Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Towards a Marketing Content Hub

Last month industry experts met to discuss the state of content management. Janus Boye facilitated CEOs, CTOs, market analysts, and subject matter experts unpack the term content. What we discovered, with the help of Theresa Regli, was the undeniable rise of the marketing content hub.

Content

Content is communication. As an industry, we struggle to communicate effectively at scale across multiple:

  • Audiences
  • Languages
  • Markets
  • Channels
  • Devices
  • Technologies

Traditionally, we view content through two important lenses:

  • Copy as text
  • Assets as images, documents, videos, sound, etc.

In doing so, this gives us to very simple formula for defining what content is:

  • Content = Copy + Assets

About Copy

In the early days of the web, communication was heavy on copy. A web site migration was a lift and shift of company documents onto the web. The resultant was walls of text positioned copy was king.

As we learnt to write more effectively for the web, websites applied the “less is more rule” to copy. Web pages became easier to read. Whitespace was celebrated. The amount of web copy reduced and the use of assets increased.

About Assets

Today, people are engaging more and more with videos, sound and images than ever before.  The use of assets in marketing communicationsis on the rise:

  • YouTube uploads 300 hours of video every minute.
  • Netflix is 15% of the total downstream bandwidth for the entire internet.
  • Instagram has over 100 million post per day.

Copy remains important but so are assets. Assets are a critical part of any customer experience. Great experiences need both copy and assets.

Managing Content

So, what does this mean for the systems responsible for managing content? Technology enables content authors to effectively manage copy and assets. Interestingly, vendors have also divided their technology solutions along similar content lines. A CMS predominantly manages copy where a DAM focuses on the asset part of the content equation.

Content Management Systems

A CMS is better equipped to manage copy than assets. The majority of CMS solutions target the web. A Web CMS (WCMS) creates copy through a web authoring interface and publishes for desktop, tablet and mobile consumption. The popularity of WCMS increased in line with the ubiquitous spread of the web. Although WCMS solutions purport to be channel agnostic, the web remains the channel of choice them.

WCMS capture copy, mix-in assets, and publish web pages. The strategy is clear. Build just enough asset management capability within the WCMS to enable authors to assemble web site content. WCMS vendors chose to integrate with enterprise DAMs, some made strategic partnership, whilst others built their own web-based DAMs. But for WCMS, treatment of content was:

  • Copy First, Assets Second

Digital Asset Management

Assets are fundamentally different from copy. Assets have different properties, life cycles, audiences, and use cases. As a result, a DAM solution does not manage assets in the same way that a WCMS manages copy.

DAM solutions need to track asset usage with rights management software. Approval processes tend to be more rigorous. The storage and streaming of assets are critical and differentiated by asset types (e.g. video vs sound). Assets need to be channel agnostic and accessible across the enterprise so that same video can be re-purposed at a market level.

DAM solutions are purchased by marketing departments that share assets across e-commerce, outbound communications, social channels, point of sale systems, and of course web sites. However, pure play DAMs no longer meet the needs to marketing departments that need more accessible and available assets at scale to create great experiences. A DAM solutions view on content is:

  • Assets first, Copy second

Marketing Content Hub

Useful and usable content is intelligent. This requires both copy and assets to be:

  • Raw; enables content to be produced in one channel and consumer in another.
  • Self-Describing; enables machines to ask content questions and get meaningful answers back.
  • Modular; enables applications to disassemble and re-assemble content on demand

A marketing content hub treats copy and assets as equals. The hub is based upon a content model that is well-structured and meaningful. The content hub enables marketing to gain fast accessible to highly available copy and assets at scale. The marketing content hub sits at the centre of the content universe, co-ordinating and collaborating with traditional systems of record such as DAM, WCMS, PIM, eCommerce, Point of Sal, and ERP.

Marketing Content Hub

Simple?  Not quite.  It never is when there is revenue on the table.

The above shows DAM vendors moving into the marketing content hub space. WCMS vendors are also trying to keep their products relevant. by adding more sophisticated asset management capabilities to their solutions. Drupal’s Content Hub syndicates content between Drupal sites and Sitecore recently acquired Stylelabs into its WCMS offering.

The marketing content hub is a vendor solution for providing content at a service back into the business. It is just one part of the content engine, but an important part none the less.

Content Modelling Series – Done

KristinaAndCleveIt’s been fun few years, but my content modelling blog post series has come to an end. I started it to amplify what others were saying about structured content, and to make it accessible. When I started, there was gap: everyone knew structured content was important but there weren’t many places to go to show you how to approach it.

Content modelling is important.  It’s about designing content together, as part of a cross-disciplinary team.  Not from the tech up, or from the business down, but as a joined-up, sustainable team across the organisation.  

A content model is a communication vehicle.  Content modelling is the process to facilitate that communication. Value content modelling over the content model.

As I close out this series, I want to review where we’ve been, what we’ve learned and start to think about what comes next.

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The Connected Customer Journey

Last week I had the good fortune to attend an unconference session run by Chris Satchell.  He’s ex-CTO of Nike. He understands customers. Now as Chief Product Officer over at Comcast, he led with this thought provoking one-liner:

Your brand is your customer journey.

Think about that for moment.

We’ve all heard that your brand is not what you say it is but how others perceive it.  Brand perception boils down to how your customers engage with you. The journeys you take them on.  It’s the sum total of all customer experiences – for better, for worse – across all touchpoints.  Your brand is your customer journey, but they must been connected.

 

 

The challenge lies in mapping out these interconnected customer journeys.  They are hard to create in the first place and really difficult to sustain ongoing success.  Continuously changing over time, connected customer journeys require so many people across the business to collaborate.   But that is exactly what success looks like for those companies building superior brands.  The ability to design and deliver connected customer journeys is a critical component of competitive advantage in digital today. No longer an optional, connected customer journeys are the new norm.

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No model survives first contact with real content

At Content Strategy Forum 2013 in Helsinki, in a great presentation on “Deblobbing in the Real World”, Jeff Eaton said something that resonated deeply with me:

No model survives contact with real content.

explosion

I whole-heartedly concur.  But, something was still not right.  A week later, all became clear.  I  needed to tweak the sentence, just a little, to make things right with the world again. So here goes:

No model survives first contact with real content.

Better. Definitely expand “first contact” to mean the first few encounters with real content, but it’s an important distinction to draw out for anyone designing structured content. Why you ask? Read the rest of this entry »

Content APIs: A is for Access

Please watch this two minute video. It does an amazing job of describing the utility of APIs using a deck of playing cards.

Content APIs are on the rise because we need ubiquitous access to content.  For a while now, I’ve felt like our content management systems are being deployed as Roach Motels (see resources at the end), where content checks in, but it doesn’t check out. Forever locked into a single (web) channel with no easy way out.

A couple weeks backs, I explained why content APIs are becoming critical to those in the content business.  They help mitigate the Roach Motel problem.  The big guns are already reaping the rewards of their early investments in content APIs. Take Netflix, after just two years of deploying an API, it’s seeing a x37 increase in API usage, the majority of which is through internal consumption.

Today, let’s walkthrough through a couple of examples to drive home the point that APIs lower the bar to making content accessible: available to people, processes and products that potentially do not to contribute to the production or ongoing management of the content.

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Why Content APIs

Have you been hearing a lot about APIs recently? Or maybe the Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) thinking that came out of NPR? It doesn’t matter whether you have or haven’t really. What’s important is that we understand why APIs are on the rise.

Why did the big guns invest heavily in APIs and are now reaping serious benefits. Netflix, NPR, Twitter, Facebook, Expedia, Guardian, Google, to mention a few, have well established APIs that grant third parties, that’s people like you, me and other companies,  controlled access to their functionality and content.  That’s right, these companies have created a playroom filled with shiny new toys (content and functionality) and have given us the key (API) to play with them.  But why?

What value do these companies see in APIs? Why do they continue to invest in them?  And how do I get me some API action?

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Meaningful HTML

Today you’ve been asked to create some meaningful HTML.  What’s that you ask?  We’ll get back to that.

However, you knew that this day would come and prepared for it.  You have a very simple, but workable content model jammed packed with meaning and structure.  You’ve already done the hard content modelling work and identified the key content types for your business.  For for each content type, you have:

  • A name.
  • A one line description of its purpose.
  • A list of its attributes and a one line description for each.
  • A clear understanding of the relationships it has with other content types.
  • Open and transparent agreement, across business, UX and technology, on all of the above.

So, back to the meaningful HTML task.  HTML was never designed to convey meaning.  It’s a display language. However, search engines, web crawlers and browsers need meaningful content to better display search results and deliver awesome customer experiences.  They can’t do that with a display language.  Microdata, RDFa and Microformats are popular Internet specifications that add semantics to HTML to make it meaningful.

You have a content model.  Let’s put it to work.
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The Rise and Rise of Content Junk

The amount content we produced in 2011 alone exceeded the content created in all previous years combined. ALL previous years combined! We more than doubled the size of our digital content universe.

That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if all that content could get everywhere it needed to be today.  It can’t. Instead, it’s trapped in the applications (CMS, DAM,Word) and/or channels (e.g. Web, Email) that created it.  This is not a sustainable business model for many companies that create and publish content to better engage with their customers.

It’s stupid, costly and uncompetitive to create great content and not invest the time and effort to make it structured and meaningful. To make it future friendly. And yet the rate of growth for digital content continues to rise exponentially, more than doubling every couple of years.  It’s time to stop creating more content (junk) and start making content work more.

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What do content strategists do?

It’s a question being asked a lot these days.  By clients, the industry, fellow colleagues, creatives, technologists; the list goes on. So in June I attended an EConsultancy course on Digital Content Strategy delivered by Catherine Toole, CEO of Sticky Content to find out from a seasoned content strategist.  It was a great one-day overview that provoked a lot of lively discussion.  Then I got the slide that listed just some of the things a content strategist does.  Take a look:

brand strategy
messaging strategy
competitor content audit
format development
tone of voice
content style guide
copy deck
idea generation
editorial calendar
editorial strategy
SEO/PPC strategy
language guidelines
message map
content production schedule
terms of use
page tables
content licensing
sitemap
style guide
taxonomy
content approval workflow
migration strategy
content analysis
content audit
content inventory
content assessment
content gap analysis
content model
editorial workflow
content types
quality assurance tools
metadata strategy
cms architecture
content migration plan
metadata framework

 
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Crossing the Great Content Model Divide

What happens today?

Delivering and maintaining large web sites is hard. It requires the business team to communicate what they want and for the technology team to deliver what they need. The two groups are known for not getting on. For a web project to succeed, they must eat from the same table, talk the same language and reach consensus. Communication is the key differentiator between success and failure here. It’s essential that when someone in the business says product that a developer not only understands what a product is but can implement it. Now, business and technology folks don’t share the same view of the world (which is a plus). However, not enough effort is invested to align these two views during the project(which is a minus). Think about it. The business is entrusting their most valuable assets, their content, to software developers that may or may not get it! We don’t have to live with great content divide.

contentdivide1

What can be done?

I’ve found the best way for the business and technology teams to reach a common understanding of the subject matter is for them to collaborate on a shared view of the business domain. Have meetings, discuss stuff, card sort, write documents, role play, build prototypes, and so on. All important stuff. Keep doing that. But there needs to be something that captures the single source of truth that is a shared and mutually agreed upon representation of the business. The essential communication link between the business and technology team. That something is the content model.

contentdivide2

How can we get better?

I’ve already spoken about content modelling and your essential first steps. I won’t go over that again. If you takeaway anything from this post, takeaway this.

Every CMS product implements its own content model that its developers understand. On your web sites, Your developers are translating your requirements into this content model, and rightly or wrongly, filling in your missing gaps.

Are you happy to hand over your business decisions around your content to them? How do you know if they have got it right? How do you know if its wrong? We all know the cost of fixing problems is prohibitively more expensive downstream. A short conversation upstream could have completely avoided the creation of major problems that tend to arise downstream.

 

evolving_contentmodel

 

Parking the details for now, the content model needs to be started upstream (analysis phase) and extend into downstream (development and testing phases) activities. The content model empowers the business, provides a common vocabulary for your content, and hooks in a number of downstream folks with a vested interest in managing your content going forwards. Maybe then we can start crossing the great content model divide.

 

 

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!
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