The Content Strategy Forecast: 2010 & Beyond

Matt Geraghty   March 4, 2010

The Breakdown: For our first anniversary post, we invited practicing content strategists from inside and outside of Razorfish to share their thoughts on emerging trends and ideas in content strategy. Enjoy!

Jeffrey MacIntyre
, Principal, Predicate, LLC
Going Mainstream
Within our field I foresee a definite turn ahead: less “why” and more “how.” The UX community has by and large taken the memo–content matters–but if the message is to stick, the next turn among our foremost practitioners should be to begin demonstrating deliverables, methodology and our measurable post launch value. Which is perfect timing for Paul Ford to inaugurate the first-ever course in content strategy at the School of Visual Arts in New York come January. No pressure, Paul!

Karen McGrane, Senior Partner, Bond Art + Science
Taking Action
For many businesses, content strategy is still in the awareness phase. They’re realizing they have a problem, and they’re considering different options for how to deal with it. Over the next two years, we’ll see more businesses decide that they need to change. Companies will take action, by improving processes to evaluate and maintain content quality, and by empowering content strategists within the organization. As a result, users will get a better experience, and companies will start to reap the business rewards of content strategy. But the first step that most need to take now is admitting they have a problem.

Ian Alexander, VP of Content, Eat Media
Converging with CMS and Web Strategy
Content management and content strategy will find greater synergies. This merging of technical and editorial will give CS broader outreach at the CMS and IT level. The complex interdependencies of content strategy will embrace search strategy at the pattern level and how a site is found will not just be about SEO. “Web strategy” will become synonymous with “content strategy” and in doing so, CS will gain broader acceptance.

Bob Maynard, Content Strategist, R/GA
Beyond the Web
If 2009 was the year content strategy broke, then maybe 2010 will be the year we fix it. I’d like to think that we’ll move beyond the web-centric content strategy hype cycle and into a more fertile period of collaboration with mobile app developers, tech architects and digital signage designers. While we’re at it, let’s kill the “content matrix” and see what happens. Who’s with me?

Laura Porto Stockwell, Senior Director, Digital Strategy at WONGDOODY
Paid Content
What is top of mind for me the past few months is the resurgence of talk about gated/paid content communities. We saw so much of this 10+ years ago, and due to the economy and the financial challenges of media we are seeing it again. While this is a business decision in many ways, there is a strong content strategy component. A content strategist can help an organization understand user needs from a content perspective and therefore help craft a plan for what types of content would be most successful in a pay-per-view situation. In addition, a content strategist can help an organization better package and deliver existing content in ways that users want to interact with it (whether paid or not).

Mary S. Butler, Senior Content Strategist, Razorfish, Editor of
Social Media Marketing
The explosion of social media has been a significant contributor to increased interest in content strategy. As smart marketers realize the benefits of connecting with and engaging consumers via social channels, as opposed to treating social as a broadcast outlet, they are more likely to experience the pain associated with not having a content strategy in place. Effectively executing a brand social strategy requires an editorial plan, dedicated resources and aligning your messaging with business objectives and meeting consumer needs and goals. As brands move more of their marketing spend to social, we are going to see content strategy become even more prominent.

Rachel Lovinger, Content Strategy Lead, Razorfish
Multiplatform Delivery
Most people who know me will probably expect me to say something about the Semantic Web. Of course I’ll be keeping an eye on what happens there, but I’ve been tracking that for years so it doesn’t seem right to call it a new trend. I think the new thing that Content Strategists should be thinking about is delivering content to different devices. How do you optimize content for a growing number of smartphones, tablets, networked TVs, etc.? Not only the format of the content, but streamlining the process of creating all the content assets. And of course you can’t just take the same content, reformat it and push it out to each type of device. Savvy Content Strategists will be thinking about how to create new content products that take advantage of the strengths of each new platform.

Colleen Jones, Principal, Content Science
Staring into my crystal ball, I foresee the rise in demand for influential content. Many have talked about possibilities for “persuasive” content and technology. Turning those possibilities into realities will be the trend. Businesses will press the interactive industry for content that resonates with people. Content strategists will deliver by weaving editorial, data-driven, and social content together into an experience that influences people’s decisions and behaviors.

Michael Barnwell, Content Strategy Lead, Razorfish
Relevance and Filtering
An arms race has been building within content strategy. As powerful aggregation tools proliferate so too do tools meant to segregate content. The Cloud, feeds, and social sharing tools are delivering more and more content, while semantic tools and sentiment analysis mining are arrayed to counter that expansionist threat. The net effect, of course, shouldn¹t aim at zero sum. Content Strategists will be called upon to become expert in the diplomatic act of negotiating both of these tool sets so that a useful set of relevant content remains.

Kristina Halvorson, CEO/Founder, Brain Traffic
Ubiquitous and in High Demand
2010 is the year every agency will be racing around trying to figure out what the hell content strategy is and why their clients are suddenly demanding it. By the end of the year, it won’t be an optional service on web projects: it will be the most-requested service. 2011 will see content strategy tools and methodologies working their way into other areas of our organizations. New alignments will emerge between previously-siloed departments and functions, focusing on the creation, delivery, and governance of content enterprise-wide. Also, Conan O’Brien will be running for president.

Matthew Geraghty, Content Strategist, Razorfish
The CS Buzz
2010 and 2011 is going to be all about how we communicate as a content strategy community. It’s important to discuss trends and what the next big thing is, but let us not forget that it ultimately comes down to the community — the talent and vision of people like the ones who are submitting to this post. Creative collaboration, idea sharing, new methods of fostering talent, celebrating successes, and spreading the CS word individually and collectively. Let’s look for new and innovative ways to creatively connect, collaborate and communicate to fuel the CS buzz.

The Future of Television

Matt Geraghty   October 28, 2009


“Hold the future in your hand with Sony.” (Image via Pink Ponk)

The Breakdown: What will television look like in 2019? Recently Razorfish has been doing some significant research and thought leadership on a fundamental shift that will take place with television in the years to come.   This future has major implications for technology, content development, distribution, audience measurement models, advertising and personalization.  To get a glimpse into the future, watch Andrew Pimentel deliver his seminar at Cannes Lions 2009 and explore 3 reports by David Friedman which predict where TV will be in 10 years or perhaps sooner.  Let us know your thoughts below.

The Future of User-Generated Content

Matt Geraghty   October 20, 2009


In the future, technology enables us to give birth to precious little content babies. (Image via Alberto+Cerriteño)

The Breakdown: User-generated content You are all too familiar with it. It’s where the mob rules. It’s where anything goes, where anyone can post anything, and where the experts and the crazies exist as equals. It’s information overload where expert opinion is often hard to find. There is much at stake for those who can capitalize successfully on the evolution of user-generated content. We asked a panel of UX and Media experts about the future of user-generated content for good or bad.

Shiv Singh, VP & Global Social Media Lead

User-generated content — or content that we create as regular people influencing, entertaining and informing each other is the most important form of content. It is what we create — our conversations, our thoughts, our opinions and our imagination expressed. The notion of it being considered something risky, dangerous, damaging or a bit too voluminous is looking at user-generated content through the wrong frame. It is time for marketers and individuals alike to realize that everyone else’s content (in all its forms) is the greatest asset that they ever had. The question really is whether the technology is where it should be to allow us to sift through all the user-generated content and figure out what’s important to us as individuals. The problem isn’t with UGC, it is with the filtering, sorting and prioritization and that’s where the technology, the semantic web and also the ability to filter through the lens of a social graph is going to make a big difference.

David Deal, VP of Marketing

Consumers will create more powerful personal brands thanks to our culture of self-idolatry and the proliferation tools that make consumer generated content more slick and professional. We will make our own “American Idols.”

Michael Barnwell, Content Strategy Lead

Allowing user-generated content usually has the goal of enfranchising the user and, indirectly, giving a greater sense of authenticity to the content — two noble goals, surely, although with very mixed results. How can anyone sort through the ton of dross to find commentary that’s in some way useful? It’s probably too late to recall the invite, but there may be a way to salvage the intention. It might be described as UGC light touch, or in other words annotations. A simple ranking of content — one basic example of annotation would be an easily sifted way of letting you know what someone thought about a piece of content, without the noise. Collectively, this kind of user contribution could lead to something resembling real added value, while saving a place for the user’s voice.

Steve Clough, Media Planner

We often talk about social media like it’s reinventing marketing, but the reality is that the fundamental strategies for success in social media and leveraging user-generated content are the same ones that marketers and sales people have been preaching for decades: 1) build relationships, and 2) provide value that fills consumers’ needs/wants. While the means may change slightly, I think the future of social media and UGC will continue to fulfill these fundamental business strategies.

Chris Boese, Information Architect

Now hear the user-generated First Principle of the Internet. First there was the Word, and the Word was the Internet. Users uttered the Internet into existence with their socio-communicative acts from the very beginning.  Non-social interfaces are an anachronism, a horseless carriage phase, like the early days of television when programs looked like filmed radio plays.

I believe the social Internet has always been profoundly destabilizing and politically empowering, and will remain so.  As with the French Revolution, there is an upside and a downside to this kind of grassroots empowerment, but that Cluetrain Manifesto left the station 10 years ago. This is no news flash. Former media monopolies are discovering it very late, to their own detriment. All businesses will face the same grim realities as the newspaper industry if they depend on old models for controlling and restricting commerce to futilely manipulate these empowered and uppity “customers.” Real power has already shifted. Some sectors just didn’t get the memo.

Robert Stribley, Senior Information Architect

There’s a lot of talk about the dark side of social media, as everyone clamors for their 15 minutes of fame – every day. But social media and the increasingly ubiquitous use of user-generated content are also ushering in an era of transparency unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Companies (and individuals) have long espoused transparency, of course, but the economic and viral advantages of tapping and responding to user-generated content are nudging us into arenas of more authentic rather than staged transparency. This open, real-time dialogue not only forces companies to maintain their brand more rigorously, it also demands that they express it more clearly.

Matt Geraghty, Content Strategist

One of the biggest areas for UGC innovation lies in global rights management. Who’s thinking big about the future of copyright? Well, YouTube has launched a service called Content Identification allowing major content partners and rights holders to better identify user-uploaded versions of their videos. With these content management tools, major media companies partnering with YouTube are deciding if they want to block, track, or take steps to reduce infringement. But it’s a two-way street. They can even encourage fans to market or distribute the content for their own benefit. The future of UGC global rights management will lie in solutions that strike a perfect balance between the goals of the copyright holder and that of the user.

Melissa Joulwan, Senior Content Strategist

It’s imperative that clients relinquish a bit of control over their brand voice and buy into the true value of UGC, i.e., arming customers with the mechanisms and information to be brand ambassadors. We recently had a client admit they were thinking about hiring writers to impersonate community members so that the resulting content was of higher quality. This kind of thinking will absolutely doom the future of UGC. An important component of our job as user experience professionals has to be to educate our clients to do UGC right or not at all.

What Will You Love?

Michael Barnwell   March 13, 2009


Netflix origami: extending the experience beyond the flick. (via)

Being able to predict human behavior is a real talent that deserves praise and rich rewards. Netflix agrees and since 2006 has been holding an ongoing competition to improve the accuracy of its movie recommendations to members, handing over one million dollars to the team who can deliver a 10% increase in the accuracy of its “world-class movie recommendation system” Cinematch. This, of course, will require a complex algorithm and an equally complex judging standard involving something called the RSME (root mean squared error) of a data set. Put simply, competitors are vying to predict how likely Customer Sarah is to give “Sleepless in Seattle” a 5-star rating.

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Scatter/Gather is a blog about the intersection of content strategy, pop culture and human behavior. Contributors are all practicing Content Strategists at the offices of Razorfish, an international digital design agency.

This blog reflects the views of the individual contributors and not necessarily the views of Razorfish.

What is content strategy?

Oooh, the elevator pitch. Here we go: There is content on the web. You love it. Or you do not love it. Either way, it is out there, and it is growing. Content strategy encompasses the discovery, ideation, implementation and maintenance of all types of digital content—links, tags, metadata, video, whatever. Ultimately, we work closely with information architects and creative types to craft delicious, usable web experiences for our clients.

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