For many years, a centralized creative team has been the go-to model for companies producing digital content. But in our latest research report, The 2021 State of Digital Content, we found that companies are shifting to alternative models in order to meet the increasing demands of producing personalized content at scale.

There were pretty good reasons to consolidate content production with a single, central creative team. This internal agency model allowed for better governance, more consistent quality and a quicker production time for digital content. Additionally, as businesses became more digital, they moved on from creating mostly brand-centric content for awareness to more mid-funnel content such as thought leadership or buying guides. These factors were instrumental in companies shifting content production away from external agencies.

Our research shows (FIG 1) that the central model is currently still the most popular way for companies to organize for content production, with 50 percent of survey respondents choosing the model. On the other hand, only 4 percent of respondents use an external agency to produce their content, underscoring the magnitude of this shift.

However, when we asked respondents how they planned to meet the increasing demand for personalized content (FIG 2), we found the majority (32%) were setting up additional content producing centers beyond the central team to serve the unique content demands of different business units or geographies. An additional 18 percent of respondents were also leveraging AI-powered software to automate content creation to further lighten the load on the central team.

These findings show us that using a central creative team to produce all the company’s content is only sustainable to a point. As the number of content “stakeholders” within a business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to produce content for all of them. Imagine a company with many different brands, product lines or business units, not to mention different geographical markets. With so many different target audiences, coupled with endless variations of the same content for personalization purposes, a central team simply doesn’t have the tools to cope.

Rather than embracing the risk of decentralization, where each stakeholder produces content independently, companies are embracing a hybrid model, similar to the “center of excellence” model we’ve seen for digital innovation. 

Businesses can retain the central creative team to set much of the overall content strategy, create and enforce editorial guidelines for quality, and own the visual and verbal identity for consistency. They can also own the technology and provide training for processes such as data-based content creation and measuring content success. However, the actual production of content can be outsourced to the different business units or geos, so long as they follow all the guidance set by the central team. In this way, production doesn’t have to be a bottleneck, and the business can still ensure that all the content produced is aligned with the central strategy.

If your company is struggling to meet content demand, it can be tempting to solve the problem with simply increasing the headcount and investing in better software. And in some cases, that might be all you need. But doing the harder job of re-evaluating the organizational structure may be the more effective, and sustainable solution.