Many companies are struggling with unstructured content, which is stuck in different places within the organisation, maintained manually and often reused with a “copy-paste” technique for different channels.

Today, content maintenance is often time consuming, seldom consistent and accurate. In this multichannel world, we will never have enough time or resources to recreate content or instances of content manually for every channel or device. The same content is often needed in numerous places, therefore structure is required to reuse it efficiently in various contexts.

As Rachel Lovinger says, our content needs to be “well-structured“, “well-defined” and “well-described“, which is accomplished by content types and content models using metadata and standards. Lovinger says: “Technology itself does not create the structure, people do.” Beside our efforts to separate content from design with the use of CSS (Cascading Stylesheets), metadata is important to define and describe content that allows us to reuse it and to navigate us through a variety of contexts.

Why should organisations structure content and create content models?

According to Ann Rockley, structurally rich content makes content “flexible”. It reduces costs, because it can be created, managed and delivered faster. Structured content enables components to be reused efficiently, and it offers predictability and ensures consistency. Lovinger says content has to be “free” in a sense of flexibility: just add structure and make it “nimble“. The key, according to Lovinger, to succeed in this content ecosystem is to give the audience access to content in a wide range of formats, platforms, and experiences that suit them. Our content provides business value.

Business values of structured content (Rockley, Atherton, Lovinger):

  • Manage content at scale: efficiently create, maintain and deliver content in a multichannel environment
  • Save time and reduce costs for content maintenance
  • Adaptive and reusable: create content once and reuse it in different channels and devices consistently (“create content once, publish everywhere”), retain meaning
  • Assemble and reconfigure content in different and unpredictable contexts and sources (users demand content when and where they want it). Create new digital products through reusage of content and the involvement of the workforce
  • Translate to provide content in multiple languages
  • Improve findability (search engines, navigation, etc.)

From my own perspective, I would like to add the use of:

  • Automatic exchange of content – e.g. for industries to provide and share product information and data
  • Ability to gather and reuse content from different departments and divisions

Further reading on structured content and content modeling:

Photo credit: Compound of five octahedra – Francesco De Comite. Original retrieved from Flickr.

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