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April 18, 2022

Content as a Service (podcast, part 2)

In episode 117 of The Content Strategy Experts podcast, Sarah O’Keefe and Patrick Bosek of Heretto continue their discussion about Content as a Service.

“Content as a Service is becoming a necessity to really deliver a strong customer experience from an answers and knowledge perspective.”

– Patrick Bosek

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Sarah O’Keefe:                   Welcome to the The Content Strategy Experts podcast brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize and distribute content in an efficient way.

SO:                   I’m Sarah O’Keefe. In this episode, Patrick Bosek and I continue our discussion about Content as a Service. This is part two of a two-part podcast.

SO:                   So, looking at this from a slightly different point of view, who are the companies, or the industries, maybe, that need Content as a Service the most?

Patrick Bosek:                   So, I think it’s going to be the usual suspects. I mean, I wish I had a more interesting answer here, but it’s technology companies. And sure, You can say, okay, we’re all technology companies now, and to an extent, that’s true. But I think if you look at the people who are going to adopt this most aggressively, right out of the gate, it’s the people who are going to have the most benefit from it. And what we see is it tends to be software companies, or companies from a high tech perspective that maybe they sell a thing. But realistically, the thing is just something that they can load software onto and sell you that, right?

PB:                   So there’s that really blurry line between high tech manufacturers and software companies. It’s really good for them because of the as licensed thing they run into. There’s this natural progression as a software company that I think every software company that reaches a certain scale goes through.

PB:                   You make a thing. It’s simple. People want it. It solves a simple problem. People come and buy it. You sell a bunch of it. Well, as you sell more of it, you gain more validity and bigger people want to come and buy it. But bigger organizations, they want this changed and they need this other thing, or they need to integrate with this thing. And over time you want to serve them, those bigger organizations or different niches, or there’s market demand that pushes a product in a bunch of different directions. And what happens is that your product becomes more complex so that it can access more niches, it can access more larger accounts. It can have its 90% value plus 10% for a lot of different groups. And what that means is that your product is very different, based on who’s using it, which group is using it.

PB:                   So now there’s this as licensed model for your software. If you’re this group, if you’re in FinTech and you’re using our product, it’s mostly the same, but it’s got this little thing that’s different. If you’re in this group, there’s all that, right? But you don’t want to… So now your choices are, okay, we can produce one manual that covers 90% of the product, or we can produce 40 manuals that all cover a bunch of different parts of the product. And they copy 90% of the content.

PB:                   Unless you move to a Content as a Service model where it can be dynamic, it can be whoever’s accessing it gets 100% of the product. And it’s just that 10% that changes based on who they are. So Content as a Service becomes a necessity to really deliver a strong customer experience from an answers and knowledge perspective, to serve those people after the fact. And I think those are the organizations that we’re seeing adopt this most aggressively today.

SO:                   Yeah. And the as licensed thing is interesting because we’re actually seeing this in that space, but also in the as built, which is essentially the hardware equivalent of as licensed. I mean, you mentioned tractors, right? Well, it turns out in some manufacturing organizations it’s, ‘oh, I need a machine,’ a tractor or a truck or a car or something. And those are in fact getting customized per customer. So they need, ‘what did you build for customer X on this date?’ And that gets super tricky and really kind of obnoxious.

PB:                   Oh yeah, the automotive industry is full of that. I was just talking to somebody from that industry. I don’t know, it was on Coffee and Content. It was actually… His name’s Nick, he’s from Tweddle. And they were talking about VIN specific content, right? So, that’s kind of like that whole thing taken to its nth degree where the number that identifies your product, it’s like a checksum almost, is the thing that determines the content that goes into your product. And because almost all cars can display content, you have a perfectly dynamic experience that relates to the person who’s sitting in the product. How much more Content as a Service could that possibly be? And to fulfill that you have to have a really strong content operations methodology that feeds into a Content as a Service infrastructure, because Lord knows cars are largely software. And when your car updates… I mean, they are. You laugh but they are.

SO:                   Yeah they are, no they totally are and it’s depressing.

PB:                   I mean, yeah, the software’s eating the world, right? Everything is software. And there’s software in everything. So when that software updates, the content updates, your car updates, you have to be able to push that stuff out, along with all those things.

SO:                   So as we get started with this, I mean, there’s a lot of people talking about Content as a Service and there’s some stuff happening. But if we look ahead, 10 years or five years or 18 months, however far you’re comfortable in looking ahead, where do you envision this going? I mean, what do you think this is going to look like when it reaches its full potential?

PB:                   Oh boy. Small question. I think the interesting thing about Content as a Service is that… I would like… Here’s how I’d like to answer that question. And then I’m going to tell you after I answer it this way, why this is probably not realistic. I would love to say that we’re going to get to a place where Content as a Service itself has its own well defined and well understood standards. And we have interoperability in a way that we have with content storage formats today, right? So like you think about DITA, right? DITA is a structured content storage format. It’s not a good format for Content as a Service, because it’s just… It’s too semantic, it’s got a lot of information in it you don’t want directly represented, you have to transform it into HTML, all those kinds of things.

PB:                   So you don’t want to send DITA through an API. You don’t want to leave that to the last mile. You have to compile DITA and you’d lose a lot of the power of DITA if you didn’t compile it, that’s just kind of part and parcel of using DITA. But what if there was a standard for what comes out the other end of a Content as a Service, right? It was like DITA where everybody knew what they were going to consume.

PB:                   Well, you’d end up in this situation where the systems that create experiences were interoperable, right? So you’d have Heretto, and Heretto would send you whatever this open source standard was over your Content as a Service. And then maybe you’d have something like Contentful and they would send the same thing, right? So different content, but it’s a standard format. And then you could just have frameworks that were just out there that knew how to interpret this stuff.

PB:                   All the rules of the road are, are put together, right? It’s all… It’s the maximal implementation of cards and components and the modularized enterprise as it relates to content and Content as a Service and modular experiences and all that kind of stuff. So that’s what I want to say is going to happen. And I want to believe it’s going to happen. I do. It’s a thing that I dream about and I hope is in the future and it’s a thing that I’m going to actively pursue. Right. It’s a thing that I believe in and I’m going to push towards. But…

SO:                   However…

PB:                   Right. So why am I a little skeptical about that? I’m a little skeptical about that because I think that the industry as a whole is very privatized. And I think that there hasn’t been any real appetite for getting to something like that.

PB:                   And I think that what you’re going to see is that if you try to go down that road, you’re going to run into a lot of forces that are going to say, well, part of the beauty of where we are today in Content as a Service is that it can be so customized. It can be so one to one. You can build these models that really fit you. And there’s no really strong way to perfectly containerize that and have it be available in a broad, universally understood interchange format. I don’t know how true that is. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the thing that would kill the ability to do this, but whatever way it goes, this is the future.

PB:                   Everybody’s going to run on this, the idea that we’re going to use things like WordPress in 10 years. I mean… I don’t know… I mean, somebody is, for a blog, but no company is going to be running on WordPress in 10 years. You know DXPs, the monolith DXPs? I think those are dinosaurs too. I think anybody who’s going and implementing a DXP today is just deciding that they’re going to re-implement that on Content as a Service in, four to five years.

SO:                   So I won’t ask you to name names, but DXP is digital experience platform.

PB:                   Yeah. That’s true. And some of them are very sophisticated technologies, and they do a lot of stuff. So they used to be web content management, right? And then they moved to digital experience. And when the Content as a Service industry can find a way to break down all the different pieces of functionality that you get in these big monolith DXPs, and provide them as perfectly modularized, interoperable, interchangeable services that you can clip together into what you need for your content experience platform, then you’re not going to buy DXPs anymore. It just doesn’t make any sense. I think that’s a big part of the future. So people are listening to this and they’re going, okay, well, how does this relate to me? What I would say is in terms of very specific technology, you should definitely understand the primary approaches to structured content because that’s not going anywhere.

PB:                   And if you really need more proof of that, which I don’t think you do if you’re listening to this podcast, honestly, but maybe somebody near you does. And if that person does, go and look at, that’s Google stuff, right? The way to improve your search engine ranking is to inject more into your content. That’s structured content, that’s metadata, right? And that’s what Google wants you to do. That’s where those quick answers come from. That’s where the FAQs on the front page of Google come from, it’s how they ensure that certain things are more relevant. It’s literally because you tell Google it’s more relevant. It’s not keyword stuffing. Google, in a lot of ways, gave up on like the AI approach to this. And they said, actually just go put metadata in your content. It’s like that’s the direction.

PB:                   So you’re going structured in this way. And so understand the structured formats and then get to understand the primary delivery formats. So there’s really only two ways to deliver Content as a Service. And that’s a RESTful API and a GraphQL API. Yep. That’s basically it. I was trying to think if there was a third, but nope, that’s it. So understand the two of them and understand the ones that are going to be more effective for your use cases. And then kind of get a recognition of what the different models for presentation look like and how those things come together. And I think that’s a foundation of understanding content operations, which is just an aspect of content operations that’s going to work well for you, no matter where you go. And if anybody is to write a book on content operations, I would recommend you go read it. That’s my last recommendation.

SO:                   All right, people. So it appears you have homework. It wasn’t me. It was Patrick, and that sounds like a good starting point for some of this research, but also, that sounds like about six months of reading work. So…

PB:                   Hey, you’re the one who asked me to come on here. This is not my fault.

SO:                   I’m going to stop it here before you give us more homework to do.

PB:                   No, that’s fair.

SO:                   But Patrick, thank you. And thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts podcast brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit or check the show notes for relevant links.