Monday, August 31, 2009

Content Strategy Is Global!

I've been watching the percentage of Content Strategy readers that come from outside the U.S. grow rapidly this year. Yes, I admit it. I actually look at my server logs and enjoy it.

Content strategy is getting a LOT of global attention. So much so that these days, I get more than half of my site traffic from outside the U.S., and it's growing.

If the big STC event featuring Content Strategy next Spring in Paris is not enough to convince you, then maybe this list of visitor's countries for just the last 20 days will:
(In no particular order)
  1. Finland
  2. Germany
  3. New Zealand
  4. Spain
  5. India
  6. Netherlands
  7. Israel
  8. England
  9. Greece
  10. Canada
  11. Australia
  12. Kenya
  13. Turkey
  14. Switzerland
  15. Puerto Rico
  16. Brazil
  17. France
  18. Portugal
  19. Hungary
  20. Italy
  21. China
  22. USA
  23. South Africa
  24. Denmark
  25. Singapore
  26. Ireland
  27. Ukraine
  28. South Korea
  29. Romania
  30. Nigeria
  31. Scotland
  32. Costa Rica
  33. Ghana
  34. Iceland
  35. Belgium
  36. Sweden
  37. Mexico
  38. Poland
  39. Japan
  40. Russia
  41. Iceland
Content Strategists are everywhere! It just makes sense. I'm sure that crappy, late content sucks just as bad in the Ukraine as it does in Atlanta.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Content Strategy and the Problem with Personas

I'm surprised that I still see so much conversation about having a personalized user experience as a content strategy these days. If you have a large e-commerce site, or maybe a news related site, then you have millions of pages of content to work with and enough data to really offer a unique experience for every person like Amazon does. Most sites are just not like that. Does an online bank really have enough different content to try and create a different site for every user? Probably not.

But what many of us do have is user personas. If you are not familiar with personas then a quick Google search should get you up to speed. But basically, personas are a way to identify and group similar users with similar traits that are relevant to your site. For example “Frank is a small business owner. He is computer savvy and likes to do things himself. Frank likes control and options.”

Creating a different user experience based on these personas seems very do-able for most sites, but usually will require the creation of a lot of new content to fill in all the gaps for each user type.

The Problem that Can’t be Solved with Content

Here is the main problem I see with many persona-based content strategies:

How do you get people to accurately self-select themselves into a persona type?

The usual solution is to get them to register, and enter enough information so that the system can make a good decision. If all your personas are comprised of people with only positive personality traits, then this may work. But most persona groups are not like that.

Almost every persona group has at least one user that is something like this: “Gary is a technophobe who still likes his VHS tapes. He avoids risk, avoids change, and does not like investigating new and innovative features.”

What kinds of questions can you possibly ask during the registration process that would get someone to place themselves into that group? Few people want to willingly associate themselves with these kinds of negative personality traits.

Personas are great for use during design so that you make sure that a design can accommodate all kinds of users, but they may have limited ability to drive a content strategy for the creation of a “persona-ized” user experience.

If you are working content strategy for a project where different content is planned on being served to users based on user type, be sure to figure out exactly how you are going to automatically place each user into one of these groups before you get too far into development. Don’t let the designers and programmers assume that somehow the writers will magically solve this problem with clever content. Address it up front.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Content Strategist Needed for a Great Cause - Job Opening is looking for an awesome content strategist who is passionate about content strategy, children's issues, and community service.

They are a fun group to work with who understand the importance of a good work/life balance and never miss a chance to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Work for a cause that brings permanency to the lives of children in foster care.

The mission of AdoptUsKids is to recruit and connect foster and adoptive families with waiting children throughout the United States.

As of today - 11,138 children previously featured on AdoptUsKids now live with permanent families!

AdoptUsKids is a non-profit project supported solely by a cooperative agreement between the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children & Families, the US Department of Health & Human Services, and the Adoption Exchange Association. AdoptUsKids collaborative partners include: University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, Northwest Adoption Exchange, North American Council on Adoptable Children, and The Adoption Exchange Inc. The project is currently funded through September 2012. is the project’s online resource for recruiting and connecting foster and adoptive families with children waiting in foster care. The staff is responsible for the design, development, monitoring and maintenance of the website.

Content Strategist/Writer for Electronic Media


  • Help AdoptUsKids build and maintain a consistent editorial voice in all communications and a compelling story that supports the recruitment, retention and connection of prospective foster/adoptive parents with children who are in foster care
  • In addition, the Content Strategist/Writer will work closely with a writer with expertise in child welfare and adoption to develop content specifically for an audience of child welfare professionals
  • Determine content structure and requirements for the website, inventory existing content, identify gaps, evaluate possible sources for additional material, and manage the process of getting content into production
  • Collaborate on an overall UX strategy, restructuring the website and creating, reworking/rewriting content to meet the business objectives
  • Develop, implement, and maintain frequently updated content and the editorial calendar. Work with partners to establish a process for keeping content current and relevant
  • Assist in the content development of AdoptUsKids social networking and marketing strategies to assure a consistently identifiable brand across the AdoptUsKids project
This is a great opportunity for the right content strategist do to a job that you can feel good about on many levels. They seem very flexible as well. The Preferred locations are Seattle, Detroit, or Baltimore metro area, but off-site employment will be considered depending on qualifications.

More information on the Content Strategy Job

Do you need help filling a Content Strategy job position?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Content Strategy Storms South By Southwest Interactive!

Those of you who know me or follow this blog know that I make pilgrimage to Austin, TX every year for the South by Southwest Interactive festival. SXSW Interactive is part of a larger two week event that also features the best in movies and live music.

I attend to learn what is hot and what everyone in the design and Web development world is up to. I don't go to learn about content strategy issues as content is just not a topic of discussion. Until next year that is.

People have submitted their panel proposals for next year and content and content strategy are making a big appearance in the list!

Part of the process for selecting which panels will actually be offered includes a public voting component called the Panel Picker.

So if you are inclined to go to SXSW next year in March, or you just want to help out your fellow content strategy peeps, check out the online Panel Picker and vote for some or all of the content strategy focused panels! (registration is free and easy):

It's always a blast to attend. It's the only big conference I attend every year where all the evening's parties are listed right in the official daily calendar along with the panel!

Once it gets a bit closer, we can see who is planning on going and set up one or two content strategy meetups.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Content Strategy Jobs Postings Up 79% Since 2008

Despite the bad economy, the number or job postings for content strategists is up 79% since January 2008 according to statistics gathered by job posting aggregator,

It looks like the cyclical pattern in content strategy hiring that I've noticed for the past three years will repeat itself again this year. The pattern goes like this:
  1. Flat demand from January to April
  2. A big spike in April and June
  3. Slowly falling demand for the rest of the year
I'm guessing that projects get ramped up early in the year, things really heat up in late spring content-strategy-wise, then new hiring slows down as projects end and everyone waits to see what budgets are like for the next year.

This year's peak in June was higher than the peak in 2008. More evidence that content strategy is continuing to expand as a practice. We must be doing something right!

Any way you look at it, this is good news for content strategy as a practice and for working and aspiring content strategists.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

AIMA - CHI Atlanta Content Strategy Gathering

I needed a bit of prodding from @flannelenigma and others (thanks), so here is a brief summary of what happened at the recent Content Strategy vs. IT vs. Marketing vs. Design vs. UX smack down panel sponsored by AIMA and Chia Atlanta.


Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic, President
Author, "Content Strategy for the Web"

USER EXPERIENCE: Karen McGrane, Bond Art + Science
Senior Partner

MARKETING: John Muehlbauer, InterContinental Hotels Group
Director, Distribution Marketing

VISUAL DESIGN: Brian Ikeda, Philips Design
Senior Art Director

CMS / IT: Ryan Esparza, Content Management Consultant
Past Online Applications Manager at The Home Depot

Despite some poking and prodding by moderator Kristina Halvorson (who was delightful and smart, as usual), the panelist were all just too nice, reasonable, and professional to get into any kind of really heated debate about why content continues to be an issue for Web projects. But that fact remains that it IS an issue. I can’t believe we have not figured this out yet - we’ve been doing these projects for fifteen years now right?

Anyway, if only everyone was as easy to work with in my real-life projects as the panelists!

Putting aside the overall niceness level, these were all very sharp folks with some interesting things to say.

The two points that struck home for me are:

1 - The CMS is never done and dedicated IT professionals are needed to run it.

This was a surprising statement from the IT side and I completely agree. Too often (maybe always?) I see the CMS treated just like any other back-end system by the IT team that supports it. The support and development team is staffed by generic developers with no real interest in content management systems and no interest in becoming CMS experts and having that be a career focus.

I’m hoping that eventually the IT practice will be broken up into specialized areas that support a particular business function. The Web group would have their own IT resources, accounting would have theirs, operations would have theirs etc. This would encourage them to be more focused on their internal customers and less on pleasing the CTO.

In my group the people who produce content and new website designs and improvements are graded on items that are 180 degrees opposed to what the IT group gets graded on. The IT group gets evaluated on making sure the site is up, that there are few bugs and defect logs. The best way to accomplish this is to never change anything. “Isn’t the Web site done yet?” Whereas the design/content group gets graded and how much we can change and improve the site, get new users, increase conversions, etc. We want to change the site every day! We are never going to see eye-to-eye with the current structure.

2 - All departments represented strongly agree that there needs to be a “decider” for all Web content issues.

There needs to be someone with real power to make decisions stick, not someone who is just a speed bump in the escalation path. When the escalation path is used for every difficult decision, then people at the lower level just stop making decisions. Why bother, you are just going to get run over, reversed, or second guessed by people greatly removed from the details.

Kristina pointed out that IBM actually has an editor-in-chief who is close to the projects and has the final say. I’m sure final is not always final, but I think having someone in that role helps keep the process moving.

It was great to see so many people in Atlanta show up for yet another Content Strategy focused event. We are getting a lot of support here and hopefully, good things will spread and we can find a way to reduce the number of projects plagued with content issues.

We should be having another CHI Atlanta - Content Strategy Meetup before too long so stay tuned for that!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Content Strategy and Information Architecture - Can't We All Just Get Along?

There is an interesting new thread of conversation going over in the Google Groups Content Strategy area about how content strategists and IAs can partner.

In my view, both disciplines are similar in that you can't NOT do them. You can do them intentionally, completely, and with a plan, or you can do them by accident, partially, and just get what you get.

If there is content at all, someone decided on the voice and tone and structure. They decided who needed to approve and review it etc. The same goes for IA, if there is information and structure, then there is an information architecture, it just may be a really bad one.

Content strategy and information architecture attempt to put structure, intent, best practices, and customer focus around these activities and often have similar skills, just with a different focus.

James puts it well when he describes how content strategists and IAs are working well together on his project and how content strategits have really added value to the process.

"In my view a Content Strategist has attributes of Web Strategist and an Information Architect, but there focus is different. One of the major pieces of our project was auditing our existing content, and learning what we thought we could leverage and what needed to be written. Naively I thought there was a lot we could recycle based on what I read Ann Rockley's book "Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy" and her thoughts content re-use - excerpt here: However the more we reviewed the more we realized that to move away from Corporate Centric content to a User Centered approach we realized none of the existing content could be re- worked, it needed to be rewritten. The oher item we realized was a web content format needs to be much tighter and to the point balancing user needs, SEO and site goals. Again a custom template needed to develop for the Copy Writers to follow to balance these elements. All of these insights and the approaches to address them were brought toour attention by our Content Strategist."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Content Strategy eBook to Print Version Conversion

Great to see that so many folks liked the ebook version of The Web Content Strategist's Bible enough to come back later and get a printed version! Thanks :)

Price-wise, it all adds up to the same amount whether you buy both at once, or get the ebook first and come back later for the printed version. Come to think of it, it's actually even a little cheaper to get the ebook first since the shipping and handling are included in the $9.00 if you get the ebook first and come back to get the print version later.

For those who missed the announcement, if you have an ebook version of my content strategy book, just send and email to me ( and I'll confirm your purchase then send you a printed version for just USD$9.00 (U.S. only - outside the U.S. it's $6.00 plus actual shipping charges.)