5 Reasons to Structure Your Content for Genuine Reuse

cotributed Box


  • Doug Heise Vice President, Global Marketing
  • Jun 18, 2013

The Web that we experience today is radically different from the one we experienced as recently as 5 or 6 years ago – and this requires a very different approach to managing and delivering online content. How you exploit your content assets across multiple channels and devices can make the difference between success and failure in the new online ecosystem.

In the days before the mobile internet and ubiquitous broadband, our relationship with the Web was narrower and less intimate. Most people accessed content from a browser on their laptop or PC. The primary driver for going online was simple information access and Web properties were consequently quite static and generic.

The traditional way of managing online content reflected this static relationship. Content was copied from an external source and essentially pasted into a web page. This content was inextricably linked to the design, layout and navigational structure of that page. The only way to use this content in another application or distribution channel was to copy it again and manually insert it into a new document format. The new version became an entirely new asset with no link back to the original source – and no way to understand its original purpose or context.

This approach – which manually repurposes content but does not truly reuse the original asset - might have worked when the number of digital channels was limited and online audiences were small.

But that isn’t our reality today. With the explosion of mobile and social channels, we now use the web to get things done and to enhance an enormous range of everyday activities. Digital channels are exploding and content can be consumed via a bewildering range of methods on an ever growing variety of devices. And as we began to rely on our mobile devices more and more, we are also demanding the ability to access a wider set of content and services – from a wider range of new and legacy data systems.

We are no longer willing to accept a limited, generic or inferior online experience. We all have different needs and goals – and we expect that experience to adapt to reflect our unique history, current context and these goals as we move from one device to another.

Companies wishing to support these requirements will need to understand that this is only possible when content is freed from the narrow constraints of a single distribution channel. In order to ensure the greatest flexibility and value, content must be treated as autonomous objects that have been tagged with descriptive metadata and logically structured to retain the relationship between content items. What is needed is an information-oriented approach that allows Web publishers to separate content not just from presentation, but from physical storage location as well.

Leading global media companies including NPR, the BBC, and Bild.de have been pursuing this approach to content management for a number of years and the results have been impressive.

Here are just a few of the benefits that companies can realize by implementing a modular, structured approach to content reuse:

  • Reduced waste, redundancy and inefficiency
    Manually repurposing content for multiple channels often involves time-consuming, labor-intensive processes. Usually occurring far upstream in the production process, this method can also cause significant production delays. A structured content approach can eliminate the need to revisit the content-creation process whenever content needs to be expressed in new forms. The result is increased efficiency, higher productivity, and lower costs.
  • Improved brand consistency for happier customers and more creative business users
    A company’s brand is its most valuable asset and a bad first impression is difficult to correct. True content reuse offers a way to control the brand message and the visitor experience in a coordinated and consistent way – ensuring that visitors will have a positive, unified experience regardless of touchpoint. This approach also empowers business users to focus more of their energy on creating great customer experiences and less on the manual drudgery of copying content.
  • Easier automation, integration and enhanced scalability
    The logical - and often standards-based - structure of reusable content not only makes it easier to integrate content from external sources, but it allows for improved automation for content processing and distribution. Companies that use industry standard metadata schemas and publish comprehensive APIs will be much better positioned to create automated workflows that link to a broader partner ecosystem for aggregation and syndication of content.
  • Faster time-to-market and improved return on investment for new business opportunities
    Today’s online world is characterized by constant churn. New devices and new business opportunities arise every day. If a company must create an entirely new production and distribution channel for every new channel or opportunity that comes along, it will never be able to beat – or even match – its more nimble competitors.
  • Improved reporting and measurement
    The online experience isn’t restricted to a single experience on a single platform. The customer journey extends across multiple channels and can last for many years. If every content experience on every channel must be tracked separately and manually correlated after the fact, it becomes much harder to measure the impact of a company’s brand across multiple touchpoints – and real-time cross channel analysis is even more difficult.

Discuss this article

There is one comment on this article.

  • (anonymous user)
    Great read! I definitely second the "Reduced waste, redundancy, inefficiency" point. Actually, I think content reuse is one of the key benefits of implementing a CMS.
    Jun 18, 2013 9:32 PM