Our content strategy journey

December 9, 2011 § 5 Comments


We’ve recently developed a company-wide strategic plan. One part of that plan is the redesign of our website. And I’ve been tasked the job of leading a committee to do it.

I’ve decided to attack the project not as a design project (although, that obviously is a part of it) but as a content strategy project. As such I’ve identified a number of areas, each of which we are tackling with small groups of 3 or 4 people – subcommittees – which then report to the larger group.

The areas I’ve identified are:

Information architecture

  • Website audit
  • Analytics
  • Navigation
  • Tagging and categories

Social media

  • What are we doing
  • Where
  • Why
  • What’s working
  • What isn’t working
  • What are we missing
  • And how can we integrate our SM strategy into our website as seamlessly as possible

Content workflow

  • How and when is content being produced
  • How does our editorial system affect the workflow
  • How can we streamline the workflow toward a digital first strategy
  • How does this workflow fit in with our revenue and social media strategies

Revenue strategy

  • Reassess our pay wall – hard wall vs. metered
  • Strategy to convert free users into subscribers
  • What is free vs. paid

Each of these areas are daunting, none more so than the issue of content workflow. However, I think this process, as tedious as some of it may be (I’m looking at you website audit,) needs to be undertaken. It was an opportunity we missed in our last redesign. Each one of these areas will affect our ultimate design. In addition to what comes out of these groups, we also have data from a recent reader survey that we conducted. My hope is that we will be able to use information from these groups and the survey data to help steer us into the process of developing wireframes and mock-ups and eventually to much improved website digital products.

The way we are attacking this project (or set of projects) has evolved from my interest in the growing field of content strategy. I have been reading blog posts, books, watched video presentations like the keynote speech at this year’s Content Strategy Forum by Karen McGrane.

For some months now I’ve been wondering how content strategy as a discipline could be implemented in a news organization. Obviously, the newsroom editorial process is strategic, but I wonder how much of this strategy bleeds over into the digital realm. And how much of the current newsroom online strategy isn’t still about just “uploading the stories.”

In this video, McGrane talks about how most organizations choose a CMS. Our news organization has gone through that process before and repeated the process leading up to the current redesign project. So it is of interest to me, especially as it relates to our editorial workflows. Our lack of online usability, to a great degree, is a result of our workflow:

We have to stop thinking that usability in content management is entirely based on having pretty interface widgets or a nice color palette or a pretty font. Usability comes from workflow. It comes from having tasks that can be completed easily that follow the users mental model.

The above quote begins at about 12:11 in the video. The video is worth watching all the way through.
 
 

I’d be interested to hear what news folks think about content strategy and how it fits into our industry. Again, I know that our content really begins with some form of editorial strategy but for the most part, that strategy doesn’t take into account design, workflow, data structure, multiple platforms. It’s still very much about the print deadline and workflow. Chime in below, please.

Flickr photo by Melody Campbell
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