What should you expect from your CMS?

Content is key to raising your profile on the web, and having good quality, relevant, accessible content is essential to attract good search ratings. Good quality content is time consuming to author and approve – so being able to reuse it is important for increasing the returns, in terms of visits, revenue and long term interaction, that it can help to generate.

Implementing a web site using a Content Management System (CMS) is a major undertaking. The end result should be a platform that will facilitate the growth of relevant services and channels of communication for your key target audiences. A good CMS should make it both quick & easy to author content and to reuse it.

Adapting to new online behaviour

In the digital age, users expect content to be up-to-date and relevant to their needs. What is relevant at one point in time may not be relevant at another. Patterns of engaging with content are also changing rapidly with the explosion of mobile internet. The market for smartphones and tablets has already surpassed the sales of PCs[1]. Already 90% of mobile phone subscribers have phones that can browse the web[2] – but the actual use of mobile internet will eclipse that of the fixed internet within the next couple of years[3].

With mobile internet rapidly becoming the primary means of accessing the web, users will naturally expect content to be provided in a form that is appropriate for mobile devices. More and more users will be accessing your content directly from search, or from links in recommendations in social media.

In order to maximize the returns from your online presence, your strategy will need to adapt to accommodate these changing patterns of usage. Your online strategy will need to support these changes in patterns of usage and your CMS platform should enable you to easily adapt your existing content, with little modification, to use in these new channels.

The end result of a successful CMS implementation is a platform that enables you to keep up with your users by providing these key benefits:

  • Easy to author and maintain content
  • Easy to reuse and repackage content across different site areas and web browsing platforms
  • Easy to re-theme content where required, keeping content but changing its appearance
  • Easy to make content searchable and findable
  • Easy to set up new data captures and communication channels with your users
  • Clear APIs extending CMS and storing data within CMS structures
  • Easy to upgrade your platform and take advantage of new features

There are no doubt many CMS systems that can offer these benefits – but the best ones are those created by a development team that are focussed on their clients with a clear roadmap and vision for the future. Fortunately for my agency, these are things that have been abundantly provided by our chosen CMS supplier – Kentico.

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That 30% Revenue Share, Subscriptions and the End of Apple’s Empire

Why are Apple products such a joy to use? Because their every aspect is part of a clearly defined singular vision, a vision that is kept in place by a zealous control over every aspect of its supply chain, OS and application ecosystem.

Steve Jobs’ instincts have so far managed to prevent this monomania lurching into out-and-out megalomania, but has it now overstepped the mark? Contrary to the Apple Orwellian 1984 campaign of the 90s, it is no longer the subversive facing down the might of the totalitarian Microsoft Machine – now it is the machine.

For anyone who hasn’t been connected to the net for the last week, Apple is now demanding a 30% cut of any revenue passing through its market place (gross, not net). If content providers want in on Apple’s platform, they can’t offer their content cheaper anywhere else. There must be very few business that can afford to give away a 30% cut of potential revenue in the current market place and hope to remain in business for very long. At the same time, Apple will not guarantee passing along user information for the fee – users will have to opt in, meaning that the relationship stays firmly with Apple rather than the provider. Put this egregious demand together with Apple’s constant gerrymandering of rules and regulations, as well as its flip-flopping over the use of 3rd party development tools, and one can see an unhealthy degree of contempt for both content providers and the Apple development community in general.

For the record, I have an iPhone, I like Apple products and I think Apple are to be congratulated for the trailblazing that they have achieved with such amazing consistency. However, I hope that the current anti-trust cases that seem to be gathering pace in the US and Europe will result in them receiving clear signal that it is simply not possible to operate with impunity in the commercial market place in any position of market hegemony. Perhaps Apple should remember how Microsoft ended up in deep trouble in Europe simply for the way it packaged IE with Windows – they weren’t even demanding any financial reward for things associated with IE.

At the moment Apple might feel like an irresistible force – but let us not forget that the greatest extent of empire often occurs at some point after the decline has set in – just as it did with the British Empire. Whilst Apple will no doubt to continue grow for some time, I can’t help thinking that their new subscription model and its aftermath will mark the passing of its zenith.

Apple’s hold-everything-close-and-tight approach to getting things done seems is in stark contrast with Google’s lets-give-everything-away-to-everyone ethos of getting everyone possible to buy into their preferred future – somehow the latter seems more in step with the age of Social Media, Open Source and Crowd Sourcing. Nevertheless, there will, I think, always be space for singular vision – but it remains to be seen whether Apple, in a post-Jobs succession, will have that vision.

For Fortune magazine’s take on this see http://rss.cnn.com/~r/fortunebrainstormtech/~3/HkozhYGYrnI/

The Dangers of Painting Technology Trends with Too Broad a Brush

When it comes to the debate on the relationship between Social Media and Knowledge Management there is an article that though quite old now (Sept 2008) is still very often cited as authoritative – “Social Media vs. Knowledge Management: A Generational War” by Venkatesh Rao. Whilst seductive on first read, this piece demonstrates for me the danger of using too broad a brush to trace the outline of unfolding trends in technology.

Rao’s blog paints a picture of two generations – the Baby Boomers and Generation Y-ers – fighting it out with two different paradigms of how they relate to and handle knowledge – through top-down Knowledge Management on the one hand, and free-for-all Social Media on the other. According to Rao, in the middle of this are the Generation X-ers, involved in both and allied to neither.

There is certainly always an inertia involved in any discipline when new ways of doing things emerge – people work long and hard to become established in their field, and they will naturally try to fit what emerges into paradigms with which they are already familiar. It is also natural that people will cleave to ways of doing things that they grow up with first – this certainly does not mean that people are stuck in ways of doing things dictated by their age – there are enthusiastic older users of social media just as much as there are younger people seeking to impose order and taxonomies on their knowledge.

Rao’s post is part and parcel of a wider mindset that views the unfolding of technology and knowledge-exchange in simplistic terms, uncomplicated by culture, race, class, education, profession, personality and so on. The whole notion of the Baby Boomer, for instance, is one that is located in a specifically western developmental paradigm – the use of computers and the web has followed a distinctive trajectory in other countries and continues to unfold with a specifically local flavour depending on the environment – familiar western demographics are not universal. If the sentiments in this blog reflected reality, marketing would be simpler – we could just pursue everyone simply based on generation. Wherever technology and techniques are adopted, they become embedded in and reshaped by the local cultural and social environment.

The history of the internet as much as any other unfolding of events, past or present, is not so easy to characterise or periodise – people are complex, their mass behaviour is often chaotic – otherwise, why would we need to get a grip on knowledge in the first place? Whilst it is perhaps easier to divine the likely future behaviour of corporates, where the profit imperative is clearly driving things, for everyone else there is no single dimension – age, race, class – which can be used to group and characterise behaviours. One of the joys of the net is that the way people adopt and use particular sites and technologies is unpredictable in the extreme – which is why we all necessarily indulge in some level of futurology.

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