Content and the Technology of Today

Julie Vollenweider

If they made a rotary version of the cell phone, I would probably have it. If Twitter and Facebook fell off the face of the earth forever, I honestly wouldn’t mind. I still own an epic collection of audio cassette tapes. And I recently received an e-reader as a gift from my dear sister.

If you believe the e-reader is now being used primarily as a coaster,follow this link.

If you believe that the e-reader is now outfitted with a smart leather cover and is in heavy rotation, go here.

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Julie and the Technology of Today

Welcome to a world where I love my e-reader. Due to my general technology aversion, this is shocking but true. Speaking of technology (and the long-awaited point of this post), I recently read an interesting article in The New York Timesdiscussing how technology over the centuries has directly correlated to how we read.

Many people (especially marketers) are already quite familiar with how people read differently online—but I really appreciated the reminder of what kind of magnitude these types of technology changes can have on our culture. My prediction is that regardless of how devices for consuming content may advance, some of the same principles we practice in content strategy will hold true. For example, content should always be useful and usable, no matter what format it’s presented in.

Consider the device or medium and how it’s used by content consumers. 

Let’s take the ancient scroll example from The New York Timesarticle. If you’re publishing a cookbook, will your consumers really want to try and keep the edges of a paper scroll flat to read the recipe while they measure flour for cupcakes? Probably not. So in the future, recipe companies should really think twice about whether it will be a good idea to publish content in whatever new formats may be available.

I like to use my e-reader for leisurely reading of articles, essays, and books. If I wanted to read something for business, make notes on it, and highlight sections to go back for reference—I would not chose the e-reader. For folks producing content, this will always be a key consideration.

Functionality requires you to plan for content. 

With my new e-reader, it’s very easy to search (like on a computer), it has a page-like presentation (similar to a printed book), and even a Technology Idiot (me) can figure out how to use it. With these functional attributes, there are corresponding content considerations such as:

  • Detailed metadata that allows content to be searchable
  • Content presentation style guidelines that indicate the start of a new chapter, footnotes, what kind of imagery will render well electronically, etc.
  • Clear instructional copy that makes the device easy to figure out and use

All of these content needs have to be considered hand-in-hand with functionality development—particularly, who will be responsible for creating the content to meet these needs.

This is likely just the tip of the iceberg. I’m excited to think about what kinds of changes technology will have on content strategy over time. Now if you will excuse me, I have some e-book shopping to do.

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While I’d like to call you a big jerk for not believing in me—I can’t really blame you. It was surprising to me. Who would have ever thought that a Luddite could have a total love affair with an electronic book? Apparently, one very intelligent Little Sis Vollenweider.

Now, if you weren’t a linear reader (aka cheater) like me and didn’t always read all possible scenarios in the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I would highly recommend you go back and read a great article that I found on how evolving technology, from the scroll to the e-reader, has changed the way we read.