"Why content strategy is a big deal for UX professionals" - Jonathan Kahn at Lightning UX

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 4 February 2011

Tuesday night was Lightning UX night, featuring 8 speakers delivering five minutes each on a variety of UX and IA related topics. Earlier today I blogged my notes from Boon Chew's talk about "How a developer became a ux designer". The second talk on the evening came from Jonathan Kahn, and it was about the relationship between content strategy and UX.

"Why content strategy is a big deal for UX professionals" - Jonathan Kahn

I had an epiphany moment during Jonathan's talk. He put up a grid that showed the four key components of a good content strategy. Two of them were to do with content - structure and style substance [see correction in the comments]. Two of them were to do with people - workflow and governance. It was only really when I saw that grid that I fully appreciated the extent to which content strategy has just simply never been a problem for me. At the Guardian we have a style editor, so that is one box taken care of, and our editorial workflow and governance procedures are well established.

Since I've mostly specialised in working for media companies, my problems have usually been an over-abundance of content, rather than the "11th hour shit-storm" of wondering where the content is going to come from that Karen McGrane mentioned when I chaired a content strategy panel early last year.

If, on the other hand, you frequently work with clients who have nothing to put up on the beautiful new website you've designed for them, you may be interested in a conference that Jonathan is organising for later this year - Content Strategy Forum 2011.

I don't really need to add much more to my notes here, as Jonathan has helpfully posted a video of him giving Tuesday's talk - well worth five minutes of your time.

4 Comments

Hi Martin,

Thanks so much for the writeup!

A small correction: the "content components" of content strategy are substance and structure, not style. The diagram I used is based on Brain Traffic's model, here's a relevant blog post.

Useful observation - this underlines the point about content strategy being, in part, the transfer of editorial processes to non-traditional publishers.

If your organisation has content as a product, those elements are already a given. If not - welcome to the pain.


Great summary, and a fantastic short talk from Jonathan. (Lightning talks are deceptively difficult, for those who have never given one.)

I also work with many publishers, and in some cases I'm reluctant to try and provide content strategy services to them. I don't need to tell them what to publish, or to define their workflow or governance model, because that's their whole business.

However, many publishers are starting to adopt content strategy as a term they use, such as this piece about content strategy at Forbes or the quote from the president of Meredith that they don't hire editors, they hire content strategists.

I think this reflects two shifts in the publishing landscape. First, like many other businesses, publishers now have to provide an experience for USERS, which is different from providing an experience for readers. Publishers obviously are great at understanding their audience, but the requirements for doing that well online are different.

Second, the traditional wall between editorial and publishing, between content and business, is breaking down. Editorial doesn't have the luxury of focusing solely on the message and leaving someone else to worry about how to make money off it. Content strategy blends editorial and business quite well—it's right there in the name.

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