Content that Does More
“What we need is not more content, but content that does more”
In many ways the core challenge of the content management industry has always been the separation of presentation from content, to enable the re-presentation of content in multiple contexts and devices, to different audiences, and in different formats. But, as Deane Barker and Jeff Eaton discussed late last year on Insert Content Here, web CMS platforms in particular have tended to “leak that abstraction all over” – mixing content and presentation details together. Content editors, after all, really had a mental model in which they were producing web pages which looked a specific way, and the “broad reuse” goal fell by the wayside in exchange for WYSIWYG editors and embedded styles.
Mobile has (as Karen McGrane and others have noted) revealed for all to see that the emperor has no clothes, demonstrating just how poorly our desktop-web-design-oriented page layouts and systems handle change. When your content is stored in undifferentiated HTML-and-CSS-together blobs, it becomes impossible to future-proof and adapt to changing circumstances effectively at scale.
It was in this context I was so excited to see that Sara Wachter-Boettcher was coming to speak to the Content Strategy New England meetup about her book Content Everywhere and more broadly the opportunity structured content offers and how organizations turn that opportunity into a challenge.
For me the key message of the night (for which there were many great contenders – see the storify tweet recap below) was that we don’t need more content, we need content that does more. Structured content, which has semantic structure and geography (set of relationships) is the concept which truly enables future-friendly content strategy.
She also offered what I took as a nice improvement to standard definitions of content strategy (emphasis mine):
Content strategy bridges the gap between executive vision and daily execution, defining how content will serve the organization over time
If you’re only thinking about your content strategy in the context of the current project, the current form factors, the current devices, or the current trends, you’re not building a sustainable model for the future. It may take a bit more investment up front to properly model content and understand its inherent structures and patterns, but not doing so will inevitably mean making choices that result in brittle, inflexible, and “fixed” solutions.
(Quick relevant plug: I’ll be speaking on Structured Content and Custom Post Types in WordPress at CMS Expo 2013 – other speakers include Jeff Eaton, Margot Bloomstein, and many others).