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Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, a new community for modern marketers created and powered by PR 20/20. 

In April 2015 I launched an internal initiative at PR 20/20 named Project Copyscale designed to answer one seemingly straightforward question, can we automate content creation through artificial intelligence (AI)? More specifically, can we use machines to write blog posts?

Like most organizations, we were struggling to create content at scale, while maintaining quality.

I had just returned from SXSW in Austin where I heard the managing editor of the Associated Press and the CEO of Automated Insights discuss how the AP had used Automated Insights technology to shift earnings reports to 100 percent machine written.

I had spent the better part of three years theorizing and building software that would use AI to automate marketing strategy. So I knew theoretically what was possible, but I had no idea if the technology truly existed to transform our agency, the marketing industry and the business world at large.

What we’ve learned since that time has altered my view of what’s possible today, and in the near future. We’re still experimenting with developing AI software, but I’ve shifted our focus to something we’re more uniquely qualified to do—tell the story of AI from a marketing perspective.

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I spent the first six years of my marketing agency career chasing hourly quotas instead of results. Our goal was to bill a minimum of five hours per day. 

Yes, we cared if the client was happy and successful, but the fundamental economic driving force behind the firm's existence, and my career potential, was the billable hour.

I discovered early on that the billable-hour model was a flawed, archaic, agency-centric system that wrongly tied agency performance to outputs, not outcomes. 

In 2004, four years into my career, I became highly motivated to build a more efficient and profitable solution that shifted the focus to client needs and goals. 

The idea was centered on making services tangible with clearly defined costs, features and benefits, almost like buying a product off a retail shelf or signing up for a software service.

My theory was that if clients understood exactly what they were getting, and agreed ahead of time what it was worth, then we could remove the mystery from the equation and focus on delivering value and results. 

The problem was that the billable-hour model was the only one I had ever known. How would I build an entirely new financial model and productize a service business?

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Last month, a group of the PR 20/20 crew headed to Austin for SXSW’s 30th annual conference. This trip is great for catching up on the latest trends in tech, health, space and VR; enjoying the local Mexican and BBQ food scene; listening to live music at what seems like every corner; and finding inspiration from the Austin community and SXSW Interactive programming. 

One of this year’s panel sessions, Humans, Not Machines: Content Is About Connecting, is a perfect share for our own PR 20/20 blog audience. Thanks to the panelists Kate Lewis (@kcwl) of Hearst Magazines, Neha Gandhi (@nehaintown) of Refinery 29, and Lockhart Steele (@lock) of Vox Media, for sharing your experiences! 

Enjoy a few of my top takeaways, and feel free to add your own take on the topic below in comments.

The Ask: With more platforms than ever before, how do we consistently create compelling content that actually resonates with our audiences?

For these top digital media editors, the answer couldn’t be more obvious: “The work of an editor today is to listen." 

That ^ nugget of knowledge was easily one of my favorite takeaways on the topic, and from the trip. Especially in the data age. 

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Are you struggling to recruit and train a modern marketing team? Drive digital marketing transformation in your organization? Adapt more quickly to an exploding marketing technology landscape? Create a connected customer experience? Prove marketing ROI to the executive team?

If you answered yes to any or all of the above, you're not alone.

In The Marketing Performance Blueprint, Paul Roetzer outlined many of the challenges facing marketers today, and what it takes to overcome industry-wide gaps in talent, technology and strategy. But understanding is only the first step—after all, "High performers differentiate by doing, not planning."

That's why, for a limited time, we're offering a collection of exclusive resources with bulk purchases of The Marketing Performance Blueprint. Packages are available for 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 300 and 500 copies. 

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The year is drawing to a close, which for many marketers means it’s the perfect time to clean out the inbox, tackle that reading list, and set shiny new goals for 2016.

So curl up by the fire—or in your cubicle—and enjoy the must-reads on PR 20/20’s blog.

How did we select them?

In short, you did. We pulled posts with the highest pageviews in 2015, excluding any posts with an average time on page less than two minutes. After all, we’re looking for the most read posts—not the most clicked titles.

Note: If you’re curious which posts were most successful in garnering clicks (on search engines and social media), check out Sandie Young’s (@sandiemyoung) “How to Write More Clickable Headlines in 3 Easy Steps.”

The Most Popular PR 20/20 Posts in 2015

According to our readers, here are our 15 most popular posts in 2015. Enjoy!

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Content marketing has drastically altered the consumer-to-brand connection—from in-your-face advertising to a mutually beneficial relationship.

But, as we approach 2016, we’ve hit a crossroads.

According to the newly released CMI 2016 B2B Content Marketing Research Report, 88% of organizations use content marketing. The caveat: only 30% feel effective, down from 38% of marketers who felt effective last year.

More marketers are investing in content, but fewer are satisfied with the results.

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It’s hard to believe that Content Marketing World has come and gone for another year. It seems to fly by faster each year. But, as always, there was a ton of information packed into my two days (I didn’t attend any workshops). It’s no wonder that we all leave inspired, motivated … and a bit dazed.

With so many tracks and speakers to choose from, the key takeaways really are a bit of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The difference here is that whichever adventure you took led to a great outcome. 

That said, there were a few overarching themes that emerged throughout the main keynote presentations and were reinforced in many breakout sessions. Following up from #CMWorld, below are what I found to be the most interesting keys to success in the future of content marketing.

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“HubSpot is at the intersection of technology and philosophy.” — Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO, HubSpot

Dharmesh (@dharmesh) opened his INBOUND 2015 keynote with co-founder Brian Halligan (@bhalligan) with this simple truth. I couldn’t agree more—that the company is at this crossroads, and that its technology is inexplicably tied to the ideology, practices and desires of its users.

Taking it a step further, I’d argue that in the case of the Boston-based SaaS company with more than 13,000 customers worldwide, its product is a direct reflection of the behaviors and preferences of consumers today.

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“Inspiration doesn't respond to meeting requests. You can’t schedule greatness.” – Jay Baer (@jaybaer) 

The grind of everyday life can get to even the most motivated marketers. Sometimes we have to go the extra mile to stay passionate day-in, day-out. It’s just one of the many reasons we are strong believers in the impact of conference season. 

Conferences are key to feeling more connected to the marketing community, staying inspired by your profession and learning from the successes (and challenges) of our peers.

The PR 20/20 team is gearing up to see many of our marketing idols, here in Cleveland and others a bit further from home. Below, I’ve highlighted the full team conference circuit, plus where you can catch a session from our CEO and founder, Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer).

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This is the first in a series of university spotlights, highlighting how higher education is bridging the marketing talent gap. 

90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. — IBM

For the first time in history, marketers have comprehensive, real-time insight into the buyer journey. As consumers, our actions can be tracked, plotted and aggregated to an unprecedented degree. Open APIs enable integrations with the click of a button, connecting data points across devices. Sophisticated advertising platforms and contextual content make it truly possible to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time.  

And yet, marketers are underprepared, and underperforming. Possibly one of the greatest deficiencies in the marketing skillset is that of data analysis. With innumerable data points and a rapidly expanding technology toolkit, marketers struggle to integrate systems, interpret data and pivot strategy based on performance. 

Marketers that began their careers yesterday are not prepared for the realities of today. And higher education is burdened with preparing future marketers for the uncertainties of tomorrow. Fortunately, universities across the country are up to the challenge. 

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