Hitting the Content Ceiling

We've hit the ceiling.

There's too much content. Correction, there's too much out dated, irrelevant, 'legacy' content on the web. This is the result of publishing to the web becoming easier and more accessible, of content being produced without enough people asking why and because once content has been published, it gets forgotten about as people move onto the next project or post.

Of course there's not a ceiling in the literal sense. It's the web, we can publish forever. That doesn't mean we should.

Why is this an issue? Well it means the web is full of content that no longer serves a purpose. If we do group it as legacy content, is that really the sort of legacy we want to be known for? About and team pages full of people who left many moons ago, old addresses after the office move, pages and whole sections about services that are no longer offered, blog posts from 5 years ago that are just no longer useful or relevant. The list goes on.

We've become digital hoarders and whilst we may not have to live with it, as in we perhaps don't look at our own content once it's out there, our users do. You need to make it your problem.

Content governance is tricky. It can be such a relief to get to the stage where you actually have something meaningful to publish, that the mere thought of having to define further processes for governance is one that can be hard to stomach.

Consider this, you may have lived with your content for months, but your users won't have. It's the first time they have seen it. Publishing is day one.

If you've done it the right way then that content will have been informed by a strategy, it'll be meeting business needs and user goals, it'll be written in a consistent and authentic voice and tone. No wonder you're exhausted!

But that doesn't mean it will always meet those needs and goals, or always target your audience effectively. As your business grows and evolves and as you perhaps target new audiences, where does the content already published fit?

As a content strategist who gets to speak to many different content teams from across varied sectors and industries, some agencies, some in-house, from lots of different countries, I'm hearing the same conversations over and over regardless of those locations and scenarios. We know governance is important, we expect it requires a lot of time and effort, we don't know where to begin.

Well the very fact those people have acknowledged that governance is important and necessary means they have begun. They have taken the first step. But where next?

Audits, inventories, documentation, workflow, there's a lot to consider. Once you have a handle on what content you have then you can start to plan for its governance. This is assuming you already have a website/published content. If you're starting from scratch then you can consider sustainable content from the beginning. Lucky you.

Here are some of my recommended content governance focused resources to give you a head start:

Sustainable Content Strategy Guide

Principles of Content Governance

Managing Chaos

The role of content inventory and audit in governance

It isn't easy to manage content when the to do list is filling up with other priorities, but it is a priority too. Stay relevant, make sure your content is useful, embed processes to make this easier for you and your team and let's stop shelf stacking content so it becomes an uncontrollable, unreachable pile of noise that will eventually come crashing down on us.

That was a tad dramatic but the point is, don't just plan for launch day, think beyond that and let's not be digital hoarders.

Dive Deeper

If you want to know more about the Pastry Box Project, you can read about the genesis (and goals) of the project.

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