Why metadata matters
Metadata may not be terribly exciting, but it’s a business-critical part of making your organization work on the web. Sadly very few organizations invest in it, let alone understand it.
The way you organize, store and categorize information matters. It matters a lot.
After all, most organizations (and websites) are in the information services business. It’s all about finding ways to more effectively create, share, repurpose and distribute content. Your ability to accomplish these goals depends entirely on the way content is organized and classified.
Attending SXSW Interactive this weekend, I was pleasantly pleased to see the Kicking Ass with Controlled Metadata session. It fell in stark contrast to the typical SXSW topics heavy on user generated content, design and social media.
Most interesting to me was hearing Pandora CTO Tom Conrad talk about their approach to classifying the 600,000+ songs in the Pandora library. He explained that Pandora employees a team of 45 trained musicians that painstakingly listen to each song and catalog it with more than 400 attributes.
These all get loaded into a database and are used to provide more relevant recommendations to listeners. It’s a lot of work and terribly expensive, yet Pandora rightly justifies it as a necessary cost of doing business.
This classification system is a huge part of Pandora’s competitive advantage. It’s the secret sauce that drives the business and provides a high barrier to entry for would be competitors.
This is an important point to understand. The right approach to metadata can drive a sustainable competitive advantage.
Web content management projects are a natural time to reassess your approach to organizing and classifying content. To do this effectively, you need to think about content independent from the website structure, templates and creative.
It’s important to document how each of these content items will be modeled including their relationship between other content types. These are not lower-level activities to be done after you figure out the big picture thinking. They are fundamental to your overall user experience strategy.
It’s time for metadata to get the respect and attention it deserves.