Building a crossmedia content strategy, part 4

22/04/2013 — 2 Comments

The Unicorn of content managementBuilding a crossmedia content strategy, is about the right motivations, the part people play and sustainable products. It is also about adaptability in content creation and management processes.

If you came here looking for recommendations on the perfect, future-proof CMS, sorry, there’s no such thing. At a recent meeting, I described the ideal CMS as being like a unicorn, everyone knows what it should look like, but no one has ever actually seen one.

A real-world CMS ranges from a state-of-the-art asset management system integrated into sales ordering, rights management and responsive templates that make sure content works on a variety of devices, to an excel spreadsheet.

Either way, if you’re looking for a future-proof system or solution, forget it. The only thing you can truly future-proof in digital media is your attitude.

The only thing you can truly future-proof in digital media is your attitude.

Just like people and products, the demands of crossmedia force change on processes constantly. I’ve said it before; we used to publish on a monthly print production cycle pretty much hidden from view. Now the magazine process is endless and open. Thinking about it, magazines are no longer products, they have become processes, a never ending run of content creation, distribution and audience engagement.

The magazine process has to change because everything else has changed. Your content sources have changed, the content formats and the timescales you work with have changed, and the final destination for your content has changed big time. From ‘Unichannel’ print to ‘Multichannel’ print + digital. Now the smart kids are talking about Omnichannel – content everywhere.

So without capturing the unicorn of content management, how are you going to adapt your processes to meet the challenges of building a crossmedia content strategy?

The secret is to start with your content, not your processes. Taking a ‘Content First’ approach frees you from the limits placed on you by whatever CMS you are using. Think about the content you create and how you create it. If you’re conducting interviews, ask your audience to contribute questions. Before you have even started you have generated content from the process. If you’re working face to face, shoot some video or record some audio. If you’re researching a subject, fire out some research nuggets – that’s content too.

Taking a ‘Content First’ approach frees you from the limits placed on you by whatever CMS you are using.

At every stage of the process you can package your content up and get it out to your audience, from idea to archive, it’s all grist to the mill. If your CMS supports the process, fantastic, make use of it. If it doesn’t work around it.

As your content sources change, as the places you want to put that content changes, remember that the less the process gets in the way of people, the better your products will be. Editors that have to spend time hacking your CMS are going to get less content out there where you want it.

In times like these, times of incredible market disruption, you need your people to be entrepreneurial, to bring ideas for content creation and distribution to the table, to help you drive your products on to emerging platforms. If they’re any good at being entrepreneurial, you’re going to have to be ready to adapt to support their ideas. Your managing editor wants to shoot those video interviews from the show floor… Excellent. Now you need to get them a camera and some video editing software and a decent video plug-in for your website.  Nothing kills entrepreneurship like lack of follow through.

If you came into magazine publishing for a quiet life… I’m sorry, bad move. And if you can’t juggle, you better learn. You’re going to have to maintain profitable print products at the same time as growing a rapidly changing digital portfolio. You’re going to have to motivate your staff to take care of business at the same time as encouraging them to think outside the box. And you’re going to have to keep an eager eye out for the next big thing, because you can be sure it’s coming.

Sometimes building a crossmedia strategy can feel like you’re running down a hill, getting faster and faster all the time. Don’t despair. Seth Godin says, “The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.” The trick is to maintain the momentum without hitting the wall.


  • Part 1 focuses on keeping your crossmedia content strategy real and starting where you’re at
  • Part 2 focuses on the benefits of bringing your staff into crossmedia strategy development
  • Part 3 focuses on the challenges of developing crossmedia products that engage the audience


2 responses to Building a crossmedia content strategy, part 4

  1. I’m so glad to hear someone else say there’s no such thing as a “perfect’ content strategy! Though I’m in the middle of the content strategy discussion as a content marketer, I’ve felt a little isolated. Unicorn indeed. Great analogy!

    • Peter Houston 29/04/2013 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment Jennifer. I actually said there is not such thing as a perfect content management system (CMS). I think the perfect content strategy is almost as tough to find, but is probably one that can be adapted to meet audience needs.

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