Managing ownership of content: Print vs. web

I’m not above taking a free handout — and so when Kristina Halvorson helpfully posted some questions she’d been asked at a recent forum and asked those of us in the content strategy community to tackle one, I viewed it as a great gift. [Thanks, Kristina!]

How can content strategy begin to resolve ownership issues between print content creators and web content editors?

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to build only new web properties in brand new organizations, you’ve faced this issue. I spent years in the publishing industry, and so this hit home for me. It’s not unique to publishing, though: Most organizations that have been around a while and that do any sort of marketing are creating printed materials. And even today, many folks’ first instinct is to say, “Take that [press release, brochure, magazine article, ad from the newspaper] and put it on our website.”

But here’s the key point: No one ever says, “Take that [brilliant Flash demo, interactive chart, quick checklist, photo slideshow from the convention] off our website and print it.”

That would be a stupid thing to say, wouldn’t it? Great web content is optimized for the web, and it’s not cost-conscious to try to re-purpose it — it just doesn’t make any sense.

So if your organization is struggling with who “owns” the content — and you’re not alone — try to reframe the discussion.

  • Figure out who owns the information. This is important. Someone needs to be responsible for collecting and managing the information, and they need to share it with everyone who needs it.
  • Designate the person[s] who manages the print interpretation of the information.
  • Designate the person[s] who manages the web interpretation of the information.

In a small organization, all three of those roles might be filled by the same person. But in many organizations, the first role is distinct from the latter two. And the larger you get, the more likely the print and web content management is handled separately.

Regardless, it’s critical for the entire group to interact. But we should all recognize that slapping articles from a newsletter onto the website does nothing more than create an archive. If that’s all you want, super. If you want web content, you have to craft content that fits the medium.

Topics from Junior League of Nashville training, 4/29/2010

Today at lunch and again this evening, I’m speaking to members of the Junior League of Nashville about managing your online identity. Because the audience is going to be very diverse in age range and current technology adoption, most of our discussion is likely to be Q&A around the topics of online identity and privacy, and on the flip side, taking full advantage of social media for personal or business reasons.

We’re going to use these links as our jumping-off points. I’ll report back tomorrow on how it goes!

In case you weren’t scared already….

The Motrin Moms debacle

Oversharing and location awareness

Kevin Colvin, busted for his Halloween partying

Most of us have been guilty of sending angry emails.

Managing your online identity

Everything you want to know about online privacy

Managing your privacy on Facebook

Get started with Twitter

Share photos: Flickr and Picasa

Share videos: YouTube and Vimeo

Location services: Foursquare and Gowalla

Special cases

Teaching your kids about media

America’s broadband access issue

If you’re reading this right now in America, chances are high you’re on a broadband Internet connection provided by a company like You’re likely to have a decent amount of disposable income. And, if you’re like me, and you’ve had broadband for more than 10 years, it’s probably difficult for you to imagine how you might navigate the world today without it. Businesses nowadays have become reliant on broadband as a way to run their businesses online, this blog post explains broadband internet. However, not everyone is running their business through broadband.

More than 100 million people in America today don’t have broadband. For many, it’s available, but not affordable, If your broadband costs more than you think it should then usave’s broadband deals might be just what you need. Unfortunately for some, especially in rural areas nationwide, it’s not even available yet.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how people who can’t access the Internet can really participate in the modern economy effectively. How they can access an education. Train for any jobs but the most manual of labor. Provide opportunities for their children to learn.

It’s not to say it can’t be done. But I’m so far removed from the pre-Internet world that I can only imagine how difficult it is.

There’s a nationalistic strain in our politics that likes to say America’s the best — whatever the measure. But here’s a place where we were the best, and we’ve rapidly fallen behind.

We’ve got a lot of challenges, particularly when it comes to rural access. Our nation is physically large and physically diverse. But we’ve gotten electricity and telephone service practically everywhere. This must be no different if we plan to remain competitive against nations that don’t have our resources — but that can hope to best us with better communications and technology access.

Here’s a great overview of the broadband situation.

Paying for stories is a bad business

Apparently this idea still hasn’t gotten all around in the journalism world — but paying for stories is a bad business that doesn’t end well for anyone, except those who walk away with cash in hand.

If Gizmodo hadn’t paid for the lost 4G iPhone, it seems likely we wouldn’t be talking about the criminal investigation now underway. For the same reasons we don’t pay a witness to a crime for testimony, we can more easily trust news stories where no cash changes hands. In today’s world, it’s hard enough to trust journalism….paying for stories complicates things a lot.

Now, I will say this is a weird situation. I suspect some would say it’s analogous to Consumer Reports’ daily business — they purchase all the products they review, in order to remain objective. Yet in this case, with the product in question clearly NOT available on the market, I can’t figure out why Gawker would OK the payment [beyond the desire for the massive publicity it’s gotten….and perhaps that’s enough?]. Though it’s after the fact, it seems ethically similar to paying someone to steal the device, and I think we can all agree that that’s outside the bounds of propriety. Isn’t this just accessory after the fact?

The only way to win the fight for attention

Even in today’s still-uncertain economic times, I would argue that most marketers’ biggest problem is getting the necessary share of time, not share of wallet. In my working life, the time clutter problem has gotten to be the biggest issue for people in the modern economy, across industries.

And nonetheless, we’ve got products and services to sell to businesses and consumers who are just like us — suffering from calendar and inbox overload.

You can cut through the clutter momentarily with a media sensation — the right ad, the right YouTube video — or with PR, good or bad, surrounding something that catches public interest. But if you’re not making your customer’s life better and simpler, you’re not going to win in the long run.

Creating real value: The art of content strategy

I’ve mentioned the cult of action here before. I don’t know if it’s a uniquely modern challenge, but I do know that today’s technology makes it easy to fall into: Your phone syncs with your calendar with your email with your note program with your SharePoint with your brain. You put a task into the system at any point, and it will bedevil you until you complete it. Once you’ve made the decision to “task” something, you’re almost guaranteed to complete it. And in the current business mindset, this is all for the good.

So it is with trepidation that I bring up the particular way that my own profession is damaged by the cult of action. Over the past 2-3 years, digital media has really begun to recognize content strategy and management as a discipline as significant as programming and design. It’s not universally recognized yet, but it’s getting more than lip service in many quarters today.

I think the positive side to this is huge. The mental shift we’re making in thinking about “content strategy and management” instead of about “copy” means that we’re focusing on the business goals of the web property. We’re naming the metrics by which we’ll measure our efforts. We’re making success more likely.

But I think we have not yet escaped the mindset that content is a box to check off of our to-do list. If one piece of content is just as good as another, we aren’t yet employing a strategic mindset.

To make truly strategic decisions — and to take truly strategic actions — about content, we have to view content as a cornerstone in building relationships with our customers. There’s a lot about it that we can measure, and even complete and check off the list. But we can’t transform a human relationship into a series of checkboxes. There’s still an art to content, and as we continue to develop the discipline of content strategy, we must value the art as well as the action.