Adaptive Content: A Trend to Pay Attention to in 2015

As we look ahead to 2015, what buzz concept should you be paying attention to? We’ve got you covered in this episode of The Lede.

Each new year seems to bring with it a new buzz term or two describing a concept that will change how we reach an audience, or how we build and grow a business.

Some of these buzz terms pan out and become legitimate, long-term parts of the lexicon because they work and prove important. Others flash then fade like the pet rock.

So the question now as we look ahead to 2015 is what buzz concept should you be paying attention to?

Because if there is a concept that is starting to pick up steam, and will prove worthy, you’re going to want to get in on it at the ground floor.

Well guess what? There is.

It’s going to be a big focus for us at Copyblogger in 2015, and we think it’s something that you should start thinking about, too.

In this episode, Demian Farnworth and I discuss:

  • What is adaptive content?
  • Two examples of opportunities to create adaptive content
  • Using experience maps to create individualized paths for your customers
  • How to overcome the challenges of creating adaptive content
  • Finding the right technology to implement adaptive content

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The Show Notes



Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast — Adaptive Content: A Trend to Pay Attention to in 2015

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

This episode of The Lede is brought to you by Authority Rainmaker, Copyblogger’s second annual live conference focused on providing content marketing training and networking opportunities for real-world results.

Authority Rainmaker takes place in May 2015 and will be held at the stunning Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver, Colorado.

Keynote presentations will be delivered by Daniel Pink, Sally Hogshead, and Henry Rollins. Yes, I said Henry Rollins. You won’t want to miss it.

Super early bird pricing is still available. Go to for details.

For those of us who work online, each new year seems to bring with it a new buzz term or two describing a concept that will, supposedly, change how we do our jobs. How we reach an audience. How we build and grow a business.

Think back: Search engine optimization, SEO, was once a buzz term.

It described an innovative method for leveraging a growing understanding of search engine algorithms into a search-focused content strategy that would rank your site higher, send more visitors, and make all of your wildest dreams come true.

SEO certainly delivered on the buzz.

Now it’s a mature concept, and though a successful SEO strategy means something vastly different from what it meant back then, the concept itself is still very relevant.

Needless to say, if you were in early on SEO, way back when it was just a baby buzz term, you probably carved out a sizable, profitable online niche for yourself.

Mobile responsive design is another example. That has been a big buzz term over the past few years, and it helped usher in a revolution in how web pages are designed.

Now mobile responsiveness isn’t just nice to have, it’s a prerequisite. But other buzz terms don’t always deliver on their promise.

If you listened to the last episode of The Lede, you heard our discussion on Google Authorship. Getting in early on that buzz term was a smart bet, but unfortunately, it isn’t paying you much of a dividend today.

So the question now as we look ahead to 2015 is what buzz concept should you be paying attention to?

Because if there is a concept that is starting to pick up steam, and that could revolutionize online business like SEO did, you’re going to want to get in on it at the ground floor.

Guess what? There is.

It’s going to be a big focus for us at Copyblogger in 2015, and we think it’s something that you should start thinking about, too.

I’m referring to adaptive content, and it is the subject of today’s episode of The Lede. Let’s bring in my co-host, Demian Farnworth, to learn more.

Demian, to begin, let’s just provide a working definition of adaptive content so that all of the listeners are on the same page with us.

What is adaptive content? What does that mean?

What is adaptive content?

Demian Farnworth: That’s a great question because I don’t know if I entirely know for certain what it is.

It’s not a concrete term, that’s for sure. There are a lot of working definitions, so there’s kind of a spectrum.

I think it was Garrett Moon from CoSchedule who talked about adaptive content as this idea of creating once, then publishing everywhere, which is actually the policy that NPR had with all their content.

You create once, and then you reduce, re-use, and recycle.

This is a concept that we’ve used here at Copyblogger, and we’ve talked about this before with the asset pillar, especially with infographics.

You create one piece of content, and then build something new out of that instead of always re-inventing the wheel.

That idea of adaptive content is helpful, but there are other interpretations. Adaptive content in the design world can be thought of as adaptive design.

I’m going all over this research, and I’m reading all these articles on adaptive content, and what I keep on hearing is personalization. That’s what it reminds me of.

But it’s actually taking that a little bit further. But we’ve seen this before, right? You get an email from a marketer, and your first or last name is on there, or maybe they know something about your address or your buying habits — that’s personalization.

Amazon’s recommendation engine is personalization.

It’s all rule-based, right? It’s all based upon this figuring out: Okay, if he does X, then Y, then we think he’ll appreciate Z. All we’re trying to do — search engines, marketers — is guess the intent of it.

That rule-base is very primitive, and it’s very wooden, and personalization — adaptive content — is this concept of crafting an experience that is tailored to that user’s, that customer’s experience, behavior, and desires.

It’s sort of like everything that we’ve been studying — experience maps, empathy maps — and what we’ve been saying for so long about creating an experience.

We deliver content to them based upon who they are, their behaviors. I’ve got two examples for you.

Two examples of opportunities to create adaptive content

First, for example, buying an airline ticket.

On LinkedIn, Mars Cyrillo, a product and marketing VP, said a lot of times when we buy an airline ticket, we’ll go onto American Airlines’s website, find the ticket, and then we might shoot over to Expedia to actually buy the ticket.

Well, adaptive content would be American Airlines recognizing that people do that, and then delivering some sort of incentive or content that would keep visitors on their site.

Another great example was by Noz Urbina on Content Marketing Institute where he wrote about a wine-tasting adventure with his partner.

They actually had tablets at the table, but he said they missed a great opportunity because an adaptive content experience would have easily allowed you to check in through social media, which a lot of us do. A lot of companies do that.

But then for this wine tasting, what they should have done was display a personal welcome screen on the tablet that they gave, and allowed people to add items to the shopping cart that would then add to their final bill so that when they went to the cash register, they paid for what they drank there.

What it comes down to is this merging of the offline and online world.

Jerod: If we look at this in terms of the opportunity that it presents for marketers: When you think about marketing, if we have the opportunity to speak directly to every single person in our market — to talk with them, to learn about them, to build kind of that individualized sales pitch — think about how powerful that would be.

Demian: Right.

Jerod: Well, obviously online we can’t necessarily do that, right?

We create content. We put it out there, and you try to understand your audience in a macro sense so that the content that you’re creating will fit macro needs and macro desires as much as possible.

But tell me if this is on the right track: Adaptive content would almost allow you to have that personal experience, talk to one person through content online that adapts based on who they are, what device they’re viewing it from, what they’ve done in the past, and what you know about them.

It serves up almost a customized experience for them that is different from what another person gets. Each experience is individualized to have maximum impact.

Is that the big idea or ultimate goal with it?

Using experience maps to create individualized paths for your customer

Demian: I think that’s the place that we’d all like to be in — that place where, like you said, it’s one-on-one marketing.

I’ve been in this business for more than 15 years, and I’ve heard this. This is what we want, and this is the best place to be in because when you do that customers appreciate it.

Here’s the thing, too, you’ve got to keep in mind. All of our expectations have been raised because of technology.

We all use our phones when we’re shopping. We use them when we’re inside brick-and-mortars. We think — when we’re in an environment — wouldn’t it be great if they did this? If I use my phone, wouldn’t it be great if I could do that?

Or, I have this tablet now, wouldn’t it be great if I could do that? And that’s what we’re trying to get to, like you said.

It’s this very individual, customized experience. What we’re actually trying to do is guess the intent of the customer’s behavior.

It comes back to crawling inside the mind of the customer and figuring out who they are.

Jerod: So as another example, let’s say someone has an email marketing program that they’re doing, right?

They have a set of autoresponders. And so you send out one autoresponder. A person clicks on a link, and maybe the next link he’s sent is different based on the fact that he clicked a certain link.

Someone who didn’t click on the link in that first autoresponder, because he may not be interested in it, he then gets a different experience each step of the way.

It’s almost like choosing your own adventure, right?

Demian: Exactly.

Jerod: If you make a choice on this …

Demian: Right.

How to overcome the challenges of creating adaptive content

Jerod: Let me ask you this, then, because it all sounds perfect. If we could do that, the possibilities there are obvious.

So, what are the challenges to making this readily adoptable?

Demian: That’s a great question. The disadvantage of this is that the technology is not really there. It’s there, but you have to piece things together, and it’s kind of clunky.

When I say the technology’s not there, I mean it’s not easy to do. You have to figure these things out.

That disadvantage, though, is the perfect opportunity for companies to say, “How can we make software solutions to make adaptive content easier?”

This is what we talked about with the experience map. Imagine really creating the experience map so you understand the customer experience.

But really what you’re after is that prescriptive map, right? The way things should be. The superior experience. And so create that.

That’s when you say, “Okay, so how do we get there? What kind of technology do we need to build in order to get to that place?”

Of course, the other disadvantage is the resources to create the content. Because you and I talk about this.

We have all these emails, and if we have six avatars, that means we have six different paths, and each of those paths break off two, or three, or four different times. We’ve got a lot of content to create, then.

Those two aspects are challenges: having the technology and then actually creating the content.

Finding the right technology to implement adaptive content

Jerod: That technology part is going to be a huge barrier for you or I on our personal sites.

It would be very hard for us to develop that kind of infrastructure to build out the adaptive content. So, I think that’s going to be a big opportunity in 2015.

Also what people need to look for is the right technology solution for your content marketing program that will allow you to do that — a solution that has some of this adaptive content infrastructure built into it.

We’re starting to hear this term more — a lot more people are taking about it. I think you will start to see that.

You see that with podcasting, right? The barriers for entry to podcasting were a lot more difficult because it was expensive. There were technology hurdles.

Demian: Right.

Jerod: Take the Rainmaker Platform, for example. One of the goals of Rainmaker is to help make that technology part of podcasting much easier — so you can just get in and focus on your content.

People who are really interested in this want to look for a solution that is going to help you jump over those hurdles, or even remove those hurdles for you, so that you can focus on the content part of it.

Demian: Exactly. I was thinking about this — what we’re after.

If you know that when a customer searches for X, they end up on Y, then Z is the adaptive content. And it’s the incentive.

For example, we know that on average people go to the StudioPress one-on-one tutorial page seven times before they buy.

Adaptive content would track that user, count their visits, and on the fourth visit, adapt content to help them make the decision to buy.

You think, is there a way we can shorten the sales cycle? Because as I was thinking through this, a lot of this talk about adaptive content has been in the brick-and-mortar sphere, merging offline and online.

What I’m having a hard time seeing, part of my challenge, and our challenge for 2015, is to see how this works in the online, SaaS — software as a service — market.

How does that work in this environment? How do you use technology to make that experience very individual and tailored to that particular person?

We’ll be talking a lot about this in 2015 — these questions and challenges that we see and how we can overcome them.

Jerod: We will. The purpose of this podcast — looking ahead to 2015 — has introduced the term adaptive content and given an overview, but you will start to see us speak about it a lot more, both on and

But with that, Demian, we face the reality that this is actually our last show of 2014. We won’t have the show two Tuesdays from now.

We’ll actually have our best of Copyblogger 2014 post up, so that’s a great place to go and catch up on anything that you may have missed this year.

Do you have any closing words for the listeners as we close out a successful year?

Demian: Yes. I would say enjoy the holidays, and thank you so much for listening.

We appreciate every single one of you, and we appreciate your comments and your feedback, and thank you for allowing us to do this.

Jerod: Yes. I absolutely agree. Thank you, everyone who has listened to, subscribed to, and shared The Lede.

Really, your support is what makes this show so much fun to produce. We’re definitely looking forward to bringing you even better content in 2015.

So stay tuned, because we’ll have a lot more fun, entertaining, engaging, informative, and hopefully actionable episodes on the way.

But until then, as you said, Demian, we wish everyone a happy holiday season, and let’s get ready to make 2015 our best year yet.

Demian: Sounds good. Thank you.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to this episode of The Lede.

If you enjoyed this episode, and if you’ve enjoyed The Lede in 2014, please consider giving the show a rating or a review over on iTunes.

And don’t forget, go to for all the details about Authority Rainmaker, our live event coming up in May of 2015.

You can still get the early-bird pricing, so don’t procrastinate.

So many people who went to last year’s event have already registered for this year’s because they know how fun, educational, and transformational this event can be.

Come join us. And as a side benefit, you can quiz Demian on his pop culture knowledge in person.

We’ll be back in 2015 with new episodes. Until then, have a safe holiday season and a happy time ringing in the new year. Talk to you soon, everybody.


*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.