Content Strategy Network: Is structured content worth the effort?

Sarah O'Keefe / Content strategy, Content Strategy Network2 Comments

We had about 27 people participate in the first online meeting of the Content Strategy Network.

We opened the meeting with quick introductions from the moderators (Sarah O’Keefe, Alan Pringle, and Bill Swallow), then ran a few polls to get an idea of participants.

As expected given the meeting time, participants skewed heavily to the Americas

Poll results show audience in the Americans (89%) and Asia (11%)

A majority of participants were content creators or managers of content creators.

What's your role? 47% content creator, 32% manager of content creators, 5% product management or other content "customer", 0% stumbled into the wrong webcast, 26% Other

The Other responses included information architects and content strategists.

Then we asked the question that brought everyone to the meeting: Is structured content worth the effort?

Is structured content worth the effort? 47% Yes, 0% No, 21% Not sure, 32% It's complicated

Nobody said No, but a majority of people responded Not Sure or It’s Complicated.

So then we asked why. And the floodgates opened.

  • “I keep wondering who we’re serving — ourselves or our customers. That’s why I think it’s complicated”
  • “Learning curve”
  • “Infrastructure to support is expensive but hard to “sell” within the company outside of tech pubs (and maybe training) folks”
  • “I think a disadvantage is structured writing can often be focused on the internal-workings of the finished product (a document), and that can be hard for people (management, SMEs) to understand when they are just focused on the end product.”
  • “Depends on size of company, type of content, and L10N potential”
  • “We’re trying to get to topic-based publishing. But if writers do not know the concept of “topic”, the whole structuring thing does not work. So yes, training on DITA concepts is crucial. Am I making sense?”
  • “Governance”
  • “also: i would never do dita without a good content management system”
  • “Sometimes reuse gets messy in the hands of inexperienced writers – for example, deleting content that’s conref’ed elsewhere.”

We were curious about source formats, so we asked:

What is your current source format? 0% unstructured and happy, 33% unstructured but not happy, 33% structured and happy, 33% structured but not happy

Finally, we turned our attention to general house-keeping:

Should we do this again? 0% No, 91% Yes, 9% Yes, but you can improve it. I have ideas!

And options for communication:

Preferences for the Content Strategy Network? 35% Slack (already available, email us for an invitation), 60% LinkedIn group, 15% Facebook group, 65% Email list, 0% Other

The Slack team is already running. Email us for an invitation.

We had a lot of feedback about how to operate this meeting, including requests for more targeted topics, the ability to submit questions ahead of time, and better interaction among the participants. We will be working on all of that before our next meeting, which is scheduled for August 23. Registration is already open via Gotowebinar, but watch this space and others for details on the topic and how to shape the discussion with your contributions.

Many thanks to those of you who took a chance on our beta launch of Content Strategy Network discussions. We will be working hard to make the next one even better, and hope to see you there!

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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