Razorfish just released a great new report, Nimble: Publishing in the Digital Age, written by Rachel Lovinger. The target audience is clearly large publishers and mega media companies, but there are important trends here that are relevant to everyone who thinks of distributing content on the web — e.g., anyone in marketing.
The three key points that pop out to me — particularly because I keep seeing them in a lot of posts and discussions these days:
1. The concept of “the web site” is becoming less important than the underlying content and its social propagation.
People now consume online content on a variety of devices, from their computers, their iPhones and Android phones, and new tablets like the iPad. They consume content not necessarily from the site of the content producer, but from social media hubs such as YouTube, social networks such as Facebook, aggregators such as Alltop, and a wave of social sharing services such as Twitter, Buzz, LinkedIn from which it is reblogged and reposted (or reshared as the term du jour).
You need to design your content — and the process and metrics by which you generate and maintain that content — to be effortlessly absorbed into this malleable and organic distribution engine in the cloud. It’s a different paradigm than the closed walls of the 1990’s web site.
Quoted in the report is Nic Newman of the BBC:
You can’t afford to [create] a piece of content for any one platform. Instead of crafting a website, you have to put more effort into crafting the description of an asset and the different bits of an asset, so they can be reused more effectively, so they can deliver more value.
2. Structured data and metadata around content are becoming increasingly important.
As Facebook’s Open Graph protocol is demonstrating, even just a little bit of semantic markup associated with your content can go a long way in making your content more friendly to find, share, and curate. This makes it much easier for you — and others — to adapt your content in a variety of containers, beyond the static information architecture of your web site.
Forget the fancy names of “semantic web” or “linked data.” Associating structured data with your content assets lets you take advantage of Open Graph, Google RichSnippets, Yahoo Search Monkey, and a new generation of agents such as Siri. Disseminating your content with metadata through APIs enables developers to spread the seeds of your brand in a variety of mash-ups and apps. Sharing your data sets in collaborative venues such as Factual and Infochimps helps build relationships with the world of analytic power users, improve your data quality, and turn those dusty data silos into tools for advocating ideas and brands.
And with the coming data explosion (already 281 exabytes of online data in 2009!), this type of self-guiding roadmap within and around your assets will soon be essential for even you to find and use the right content in the right place.
3. Content producers must become much more nimble (i.e., agile).
When many people come to the same conclusion from independent streams of research, you know a major movement is in progress. Rachel’s overarching advice to publishers is to push to be more nimble — or as I’d call it, more agile. And, as you’ve probably noticed, a lot of people have been talking about business agility this year.
I’ve been banging the drum for more agility in marketing — such as a call for an agile marketing manifesto — because in a world where everything is in constant flux, your only reliable source of competitive advantage is your ability to adapt. Fast. That’s easy to say, but it requires cultural and managerial shifts that are still quite foreign to most organizations. It’s a change in metabolism that needs to be taken seriously and mandated from the highest executive levels.
As Rachel writes in her report:
To succeed as a digital content producer you need to be nimble. Many companies will say that they’re nimble, but very few actually are. Being nimble is about the ability to adapt quickly to the new challenges and opportunities in today’s media ecosystem; things like the explosion of new media devices, the world-domination of social networks, and consumers’ growing expectation of first-class digital experiences.
Being nimble is not just about an organization. It’s about the industry’s business models. It’s about production processes. It’s about the content itself.
Nimble is a thought-provoking report, well-worth reading and considering how it applies in your domain.
(It also includes a reference to my post on business models for linked data and Web 3.0, which was inspired by discussions and feedback from Rachel as well.)