In the early aughts it appeared that writing jobs were disappearing for good; the printed book was dying, media outlets started folding, and the biggest newspapers in the country started regularly instigating large layoffs, to the point that one fifth of all journalists have been laid off since 2001. Interestingly, however, NewtonX recently discovered that the number of writing-related jobs has risen 3% over the past five years, and the bureau of labor expects it to rise 8% by 2026 — about the same rate as most other healthy industries. If books are dead and even digitally native media outlets are folding right and left, where are these jobs coming from?
The answer, according to a 2018 NewtonX Media and Marketing survey with VPs, managers, and executives at companies with over 100 employees and $2M in yearly revenue, is that writers are moving away from traditional media into copywriting and content marketing. One executive at a Fortune 100 company with a robust marketing department said, “chatbots, messaging for customer service, and channel proliferation have made hiring talent with a knack for written language more important than it’s ever been before.” Consumers may not be reading books or the news, but they are reading site copy, chatbot text, social media messages, and push notifications. Conversational commerce (or the intersection of messaging and shopping) has become a commonly recognized term, and more and more consumers prefer to communicate with brands exclusively via written language.
NewtonX devoted a portion of this recent survey to gathering qualitative and quantitative insights into the role of the copywriter in an increasingly conversational world.
The insights from this article are sourced from NewtonX surveys, panels, and expert consultations. To gain access to these services visit newtonx.com.
Technology changed the way we talk — and copywriters are the ones keeping up
By 2025, chatbots will power 31% of customer service interactions, according to NewtonX surveys and analysis. Additionally, expectations for chatbots will rise: already, 12% of bots on messenger are asked to tell a joke or an amusing story, and a Forrester survey found that people want their chatbots to be “polite, caring intelligent, and funny.”
These chatbots will need to not only have a sense of humor, but also communicate via messaging in ways similar to how humans communicate over text. This ranges from tone of voice to features as simple as message length and punctuation. For instance, in 2016, The New York Times examined the disappearance of the period; when people communicate over messaging, the punctuation mark goes from being a mainstay of good grammar to signaling abruptness or anger. Where once customer service agents and brands had to be trained in signalling politeness and friendliness over the phone, they now need to learn how to do it over text — which has its own host of rules.
This has ramifications beyond chatbots and customer service: it means communicating differently on all text-based mediums, from advertisements to social media, to websites. In the NewtonX survey, 63% of executives stated that they did not have a “cohesive brand tone of voice,” and 40% of executives said that investing in “copywriting and tone-based messaging” will be a point of focus in 2019.
The voice behind the brand: why companies are increasingly reliant on creative input to power text-based automation
Even digital-native brands have struggled to maintain a clear tone across automated and human-based interactions. The key challenges that the NewtonX survey surfaced were:
- Moving seamlessly from chatbot to human
- Moving from medium to medium without a tone change (i.e. from Twitter to messaging with customer service)
- Keeping interactions conversational rather than formal
Some of these challenges are rooted in technology; for instance, oftentimes brands struggle to keep conversations moving in real-time on web chat, and have agents leave the conversation after a few moments of inaction, without providing a route for restarting the conversation where it left off. A customer service SDK provider called Helpshift dubs this the problem with not allowing a transition between synchronous and asynchronous communication — i.e. When a consumer wants to respond to a Slack 5 minutes after receiving a message but then wants to move the conversation in real time from there.
Many of these challenges, however, are simply tone and creativity based. Chatbots and human agent counterparts need to be trained in the same brand voice that the person answering DMs on Twitter is. This has opened up a new economy for writers. In fact, many of the most sought after content marketers, social media marketers, and chatbot dialogue writers are former media people and creatives.
As writing positions in traditional media become more and more scarce, much of the talent from this field will transition into enterprise creative positions that come with higher job security and pay. Increasingly, companies will find themselves fighting to get top talent in this new era of copywriting.