Content Management: Big & Small

by Luke Wroblewski June 24, 2004

Eight years ago Bill Gates wrote Content is King. A year ago I mentioned that Content (Management) is King. Today, as technology continues to enable us to create large amounts of content quickly and easily, we have an even more pressing need for “information about information”: where is it, what is it, how to use it, etc.

This becomes especially clear when you look at some of Apple’s most popular software products. iTunes and iPhoto are essentially content management systems for growing personal stockpiles of music and photos. But individuals aren’t the only ones who need to manage large amounts of content. Organizations in both the public and private sectors require management solutions to develop, approve, publish, share, and reuse their content. As a result, content management is on a lot of people’s minds.

Shiv Singh writes about Making Knowledge Management Work on your Intranet. Rafael A. Calvo discusses Managing Content with Automatic Document Classification. Victor Lombardi outlines strategies for Managing the Complexity of Content Management and Jeffery Veen explains Why Content Management Fails.

It’s clear that a significant amount of workflow and content analysis is necessary to cross a “usage” barrier. If the process of adding and retrieving content (be it text, images, video, or audio) is too complicated, usage may drop and the system could be abandoned in favor of “quick fixes” like email. If the process is too basic, it’s probable that not enough metadata (information about the information) is being stored and the retrieval process suffers. This can be seen when comparing content management solutions that use a pre-established folder structure to organize and retrieve data against more “organic” metadata rich retrieval formats.

Apple’s iTunes is a great example of a rich metadata format: filter and sort by date added, artist, song title, rating, album, genre, composer, disc number, size, track number, sample rate, comments, beats per minute, bit rate, date recorded, last played, and more. Simultaneously, iTunes allows users to create their own personal folders of content they find useful. On the other hand, the two largest vendors (Documentum & Interwoven) in the EMC (Enterprise Content Management) space mostly rely on stagnant folder structures (that quickly outgrow multiple users) and search boxes as the main organization and retrieval formats for digital assets. As such, the simplicity of personal content management systems could be a massive productivity and adoption boost for enterprise wide CMS.