Content needs a new home

Kristina Halvorson

Here's the problem, as we see it.

Content ownership and oversight are big challenges within most organizations. And it's easy to see why. Unless your primary product or service is content, you probably still lack the appropriate infrastructure to support ongoing content creation and maintenance.

Look, we all woke up 15 years ago to discover we were suddenly publishers. No one signed up for it. The Web just made it so. Websites, web apps, email marketing, search marketing ... we're constantly under pressure to produce more content.

And then it's out there. And with each passing day, our published content becomes (potentially) less relevant, off-brand, off-message. We add more pages and modules wherever we can, whether or not it makes sense. We're driven by deadlines and internal demands, not the questions that matter: Is this useful? Is it relevant? Will our readers' needs be met?

So, whose job is it? This content. Who owns it? Who's responsible?

The real deal: Content ownership is a complex issue.

In any content lifecycle, there are typically several folks who share some responsibility for the content. From request to creation to publication, there are all kinds of cooks in the kitchen:

So, who should have the final say about your website content?

Take a hard look.

It might seem easy to marginalize, say, the CMS team, by proposing that techies shouldn't be in charge of content. But aren't they the ones typically responsible for publishing and archiving the content? That's sort of important. Often, they're also the folks who end up (by default) writing the metadata that makes your content findable, both by external search engines and your own site's engine.These things matter.

Maybe brand and marketing should take a back seat. Except, you know, they probably want input over little things like brand voice, messaging, style guide considerations, hierarchy of information, calls to action ... right.

How about the web strategy team? Can they let go of ownership? Maybe content isn't that important to a successful user experience. Oh. Wait. It is.

And finally, the business people, who probably are tasked with reviewing (or even writing) web content on top of the 18 million other things they're supposed to be doing. We sort of need their input to make sure things are accurate and up to date.

So.

Where should content live?

Content strategy: A new home for content

Content planning, production and oversight need to share a new home base. Content needs infrastructure beyond CMS requirements. It needs to be appropriately scoped and planned for, not thrown together from brochures at the last minute. It needs to be cared for and fed, not just launched and forgotten. It needs ownership and oversight.

It needs to live under the governance of an empowered, collaborative content strategist.

This is a radical call for change within agencies and organizations everywhere. It puts content in the center of the web design process, which, we think, is where it should live.

Because isn't that what people are looking for online? Content? Not design. Not a user experience. Not that those things don't matter enormously. Just, perhaps, they shouldn't be driving the bus.