Everyone is rushing to create digital experiences. Print publishers are grappling with how to manage digital transformation, brands are pushing to get a slice of the mobile action, and everyone is wondering what the next big thing will be.
But as the publishers, marketers and brand gurus gaze into their crystal balls to try to predict just what platforms are going to emerge as favourites they are actually looking the wrong way. It’s not about the size of screen (they can and do change), it’s not about the operating system, it’s also not about the device and whether it’s a desktop, laptop, notebook, tablet or smart phone, and its most certainly not about e-paper.
It is actually all about the content. While big brains are grappling with what kind of presentation wrapper content needs, the really enormous brains modestly realise it’s actually about all of these things. It’s about having content that can be repurposed, adapted, sliced, diced and regurgitated in a million and one ways.
Adapting content is expensive, isn’t it?
It is expensive to adapt content if its scattered all over the place, if it’s not findable, if it is sitting across multiple CMS systems and is resistant to being flexible. If any enterprise is going to spend time devoted to preparing each snippet of content separately depending on which platform it is going to be delivered on, then this is going to cost a fortune.
But if the content is structured, clearly marked up according to its component features then it becomes an incredibly easy and relatively cheap process to point it in the directions that will best serve the capabilities of the target devices and platforms.
- Demand for content has never been so high.
- Suppliers are tripping over each other to supply.
- Multi-device is coming.
- Mobile as we now it today is the tip of the iceberg.
- Stop looking for next big thing.
- You need to migrate to presentation-neutral format.
- Converting content between presentation and delivery formats is not scalable
So, if you can stop agonising over how the content is going to be presented, or what the new scenarios will be, or who the new audience will be, and what platform it all gets delivered on, you can start to actually make headway and ensure your operations are future proofed.
Structure your content
Unstructured content is stupid and old-fashioned. It’s costly, complex and does not generate a competitive advantage
Ann Mulcahy, former CEO Xerox
You need to ask yourself these key questions:
- Does content have the necessary agility?
- To enable content reuse, is your content modular?
- Do you have the right metadata and is your content findable in the new context?
- Is the content still current and accurate at the point of reuse?
- Is it still editorially appropriate and does it sound right?
- Does the editorial team have the right guidelines to ensure consistency across multiple sites?
- Does the content harmonise to form a quality experience?
It’s quite something to have got so far into this post without once mentioning XML, the Extensible Markup Language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable and which drives real semantic meaning. If you have great content and no markups, your content will be lost, under utilised and will ultimately fail.
But if the content is marked up according to its component parts (headers, authors, body copy, and so on), it enables the content to become dependent on its own component parts rather than the device that it is being pushed to. XML content maps enable the content to become completely presentation agnostic.
But for this to happen properly, organisations need to also move quickly to ways of working collaboratively across functions and management levels, where content and technology, editorial and marketing, work together seamlessly with common guidelines.
Urbina referred to a maturity test, where organisations can be examined according to how roles, responsibilities and mindsets slot together:
Most fundamental is about process and collaborative processes where different experts in a company can work together. Silos are a nightmare with separate budgets and priorities.
That is poison.