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.