Content Strategy and Publishing – My introduction to
So I think this is the first post I’ve every written specifically about Content Strategy. Even though I work in the news media industry and face strategic and operational concerns around content strategy daily, I hadn’t really encountered a community of folks who called themselves content strategists – who professed to practice a formal discipline of content strategy.
Meeting Razorfish’s Rachel Lovinger
A couple weeks back I had the good fortune to attend the Smart Content conference in New York city on October 19th. The conference addressed the role of metadata and semantics in content strategy, and one of the speakers at the conference was Rachel Lovinger of Razorfish. Rachel presented an overview of her report Nimble: A Razorfish report on publishing in the digital age – which was published in June 2010. Considering that I work in news media, and I have a passionate interest in semantic technology, I thought the report was absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely the best report I’ve seen summarizing the future impact of semantic technologies in the publishing industry. If you’d like the slideshow version, here’s the presentation Rachel gave at Semtech 2010: Semantics in Publishing and Media.
On Content Strategy
Not only did I greatly enjoy Rachel’s presentation, but I had a chance to hang out with her after the conference for a bit. Like the name of Charles Hugh Smith’s blog, I found Rachel to be “of two minds”. On the one hand, she clearly has an interest and passion for “findability” of content, and semantic technology’s role in making content findable and contextual.
However, she has also played a big part in launching the discipline and community that has formed around Content Strategy. Clearly, Rachel is very passionate about content strategy, and I believe she commented more than once during our conversation, “You know, you too might actually be a content strategist” – in the sense that many people often play the role of content strategist in their company, but don’t always apply that label to what they do. It was pretty cool actually. For the record, I don’t think I am a content strategist … yet. But there’s something there that I find very interesting, and it’s a bit part of the challenge news media faces in transforming itself (more on that later).
Apparently, the Smart Content conference was my time to be introduced to the world of Content Strategy. For not only was the conference heavily attended by content strategists, but I also sat next to Ahava Leibtag, a content strategist in the health care industry. Ahava and Rachel served as my guides that day into the world of content strategy.
Content Strategy – the Community
Content Strategy, as far as I understand it, covers the various activities of planning, process, and method that go into creating and publishing compelling content to serve the goals of a digital presence – be it a company, organization, or individual (this is my folk definition BTW). And a community has formed to promote this practice as a formal discipline. Here are a list of some of the important voices in this community that I’ve been able to discern:
- Rachel Lovinger
- Kristina Halvorson
- Jeffrey MacIntyre, and here
- Karen McGrane
- Colleen Jones
- Erin Scime
- Elena Melendy
- Scatter/Gather – Razorfish’s Content Strategy blog
This is just a few names I’ve found that are important voices in the Content Strategy community. But reading their work should give you a feel for what the community is all about.
Seminal articles in the Content Strategy community
Apparently content strategy, as a discipline and a community, really didn’t formally take off until 2009. Rachel credited this significantly to both the community-building efforts of Kristina Halvorson, and to the Content Strategy Consortium that took place as part of the IA Summit 2009. From 2007 through early 2009, several important articles appeared that helped shape and engage the content strategy community. These articles were:
- Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data, by Rachel Lovinger
- The Discipline of Content Strategy, by Kristina Halvorson
- Content-tious Strategy, by Jeffrey MacIntyre
My bad, but I haven’t even had a chance to read these articles yet. But I just wanted to surface that they seem to have had an important impact in the development of the content strategy community.
Content Strategy and Publishing
So finally, I’m able to get to the core message/topic of my post, which is the role of Content Strategy in News Media companies today. Obviously, it’s critical. It always has been.
But several factors make content strategy in news media companies particular fascinating today. Firstly, the Web has massively democratized the creation and publishing of content. Mainstream media organizations no longer “monopolize the channel” the way they did during the 20th century.
Secondly, digital media publishing has a very low cost structure. And the cost structures of the traditional news organization (along with the costs of publishing a print edition) are very difficult to maintain in the face of pure-digital publishing entities.
Thirdly, the audience now has a voice. The day’s where a news organization could editorialize from on high to a passive audience are pretty much gone. News and content consumers increasingly demand a voice in the content they consume, and they have a much wider variety of sources to from which to consume content that speaks to their particular interests and viewpoints.
The net result of this is that traditional news organizations really do have to significantly rethink how (or even whether, in some cases) they (i) create content, (ii) curate content, (iii) parter with prominent voices in their community, (iv) engage audiences, and (v) make their content compelling, discoverable, contextual, and relevant. Let me tell you, this is a tall order for journalistic cultures that grew up in the days of print journalism. And it really does define nothing less that a fundamental transformation of how we create, curate, and deliver news and content to our audiences.
So I guess you could say that the whole topic of content strategy really “speaks to me”.
Jeffrey Macintyre and Panel on Elements of Editorial Strategy
The presentation slides can be found here.
Well, I guess I now have a “handle” – i.e. Content Strategy – to provide as an umbrella for considering how to rethink creating, curating, and delivering compelling, relevant, contextual, and timely content to audiences who are demanding a voice in the news they consume. And so the journey continues …