ANALYSIS & OPINION

All about the process

Content agility is the first step to digital transformation, writes Steffanie Ness

Content is a publisher’s most valuable asset; it sits at the core of all business and it’s what makes an organisation unique. To maximise the lifetime value of content, publishers must build in an agile approach to content from the very beginning to help them map, define and prioritise their digital transformation journey. 

Arriving at a place where content is truly agile is a process, and should not be thought of as an end-product. Instead, organisations should think of content as their DNA: dynamic building-blocks that can be recycled, recombined and repurposed. 

A piece of content can take many forms – it can be part of an e-book, a webpage, an interactive app, an insight and data service, a dedicated research platform, a personalised news feed. Finding and reusing content is key to getting the maximum value from an organisation’s assets. As simple as this might sound, there are specific steps that must be taken to arrive at this place of agile content. More specifically, there are five key areas of focus that publishers must address.

Scale your content storage

A content model determines how content is defined, described and disseminated, internally and externally. Selecting the right model provides a solid foundation to efficiently and effectively ingest, manage and distribute content. 

In this increasingly rich media age, where content has expanded to include video, audio, PDF and a host of other formats, ensuring that content is managed and maintained centrally in a scalable, accessible platform is critical. 

Being able to access stored content from different locations and devices enables collaboration throughout organisations, allowing workers to be more productive. With everything in the same place, it is easier to keep control of your intellectual property and products. 

Search that delivers

Incorporating powerful search and discovery tools into a publisher’s content environment is essential. A study by IDC showed that an enterprise with 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $48,000 per week due to an inability to locate and retrieve information.

Consistent metadata tags across the system allow relevant items to surface, regardless of other qualities like file format and folder location. By ensuring assets can be found, filtered and manipulated, and by enabling context-based discovery and suggestions, organisations can better serve both internal production teams and end-consumers. 

Ensuring that all content – whether new or back catalogue, and regardless of text, image or multimedia format – is easily locatable and auditable also facilitates rights and regulatory compliance, providing valuable insight into how and where a publisher’s assets are being used.

Collaboration is paramount

Content creators work best as a team. Once content is made more discoverable and accessible, integrating functionality and tools to drive digital collaboration is key. Automating product preparation, where possible, frees creators to spend time on the specialist tasks that really matter. 

Providing intuitive tools for collaborative working, built into publishing workflows and integrated with familiar tools such as Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign, ensures teams are as agile as the content. 

Automating workflows also enables shorter, more efficient proofing and review cycles, allowing organisations to gain time and cost efficiencies and ultimately speeding time to market. For example, structured content can be automatically transformed into multiple output formats (such as EPUB3, PDF, HTML), which enables parallel, multi-channel and multi-format publishing. 

Get granular

Giving agility to content means moving away from viewing content as something that is static and single-use. Instead, publishers should approach content as something dynamic and flexible, which can be enriched and enhanced to create multiple outputs. 

This means using structured content (typically XML or HTML) as early as possible in the production process. Once an asset has been separated from format and broken down into granular, reusable chunks, it is easier to store, find scale and manage. 

Enrich away

Giving content more context once it is produced, held and distributed in a granular form requires enrichment. Semantic enrichment is about assigning meaning to data, making it easily discoverable when needed, and relating it to other content sets or assets to develop new services. 

Annotating content with semantic mark-up and metadata enriches its meaning, enhances its value and enables new use-cases and product innovation. Requiring content to be structured and semantically tagged means it becomes more discoverable, and also develops powerful associability. This means it can be resurfaced where it’s most relevant, or linked to other pre-existing datasets to create brand new content services. 

In conclusion, it should be noted that moving away from product-centric thinking does not mean that there are no end products; rather it means that content is endowed with the flexibility and agility to create myriad end-products. Content agility means being able to manipulate and deliver content in any way and to meet any opportunity; maximising revenues, quickening time to market and empowering your consumers.

Steffanie Ness is regional vice president for sales at Ixxus, a subsidiary of Copyright Clearance Center

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