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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New year, new media goals

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

A new year gives me the opportunity at work to create new resolutions goals that are tied to my duties as online manager (MBO). There are the obvious ones

Don't Make Me Think

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

like finally launching a mobile version of Union-Bulletin.com without spending much money and without hiring a mobile developer. I’ve got some ideas on how to do that using WordPress but I’ll leave that to another post.

Another obvious one is a slight redesign of our website and registration/log in forms. Which leads me to my not so obvious goals. I’ve decided to read some tech books and/or take a number of NewsU online courses/webinars. As part of my goals I will then write a short proposal on how to integrate what I learn into our online products.

First up, I’ve enrolled for Friday’s NewsU webinar Programming for Non-Geeks: Easy Interactivity which hopes to teach:

  • How to get started: which software you need and where to get it
  • Some basic techniques to enhance your content, even as a non-programmer
  • What plugins are and which one plugins to consider when creating news-oriented content
  • About tools to make your jQuery development easier
  • About top resources to know and bookmark

And I’ve got a small library of books I plan to read, including:

I’ve started reading all of them and I am most excited about Don’t Make Me Think since it will a great resource for our planned redesign of our forms. I will blog over the next several months about my “takeaways” and implementation plans based on what I learn.

Oh, and I also plan on blogging regularly again. That may be the most daunting goal!

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