“Making sense of the (new) new content landscape” - Erin Kissane at Content Strategy Forum 2011

 by Martin Belam, 6 September 2011

Download this, and all of my notes from the Content Strategy Forum as one printable PDF or in epub format for iBooks

Continuing my series of blog posts from the sessions I have been attending at the Content Strategy Forum, here are my notes from Erin Kissane’s talk about “Making sense of the (new) new content landscape”

Erin Kissane - “Making sense of the (new) new content landscape”

Erin Kissane started by saying that whether it was IBM putting up thousand page manuals, or you putting up pictures of the baby on Facebook, “publishing is one of the central acts of our age”.

She pointed out that even though we have been working with clients for nearly twenty years telling them that “web != print”, we are still only a little way into the digital publishing revolution. It took 200 years, she said, for the full ramification of the printing press to be felt in society and economics, and we are, at the most, 50 years into the computerised publishing revolution.

The problem is that, quite naturally, faced with a huge level of change like that, people behave reactively and tactically. Erin said you can often go into a new client and “see the wreckage piled up behind them as they jumped from one new thing to another”. Organisations don’t do this because they are stupid, she said, they do it because they are made of people.

“We are in an odd period right now”, Erin said, “as even the people we might expect to be able to predict the future can’t”. She cited Eric Schmidt predicting that mobile would overtake desktop in 2013, only to have to say a few weeks later that actually, this had already happened by the end of Q4 2010. Or analyists saying Apple could expect to shift 3.3m iPads, when they sold 14.8m.

Erin then went through some of the problems that content producers were making for themselves as they try to produce content in these new formats. Using the example of the Wired iPad app, she said that with the real object you can do lots of things with it, “including rolling it up and hitting the cat”, but the iPad edition didn’t even allow you to copy text, as it was basically a collection of large images.

(I must say, I think one thing with the Wired app is that they were quick to market, and obviously, that speed must have caused them to descope features they knew they would have ideally wanted)

Erin Kissane then went on to explore the idea of interconnectedness - which is, I think, one of the most important new “things” that digital publishing gives us. “Interconnectedness is not”, she stressed, “thirty little sharing icons at the foot of an article”. Instead she identified things liked shared higlighting and marginalia in Kindle books, and the introduction of some lending capability as an example of “incremental interconnectedness”.

She also made a point about the danger of sacrificing that “interconnectedness”. She cited the Times of London’s huge traffic drop (she quoted 97% of users but did not source the figure) by dropping “an impenetrable pay dome over all their content”, or pointing out that the content in branded native iOS apps is unsearchable. She compared that with the “pay fence” of the New York Times, suggesting it allowed you still to “use the web” via search or links, but added some revenue.

Her final point was about frameworks. She said that we tend to be looking around for frameworks, and praising the frameworks, but in the end, it isn’t the framework itself that matters. It is the moment when you step into a cathedral and are in awe that all of the little bricks and architectural tactics have created such an amazing building. With the right frameworks and building blocks for content, Erin sees a future where we can finally do justice to the potential for publishing that 21st century technology enables.

You’ll probably also be interested in the fact that Erin is involved in launching “Contents” magazine.


At some point, hopefully today, I’ll have the essay version of my talk, and notes from several other sessions at #csforum11 including Lisa Moore talking about “Agile and content strategy”.

This is one of a series of blog posts written at the Content Strategy Forum 2011 in London:
Download all the blog posts in one PDF or in epub format for iBooks
“How the Guardian’s custom CMS & API helped take content strategy to a traditional publisher” - Martin Belam
Gerry McGovern, Melissa Rach and Margot Bloomstein at Content Strategy Forum 2011
“CMS - the software UX forgot” - Karen McGrane
Lisa Welchman and Eric Reiss at Content Strategy Forum 2011
“Making sense of the (new) new content landscape” - Erin Kissane
“Agile and content strategy” - Lisa Moore
“Measurement, not fairy tales” - Catherine Toole
“Topic maps, disambiguation, and multi-disciplinary teams” - Elizabeth McGuane
You might also be interested in these notes on these talks from the August London Content Strategy meet-up:
Lisa Welchman, Sophie Dennis and Tyler Tate

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