supports the larger trend of brands producing more content across the board.

Trend 2: Content Consumption Has Increased

Based on research, The New York Times recently proclaimed something many of us had already assumed … 

“Coronavirus has changed the way we internet.”
Our tolerance for screen time has never been higher, and that’s not likely to change. Another study by Nielsen noted a 215% increase in time spent online across devices.
Image courtesy of Nielsen.

Sure, we’ve all been watching more Netflix and bingeing our favorite podcasts — but how does this translate to marketing? PathFactory, a content experience platform, noted some interesting shifts after COVID. Notably, they’ve seen a 40% increase in unique asset visits and a 15% increase in time spent reading/engaging with digital content. And, two of the top types of content getting engagement are video format. Hmmm. What types of content are resonating? Webinars, videos, eBooks, and reports topped this list of most engaging content. This is another trend we’ve seen at Wistia. Before March of 2020, we noted an 18% increase in hours watched per week from 2019 to 2020. Hours watched represents the average number of hours of video content consumed per week across all of our customers. We started 2019 with an average of 2.2M hours watched per week. This increased to an average of 2.6M hours at the beginning of 2020. Since early March of 2020, we’ve seen a year over year increase of 120%. The average weekly hours watched increased drastically from 2.6M to 4.6M — peaking at 5.7M during the week of April 27th. Additionally, before March of 2020, Wistia saw a 31% increase in weekly video plays from 2019 to 2020. This represents the number of times a video was played in a given week. The number of average weekly video plays was 1.6M at the beginning of 2019, which increased to 2.1M at the beginning of 2020. Since early March, that number has increased by 65% compared to the same time last year. This means that viewers are actively engaging with video content at a much higher rate than they were before the pandemic.
## Trend 3: More Brands Investing In Video Content Video is a quick and effective medium to communicate your message and educate your audience. To be fair, this was a trend before the pandemic, but lockdowns and quarantines definitely accelerated video adoption. In fact, Cisco estimates that by 2022, 82% of all created content will be video.
“Cisco estimates that by 2022, 82% of all created content will be video.”

This particular stat isn’t specific to businesses, but it does convey a large overall trend of content creation and how much room video has to grow. If you think video is big now, just wait and see how brands embrace this medium in the next two to three years.

Again, this is a trend we’ve noted at Wistia. Before March of 2020, Wistia saw a 17% increase in weekly account creations from 2019 to 2020. This number averaged 2.9K at the beginning of 2019 and increased to 3.4K at the beginning of 2020.

Since early March, the year over year increase has jumped to 85%. We’re now seeing an average of 5K Wistia accounts created each week.

When signing up for Wistia’s services, most small business leaders have noted a need to store and share videos since the pandemic began. These customers tend to be starting their video marketing program from scratch, recognizing that every business moving forward will have some aspect of digital engagement. Everyone is jumping on the video bandwagon!

It’s essential to have an integrated solution to make the most of your video efforts. Look for a partner that connects to your CRM for lead scoring, allows you to use viewer data for retargeting, and offers robust marketing analytics so you can quickly identify what’s working, what’s not, and pivot accordingly.

What types of video content are people creating?

We’re so glad you asked! Producing video content from home presents some unique challenges, but we promise it’s possible. Here are a few examples of videos we’ve produced remotely.

Producing videos from home? We’ve got you covered. Check out our guide to remote video production for tips from the Wistia Studios team!

Trend 4: Podcasts Are The New Blog

Podcasts are the new blog! Not in the sense that podcasts will replace blogs or written content any time soon, but they are a big investment area for brands. And, our new remote world has accelerated this investment.

In 2020, for the first time, more than 100 million Americans listened to at least one podcast each month. And, 37% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly.

And, engagement is pretty impressive! Among Americans who listen to podcasts weekly, the average amount of time spent listening per week grew in 2020 to 6 hours, 39 minutes.

On average, podcast fans listen to 6 different shows a week. This average is skewed somewhat, however, by hard-core podcast devotees. 51% of weekly podcast listeners consume 1–3 podcasts per week, but 12% listen to 11 or more podcasts!

From a growth perspective, podcast listenership has increased 37.5% in three years — a trend we noted in our 2020 SMB Marketing Survey.

“Podcast launches have more than doubled during the pandemic”

In fact, podcast launches have more than doubled during the pandemic; only 14% of respondents reported creating a podcast pre-pandemic, which has increased to 29% who now have a podcast. The SMB Survey also revealed that marketers are getting creative and considering new channels, like virtual events and podcasts.

Trend 5: Virtual Events Are Here To Stay

Events are big business. In 2018, Allied Market Research valued the global events industry at more than $1.1 B. Wowza!

In-person events provide a high-touch customer experience and are great for building and nurturing relationships. They can also be an excellent opportunity to acquire net new customers — but, as anyone that’s worked events knows, they can be costly relative to other marketing channels.

Events had a promising future, but unfortunately, 87% of companies canceled their in-person events for 2020 due to the pandemic. Of course, marketers are scrappy, and 70% of canceled events moved quickly to transition to an online format.

Online events are very affordable and a relatively low-lift effort compared to in-person engagements — but that doesn’t mean they’re without fault. For one, engaging your audience is way more challenging; it’s really hard to replicate the hype and excitement of an in-person event virtually. And, it can be harder to entice sponsors and justify the ROI on events in a remote setting.

So, what’s on the radar for the future of remote events? And how can companies replicate some of the magic of in-person experiences from home?

First, we anticipate a higher volume of events at a smaller scale. More companies will invest in short series, webinars, etc. versus day-long events or virtual conferences that span several days.

And, while you won’t ever be able to recreate that in-person experience truly, there are a few things you can do to make remote events memorable for attendees. Try creating private groups or channels (like a LinkedIn or Slack group) for attendees. This can help foster the intimate, community feel and encourage networking among attendees. You could also try small breakout groups with a cap on attendees to give folks some one-on-one time with speakers.

It’s also important to consider that live events encompass so much more than just speaking events. Socialization, entertainment, and down-time are all part of the magic that makes events. So, if you have the budget, make your attendees feel extra special with a direct mail component (did someone say swag?) or group activities like a mixology class, morning yoga, or virtual comedy hour.

Get Inspired
Remember — virtual isn’t limited to video. Check out the Build To Last audio conference we hosted with Buffer for inspiration!

The pandemic has changed marketing forever. It’s more important than ever to serve the right content to the right people at the right time.

Jenny Coppola


Meisha Bochicchio


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