Content modelling is important enough in the field of content strategy to constitute one of the main subjects in the third term of our study program. Let’s therefore take a closer look on when is a good time to implement it and why.

Being a spelling fanatic, my first and foremost thought on this topic was “Do I write Content Modeling or Content Modelling?”. Since even Cleve Gibbon, who has a content modelling series on his site with lots of information from an implementation perspective, does not use consistent spelling, I simply decided on using a double “L” and hope that US readers (be there any) won’t be offended.

After having decided on this basic issue, I started collecting information about the implementation of a content model. The task I was given is to explain the “technical ease of implementation: when would you do it and why?” I used the literature list that Rahel Anne Bailie suggested to our #COS14 content modelling course and found that most of the readings led back to Cleve Gibbon, which is why I use his website as the main source for this blog post.

Content modelling vs. the real world – the first contact

“No model survives contact with real content,” Jeff Eaton said at the Content Strategy Forum 2013 in Helsinki in his presentation on “Deblobbing in the Real World”. In order for a content model to survive future contact with content, one should test, inspect and adapt it – and it’s best to do so early and often.

Content modelling is a recursive process and only small iterations should be done at a time. The model evolves best if real content is used from the start. This will decrease its reality shock. The earlier the model hits reality, the less the shock of contact will be, and the more time there is to recover from the shock.

Show me what you’ve got

In his series, Gibbon argues that content modelling material that is not used in time will “grow old, stagnate and ultimately become completely useless” – and therefore never see the light of day. His suggestion is that, instead of working on a model for too long, test and learn from the feedback by simply putting your content models out there.

I think he has a good point. This is also the practice in content strategy – start small and start early instead of waiting for too long and then doing a big launch. Content modelling can also grow along the way, adding structure as you go. This works far better than trying to impose a complex content model on a yet-to-be structured content mess.

To sum it up, get started on your content modelling early. Start small and grow tall instead of trying to give birth to a giant! Don’t be disappointed if your first tries fail. Learn from the experience and one day your content modelling baby will grow to be a rock star.


Cleve Gibbon Home Page. Retrieved April 11, 2016 from:

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