Content Management Finds Meaning

Oct 12, 2010

The content ecosystem includes strategy, authoring/acquisition, storage, publishing, measurement, and search -- not one-size-fits-all, but tailored to the production medium and to business goals -- bound together by metadata, policy, and workflow. Myself, I see the whole shebang as enterprise content management. Admittedly, there is another dominant view in which many see ECM as focusing on storage. Regardless of definition, ecosystem elements must play nice if we're to have managed, governed content. It's good management, in the content world, just as in other business domains, that creates efficiency (cost control) and effectiveness (profit). And in the content world, as in other domains, it's analytics-data driven decision making-that supports good management, with a special role played by semantics, technology that turns content into data to enable better content management and an enriched experience for content consumers.

Web analytics is one example of the mainstream application of analytics to content, and most publishers now have at least a basic understanding of how semantics can deliver a richer search experience-search of course being a content-access tool we all rely on in the face of much-talked-about information overload. But what's the overall impact of analytics and semantics-content analytics-on content management, whether broadly or narrowly defined? Not surprisingly, each had a very different response.

John Blossom, founder and president of Shore Communications -- and a presenter and moderator at the upcoming Smart Content conference on October 19 in New York -- addressed the changing world of content consumption and production. "Content Management Systems are changing from being front ends that provide workflow and formatting tools for editorially assembled databases to being services that enable content to reach audiences successfully once it is published," says Blossom. "Powering this trend is the availability of analytics services and semantic processing tools that look at both content that's being viewed on the Web already and content that's being prepared for publication. The driver that compels publishers to use these tools is the hunt for elusive relevance and visibility for their content in an online world that rewards content that can be found via search engines and that's aligned with trending topics in social media and online portals... Analytics tools that evaluate online sources, including so-called real-time status update services such as Twitter, can be integrated into CMS platforms to make publishers more aware of the keywords and topics that are resonating with audiences at a given point in time. Similarly, semantic analysis tools can evaluate both online content and content being prepared for publication to determine which phrases, keywords and headlines are most likely to align with those resonating topics."

Blossom sees a role for analytics and semantics for both content producers and content consumers, and even sees possibilities for integrating web-harvested content intelligence in enterprise content-production processes. He also sees as desirable the integration of smart-content solutions into content-management platforms.

Tom Erickson, a founding board member, and CEO of Acquia focuses more on matching customer needs through analytics and semantics. "The promise of these technologies for content management is their ability to improve the experience for site visitors. The combination of analytics and semantics means marketers and content owners can automate the delivery of targeted, optimized content, based on the visitor's previous click patterns on the site," says Erickson. "Whether it's recommended articles, suggested products or specific content elements within a page, automated content targeting means that users can the content they want faster, with fewer clicks. Great content brings people to your website, CMS-based automation that takes advantage of analytics and semantic technology helps keep your visitors on your site longer." In other words, for Erickson, the key benefit of analytics and semantics is better user-consumer experience, which translates into more effective content publishing.

Director of ECM product strategy at IBM Craig Rhinehart's take matches that of Blossom and Erickson, but it goes further to touch on control and governance issues. Of course, Rhinehart -- who will host a "lightning talk" at Smart Content -- has a perspective that reflects IBM enterprise-customer concerns. "When you understand that 85% of all stored information is unstructured content, when you realize the growth is out of control-volume has been doubling every three years and is expected to grow 44 times by 2020-you quickly conclude that you can't buy enough storage or deploy enough human beings even just to gain control or better manage all that content. Content analysis-better comprehension about the documents and the information that resides within the text-can help organizations reduce storage and energy costs and determine what content is actually critical to business."

Each of my three respondents sees analytics and semantics as aiding both content publishers and consumers, not only by enriching content, but by also enhancing content production and delivery processes. These responses, however, are only a starting point for a more complete exploration of content analytics, solutions that play an essential role in creating content that is meaningful, findable, more useful for information consumers, and more profitable for content producers.