By Interactive Strategies
Mar 30, 2012

The 'C' in CMS

Recently, Cory Jurentkuff, our 'Director Of Content Strategy & Communications' and, thus, all things writerly emailed us all a very interesting blog post by Sara Wachter-Boettcher.  I must say, it’s enlivening to work in a culture where such thoughtful and thought provoking content is spread so easily and purposefully, because, as a programmer and CMS advocate, this article really got the juices flowing.

I’ve decided to share some thoughts in a two part essay regarding the state of content in the CMS, solid architectural planning for present and future content and channel delivery needs, and a discussion of the way content needs to be as flexible as these channels are and will be.  We know where content may go now, but we have no idea what that content will be doing tomorrow or next century.

In this first installment, I’ll be describing the world of content as I see it as a technologist and someone who’s been in this game a long while, and even as a consumer of content, which I have been for 41 years. In the second installment, I’ll look at how technologists and creatives should be thinking about content and how to label and structure it in that place where the rubber hits the road – the CMS.


Part I: Present Perfect and Future Tenses

I’ve been involved in building out several CMS solutions recently using the Sitecore CMS+DMS platform.  We all know what a CMS is, and I’ll get into what a DMS is shortly, because it meshes so well with what Sara was getting at.  If I read her correctly, and this article is in no means a critique, we are at once loosing absolute control of our content (not to mention absolute control of design) and at the same time, given the opportunity to assess where we are in regaining control of our content.

I will speak as a dry practitioner of the programmatic arts, and refer to you creative types as ‘you’.  You’re writing for the web and so much more, and you’re most likely not going to revisit your content later because in this day of agile and responsive everything and small teams, if you don’t think ahead, you’re writings will fall short of tomorrow’s needs, because there is always something else to do!  You need the structures and fields right now, while the muse is with you, to provide what the marketers, content strategists, designers, UX specialists, and decision makers will need some time far in the future … like the day after tomorrow.

So what is a Digital Marketing Suite?  Its several things, but most apropos to our conversation, it’s a delivery system to all channels of communication.  Along with Sitecore’s Social Connected Module, the DMS allows for pushing CMS content to all current channels of digital delivery.  We’re talking web placement including sidebar content, homepage call outs, aggregate pages, detail pages, search results, landing pages, and even sitemap links if you really think about it.

But wait, there’s more!  There’s more going on in our content driven world.  Email campaign content, newsletter content, tweets, Facebook walls, Facebook ads, mobile ads, Google and Doubleclick ads, and the new horizon of personalized web content which follows the same segmentation of usage patterned profile behavior modeling that ad delivery already profits from.  And its not just personalized web content we’re talking about, its personalized everywhere; web, mobile, email, SMS, even good old fashioned print.  You write it, and it will go somewhere.  Maybe not today, but tomorrow or next decade. Don’t assume anything, and that’s the real trick, but know that everything you write may very well go to use in any of these mediums, and all of these mediums should be pulling content from n authoritative, central source which allows us to thus, retain or regain some modicum of control over the message.

We’re still in the infancy of the web, but we’re starting to get a longer view of data, which is the superset of content.  Data will live forever.  Wikipedia is the perfect example of that.  While Wikipedia may have millions of content writers constantly revising and polishing, the content that lives in your CMS will probably live much, much longer than you think, and if it is well written and structured, then it will be available and useful to content delivery and aggregation services that we can’t even think of right now.  I find it totally plausible that content written today will be mined for useful purposes, both public and private, for centuries to come on platforms and in channels still to be invented.  To give those services many facets to the same informational unit will to be of service to marketing needs today, informational needs tomorrow, and research or historical needs far in the future.

You ready? Lets go!  Forget what you knew.  Stop designing to pixels and start designing for fluidity in all realms.  Stop marketing something and start marketing to someone.  Don’t write once for one place and think you’re done. Designing CMS’s for the web alone won’t cut it, start programming for the unknown!

In the next installment, I’ll circle back around to Sara’s blog and talk about some definite strategies to allow for content flexibility into the future.

(202) 223-8656