What are complex digital environments?
Ann Rockley, ‘mother of content strategy’ puts it this way: you have a complex digital environment, if your business can no longer afford to handcraft content for individual customers, devices, or channels. If the style guide is in a static PDF format or when there is a lot of copy-pasting things, the risk of chaos and inconsistency is high.
All of these problems can be solved by getting the most out of your content. How metadata can help is one of the many topics we explored with Rahel Bailie in her course ‚Developing Content for Complex Digital Environments‘ of my Content Strategy masters degree program.
Complex: the ‘c’ stands for chaos
Nowadays, content quickly loses its relevance. For managers, it’s all about the deadline and content creation is usually a fast-moving process. Optimized collaboration is often neglected and underestimated. Most of the time, it is re-created all over again, and old content gets forgotten in the archives.
“Too often, content is created by authors working in isolation from others within the organization. […] This leads to content being created, and recreated, and recreated, often with changes or differences introduced at each iteration. No one has a complete picture of the customer’s content requirements and no one has the responsibility to manage the customer experience. Organizations fail to understand that content is their product.“(Rockley & Cooper, 2012, p. 5)
Rockley & Cooper (2012) call it the ‘content silo trap’ when content is just “tossed over” to the next content creator team. To avoid the trap, the work of all teams should be synchronized.
The goal is to deliver content on the right platforms, to the right audience, in the right formats and the right languages. You also want to do this in an efficient way and minimize pain points for the people who work on it as well as your recipients.
Enable automation with intelligent content
We want to automate content assembly and the delivery process by making it intelligent. Intelligent content can be processed by machines because it is tagged with metadata. This makes it discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.
|Characteristic of intelligent content
|Search engines can find your content because it understands the essence of your meaning, not just the words.
|Search for “wine bar”. Places to drink wine will be displayed. But if you click on the “Shopping” tab, you will see wine cabinets that you can buy.
|A particular piece of content is created only once and re-used many times across multiple information products or even within the same piece of information.
|Content that can be re-used in multiple places, e.g. compliance statements, product names, or other common content.
|The content that can change its look and feel automatically because the formatting is kept separate from the content itself.
|All the categories on a shoe-shopping site that show the same pair of red-heeled boots.
|The content can be aggregated in multiple ways without manual intervention to meet a new need.
|The difference between the amount of content shown in LinkedIn articles on your phone and desktop.
Machines understand metadata, not content
To make content intelligent, the formatting (look and feel) from source files needs to be removed and structure added. This structure consists of predetermined organizational patterns supported by metadata tags. (Rockley)
Machines do not understand what is written in the content itself. It is semantic (meaningful) metadata attached to it that lets them read and process content more accurately and anticipated. Rockley says, that this semantic categorization of content enables the personalized combination of information and supports the automatic construction of customized content.
For example, the HTML tag <H1> is not semantic and has little meaning to a computer. The only information it gets is that it is a title on a website. But if you use the semantic metadata tag <productListing title=“product name“> instead, you make it understand that this is the name of a specific product.
Such a content creation system streamlines workflows by making collaboration more efficient and provides authors with repeatable processes, reduced risk, and automated continuous pipeline delivery.
Intelligent content can automate content assembly and the delivery process. It is structured with semantic metadata tags that have a coherent meaning and allow the combination of information.
A coherent content creation system helps organizations increase ROI for their content, as well as improving innovation in general. It contributes to a positive user experience and brand experience by bringing consistency across the board.
“Content is just as much a part of the product as anything else.”(Rockley et al., 2015)
Rockley, A., Cooper, C., & Abel, S. (2015). Intelligent Content: A Primer. XML Press.
Rockley, A., & Cooper, C. (2012). Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy (2nd ed.). New Riders.