Here to stay

I recently shared a set of answers about “context first” with Canadian publishing site Quill & Quire. I’ve found a link to the interview, but you may get stuck in front of a subscription wall.

This post explains why context is “here to stay”. Previous posts described the difference between “context” and “container” and outlined a business case for context.

What is the most effective model for publishers to manage their content?

Although models vary by publisher, certain principles apply. To me, moving from a mindset of “product” to “service” or “solutions” means at least four things for publishers:

  • As noted in my answer about customization, content must become open, accessible and interoperable. Adherence to standards will not be an option;
  • As described above in talking about discovery, publishers will need to focus more clearly on using context to promote discovery (this includes real-time measurement);
  • Because publishers are competing with businesses that already use low- and no-cost tools, trying to beat them on the cost of content is a losing proposition. Instead, they need to develop opportunities that encourage broader use of their content; and
  • Publishers will distinguish themselves if they can provide readers with tools that draw upon context to help them manage abundance. This service mindset is a significant shift.

To make all of these things possible, publisher will need to evaluate their approach to content creation, management and distribution and revise their workflows with the end uses for content in mind.

How can technicians work cohesively with publishers to achieve results with the context-first model?

In my experience, the best partnerships start with conversations about outcomes, not technologies or platforms. It’s always tempting to chase a technology, like an updated content management system, or a perceived solution, like an app. Sometimes these things are necessary investments.

But the technology is not the solution; giving readers what they want and need is key. Both publishers and technology specialists should start there and then test smaller solutions that can confirm or refine what they initially found. Projects that involve lots of moving parts and long lead times are more likely to miss the market.

The overarching theme seems rather McLuhanesque; do you envision any type of reversal down the road?

I recently wrote that in a digital world, “how publishers work is ultimately how they compete”. Not quite “the medium is the message”, but it does reflect my sense that the new technologies open a door for both established publishers and new entrants.

If we continue to use digital workflows to fill physical and digital containers, we will have fewer options to cost-effectively market and reuse content. As content from all sources becomes only more abundant – a trend I don’t think will change – readers will have much more choice. Prices will fall, and the traditional processes will yield products that command less revenue.

Publishers that use this time to change workflows and invest in context will increase the extent to which their content will be discovered and consumed. They will also be able to look at opportunities to re-use content, offsetting at least some of the impact that we all face as prices decline.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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