The issue of content lifecycle has been on my mind lately, particularly in the context of lack of awareness about content having a lifecycle, or a truncated awareness of content in terms of its lifecycle. If anything would jar me from my lethargy around posting to my site, this would be the perfect topic.
Perhaps the lack of attention to content lifecycle is a reflection of the lack of attention given to the topic on the Web. In fact, a Wikipedia search on the topic of the content lifecycle sent me to the topic of Content Management, where a brief mention of content lifecycle management involves “content distributions [sic] and digital rights” – if only it were that easy. The German version of Wikipedia has an article on the content lifecycle for Web content, which seems incredibly simple (Create > Publish > Archive? Really?) and is also tied to a content management system.
But, I’m telling you, this is wrong, wrong, wrong. At the risk of sounding like David taking on Goliath, I want to spend a couple of articles talking about the content lifecycle, and clearing up some common misconceptions. I’ll discuss content without the attachment to a CMS, proprietary software, tools, or methodologies. It’s all about the content, front and center. Defining a content lifecycle What is a content lifecycle?
Just as in the information architecture world, there’s “big IA” and “little IA”, in the content world, there is “big content management” and “little content management”. The “little content management” is about getting content to work within a content management system; “big content management” is about having a content strategy to create a repeatable system that governs the management of the content, throughout the entire lifecycle.
The content lifecycle covers four general areas: the strategic analysis, the content collection, management of the content, and publication, which includes post-publication maintenance and a loop back to analysis for the next cycle. This lifecycle is present whether the content is controlled within a content management system or not, whether it gets translated or not, whether it gets deleted at the end of its life or revised and re-used.
The critical aspect of the lifecycle is that it begins with the analysis quadrant. The saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there,” certainly applies to the lifecycle of content that begins without a strategy. You can change how it produced, how it’s managed, which tools you use to control it, translate it or not, cut aspects out of it or not – if you have no strategy, you have no real rationale for the content you produce.
The other three quadrants are the tactical aspects of the content lifecycle. They may not have the same allure as the strategic side (at least, not for me), but they are important, nonetheless. It’s where the rubber hits the road. Without the strategy, you may end up in an aimless wander, but without the tactical side, all you have is a good idea.
Next week: Dispelling the Top 10 Myths about the Content Lifecycle
- When technology is no longer disruptive, but confounding
- Content strategy and design thinking
- The Summer of DITA becomes The Autumn of…?
- Authoring in DITA: the good, the bad, and the sometimes ugly
- DITA Maps and the Real World
- A Standard for Exchanging Stories – Meet DITA Maps
- Holes in the Template: Piping content into the CMS
- To DITA or not to DITA: That’s a Good Question – Part 2
- To DITA or not to DITA: That’s a Good Question – Part 1
- DITA: Not Just for Technical Content
- Content classification and findability
- Content development
- Content management
- Content strategy
- Information design and usability
- Professional development
- Social media
- User experience