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Content has never been more important: But content is hard

Content has never been more important: But content is hard

Content has never been more important: But content is hard

Content has never been more important: But content is hard

Angus Edwardson

Co-Founder and VP of Product, GatherContent

Content has been working its way up many lists of priorities long before the pandemic. Recent 'changes' in the way we work have just accelerated this, and brought the importance of content to our attention.  

The idea of "content marketing" has become, for a lot of people, just marketing. The idea that a government, or any public institution, could have services that were not accessible online, is becoming rapidly phased out around the world. These services require a lot of people to create a lot of content.

For most commercial organisations, good quality content is essential if they are to compete in the market - in effect, if an organisation fails to create this 'good quality content', Google will quickly make them non-existent online.

When you add to the mix that nobody can leave their homes...

From small independent businesses, to the largest enterprises on the planet - we all share a reliance on content in order to function today.

But content is hard.


Creating good content is not easy. Writing a single article on your own can be hard work (I know...).

So what about multiple teams of people, responsible for creating large volumes of content, that has to be published to a large number of different places using different tools and technologies.

The average university in North America has 750 websites (Edinburgh university has 10,000). The average enterprise maintains 100,000 webpages (not including their external and social media publishing). At the time of writing this article, around 9,000 new Tweets, and 88,000 new Youtube videos are posted every second of every day[1].

Then consider the fact that content is increasingly regulated, and often has to be passed through a complex approval process before it is able to be published.

Writing this article suddenly seems quite easy.

And what even is 'good content'?

A bit like the process of looking for a house, what seems on the surface to be an obvious set of requirements quickly reveals itself to be fairly complex and demanding. Requirements for content are intense.

We hear a lot of sweeping statements, a lot of which are true for many of us:

  • Content must be configured for SEO
  • Content must be 'on brand' and / or adhere to a style guide
  • Content must be structured (for a lot of 'channels' at least)
  • Content must be legally compliant
  • Content must be legally accessible
  • Content must be created with a particular audience in mind
  • Content must be available in multiple languages
  • Content must deliver measurable results
  • Content must be published quickly
  • Content must be scaled up ("we need to produce more content")

I'm sure we could elaborate on this list, but I think we all get the idea.

Good Content Operations makes it easier

There is clearly a need for dedicated roles and technologies that can facilitate content production and approval across an organisation.

When the usage of technology increased for most companies, we saw a move away from generalist "webmaster" or "website manager" roles, to more sophisticated roles and processes. CTOs became more common in large enterprises, and DevOps became a widely adopted way to talk about this new approach to technology and infrastructure. More importantly, we developed ways to ensure the technology worked for us, was reliable, and was delivering value. Technology as a business asset.

Now we are at a time where content is truly being realised as a business asset, and with that move, we can see huge shifts in the amount of investment in the people, processes and technology required to make sure it too, is delivering value.

It's clear there are three components of effective Content Operations, or ContentOps:

People
Roles and permissions, training programmes, established approval processes and governance responsibilities. As a starting point.

Process
Production workflows, policy, style guides, content design principles, audit trails, measurement and reporting. As a starting point.

Technology
A stack of well integrated tools for creating, publishing and measuring the impact of content. Scheduling, personalisation, automation. As a starting point.

Colleen Jones, formally Head of Content at MailChimp has created a great "Content Operations maturity model", where you can see how you perform. More importantly, this can help you prioritise where to get started in improving.

Content is a product

"Content is not King. Content is a product." - Noz Urbina

It seems that the organisations that are doing the best right now, and those that have adapted the most effectively to the pandemic have a different way of viewing content.

They don't see content as a side-hustle, and they don't have a few isolated people pushing for the importance of content - screaming "content is King", and hoping someone will listen. They have truly embraced it as a part of their way of working, and above all else, they treat it as a product.

Much like the emergence of "Product-Led Growth", or PLG, in the software industry, you can see Content-Led Growth becoming a very effective strategy for a lot of companies to achieve success in today's market.

Content Operations, and the established ways of working it can bring to the table, seems like the best way to operationalise these practices, and level up the way we all work with content.

This has never been more important.

Content has been working its way up many lists of priorities long before the pandemic. Recent 'changes' in the way we work have just accelerated this, and brought the importance of content to our attention.  

The idea of "content marketing" has become, for a lot of people, just marketing. The idea that a government, or any public institution, could have services that were not accessible online, is becoming rapidly phased out around the world. These services require a lot of people to create a lot of content.

For most commercial organisations, good quality content is essential if they are to compete in the market - in effect, if an organisation fails to create this 'good quality content', Google will quickly make them non-existent online.

When you add to the mix that nobody can leave their homes...

From small independent businesses, to the largest enterprises on the planet - we all share a reliance on content in order to function today.

But content is hard.


Creating good content is not easy. Writing a single article on your own can be hard work (I know...).

So what about multiple teams of people, responsible for creating large volumes of content, that has to be published to a large number of different places using different tools and technologies.

The average university in North America has 750 websites (Edinburgh university has 10,000). The average enterprise maintains 100,000 webpages (not including their external and social media publishing). At the time of writing this article, around 9,000 new Tweets, and 88,000 new Youtube videos are posted every second of every day[1].

Then consider the fact that content is increasingly regulated, and often has to be passed through a complex approval process before it is able to be published.

Writing this article suddenly seems quite easy.

And what even is 'good content'?

A bit like the process of looking for a house, what seems on the surface to be an obvious set of requirements quickly reveals itself to be fairly complex and demanding. Requirements for content are intense.

We hear a lot of sweeping statements, a lot of which are true for many of us:

  • Content must be configured for SEO
  • Content must be 'on brand' and / or adhere to a style guide
  • Content must be structured (for a lot of 'channels' at least)
  • Content must be legally compliant
  • Content must be legally accessible
  • Content must be created with a particular audience in mind
  • Content must be available in multiple languages
  • Content must deliver measurable results
  • Content must be published quickly
  • Content must be scaled up ("we need to produce more content")

I'm sure we could elaborate on this list, but I think we all get the idea.

Good Content Operations makes it easier

There is clearly a need for dedicated roles and technologies that can facilitate content production and approval across an organisation.

When the usage of technology increased for most companies, we saw a move away from generalist "webmaster" or "website manager" roles, to more sophisticated roles and processes. CTOs became more common in large enterprises, and DevOps became a widely adopted way to talk about this new approach to technology and infrastructure. More importantly, we developed ways to ensure the technology worked for us, was reliable, and was delivering value. Technology as a business asset.

Now we are at a time where content is truly being realised as a business asset, and with that move, we can see huge shifts in the amount of investment in the people, processes and technology required to make sure it too, is delivering value.

It's clear there are three components of effective Content Operations, or ContentOps:

People
Roles and permissions, training programmes, established approval processes and governance responsibilities. As a starting point.

Process
Production workflows, policy, style guides, content design principles, audit trails, measurement and reporting. As a starting point.

Technology
A stack of well integrated tools for creating, publishing and measuring the impact of content. Scheduling, personalisation, automation. As a starting point.

Colleen Jones, formally Head of Content at MailChimp has created a great "Content Operations maturity model", where you can see how you perform. More importantly, this can help you prioritise where to get started in improving.

Content is a product

"Content is not King. Content is a product." - Noz Urbina

It seems that the organisations that are doing the best right now, and those that have adapted the most effectively to the pandemic have a different way of viewing content.

They don't see content as a side-hustle, and they don't have a few isolated people pushing for the importance of content - screaming "content is King", and hoping someone will listen. They have truly embraced it as a part of their way of working, and above all else, they treat it as a product.

Much like the emergence of "Product-Led Growth", or PLG, in the software industry, you can see Content-Led Growth becoming a very effective strategy for a lot of companies to achieve success in today's market.

Content Operations, and the established ways of working it can bring to the table, seems like the best way to operationalise these practices, and level up the way we all work with content.

This has never been more important.

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About the author

Angus Edwardson

Angus is Co-founder and VP of Product at GatherContent, where he focusses on the product and research areas of the business – looking into the future of content management, and trying to improve the way organisations create and deliver information. A board member of the European Information Architecture Summit, he has been heavily involved with the Content Strategy, CMS, and product management communities for several years, and frequently writes and speaks around the intersection of these disciplines.

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