Both Content and Context are King
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Both Content and Context are King

Ariana French, Director, Digital Technology, American Museum of Natural History and Matthew Tarr, Director, Digital Architect, American Museum of Natural History
Ariana French, Director, Digital Technology, American Museum of Natural History

Ariana French, Director, Digital Technology, American Museum of Natural History

A milestone in technology was quietly reached in January 2014. For the first time in the history of the World Wide Web, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic.

On the surface, this turning point was the simple consequence of increased smartphone sales and growing consumer interest in iOS and Android apps. Convenience, form-factor, and price quickly created a robust consumer market for mobile devices, no doubt bolstered by the release of the first mobile browsers capable of rendering modern web pages. The ongoing demand for advances in mobile technology sees smartphone manufacturers regularly shattering sales records.

"If your enterprise content strategy isn’t keeping up with current trends in content consumption, then your content delivery systems can’t reach the newer potential"

Yet if we dig a little deeper, we see how transformative and complex this event actually was. The real milestone in January 2014 was a fundamental, collective shift in the public’s relationship with digital content.

There was a time when all web users were seated comfortably at a desk, searching Yahoo or Google or The New York Times for the content they wished to consume via their large, non-touch screen with a mouse and a keyboard in front of them, but that time has passed. Because of this, also gone is the era of organizational content strategy grounded in a desktop-focused content management system (CMS). Today’s content is both produced and consumed across a dizzying array of platforms, devices, and locales. From mobile-centric social media outlets to informational kiosks to iPads on kitchen counters, the challenge of delivering effective digital content can seem overwhelming. Bringing this challenge into a focused organizational framework is no small task, but it can be achieved with a well-developed and versatile content strategy.

How consumers engage with content is changing as well. Web users are moving from a model of requesting, or pulling, content—going to a web page, for instance—to a blended modality that includes both pulled content and pushed content, such as alerts and notifications. By understanding the users’ context through a wide array of tools—browsing patterns, search history, social media activity, device type and brand, physical location, time of day, and signals among them—the modern web pushes “appropriate” and “timely” content to us. This mixed pattern of content consumption has been trending higher in recent years, and was even named “the next big platform” for mobile services.

As an example of the pushed/pulled content experience, the next update of the Explorer app at the American Museum of Natural History will provide context-sensitive ticket information for mobile ticket holders. Imagine, 15 minutes prior to the Museum’s planetarium show, the app alerts the visitor of their show time with a notification and provides directions to the planetarium from the visitor’s current location. This notification has a functional purpose of way finding and preventing tardy arrivals. It also has a slightly less obvious benefit: to draw the visitor’s attention back to the app for additional interactions with interpretive content, thereby enriching the visitor experience.Matthew Tarr, Director, Digital Architect, American Museum of Natural History

Pushed content, like this notification, is just a small piece of the fragmented landscape of digital content delivery but it merits special attention for what it represents. It’s an example of what consumers increasingly desire: content and services that provide value in a given context. Which is more valuable: discount codes and car reviews delivered to your desktop computer as part of a pre-scheduled mass emailing, or the same content delivered to your phone when you’re researching or making a rental car reservation?

Obviously the former is more valuable, but value is delivered not only in the context of the content experience, but also in the usefulness of that content. Crafting superior, appropriate content for your customers for multiple channels, contexts, and devices should be a cornerstone of your content strategy and a key function supported by your CMS. The difficulty and level of effort to produce content should not be underestimated, as it is a critical aspect of content strategy-although not a technical issue.

How do you know if your strategy and CMS are aligned? Here are five tips to help you align your content strategy and CMS to the current consumer landscape:

1. Start with a gap analysis on your current CMS and content strategy. Are both current with your target audiences’ needs and working well together?

2. Create and deliver context-sensitive content and images. Are you writing desktop-length content for a topic accessed largely by a mobile audience? Consider tailoring your writing approach to each channel and audience.

3. Know and listen to your audience. Get feedback and see how your content is being consumed and used. Make adjustments based on that information.

4. Iterate. Look at your analytics, adjust your strategy and content delivery systems, and then repeat the cycle.

5. Match your strategy to your staffing. A mismatch between organizational goals and your ability to produce multi-channel content will slow you down as much as a mismatch between your strategy and your CMS.

Think about your organization’s content strategy whether it’s an explicit policy or an implicit practice. Now think about your organization’s enterprise content management systems. Is each supporting the other? Is your content strategy revised on a scheduled timetable? Does it attempt to capture the multidimensional landscape of channels, contexts, and content consumption patterns? Increasingly, both content and context are king. If your enterprise content strategy isn’t keeping up with current trends in content consumption, then your content delivery systems can’t reach the newer potential members of your audience base.

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