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Posts Tagged ‘Dana Larson’

Op-Ed: Is Your Web Content Crap?


Our Extractable contributor Dana Larson, who last stirred it up by talking content strategists, returns with a new post about web content. We don’t need much preamble anymore, let’s just pass the mic and let Larson take it away.

At a recent pitch, a member of the client team asked, “How much is too much web content? And how do I know when to get rid of content?” At a time when website page counts routinely—and often unnecessarily—surpass the thousands, this question was music to my ears. Obviously, there are situations when deep websites are needed—retailers selling thousands of products, media sites with vast libraries, educational sites, etc.— but the reality is that most pages of a website go largely unseen.

In a quick study of a handful of our clients, including a Fortune 500 healthcare technology provider, we found that, on average, 87% of the total website pages receive five pageviews or less in a month. It would be easy to assume that that’s a tremendous amount of content that’s just not pulling its weight, and for the most part it would be a safe assumption. But if one of those five pageviews on a page led to sales, then that web page is not useless crap, it’s just not your lead dog. My guess is that many other websites out there are in the same boat.

So how do you know when to get rid of content?

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Op-Ed: They’re Called Editors, Not Content Strategists

It’s no so often we get rebuttal op-eds, but Brian Clark, CEO of GMD Studios, was so inclined to offer his perspective after reading last month’s submission from Extractable VP/user experience Dana Larson, who went into detail explaining what exactly entails being a content strategist. Well, now it’s time to pass the mic to Clark, the former publisher of IndieWire and a founding partner of the content production start-up, Mastheading, who has been “helping brands” like Microsoft, Ford , IFC and News Corp. …”leverage content solutions for more than fifteen years.”

If you believe guest perspectives from some experienced folks in the advertising and marketing press, content strategists are your go-to experts for such diverse skills as content audits, SEO reviews, accessibility guidelines, template design, “voice and tone development,” taxonomy and… oh yeah, content development.

Even when these experts promote the mantra of “think more like a publisher than a marketer,” they end up revealing more about how they think publishing works than the way it actually does. Content Marketing is an old, multi-billion dollar-a-year industry now becoming populated with bloggers and Web developers who think it is a new paradigm-shaking career change to position themselves as “content strategists.”

Guess what title doesn’t exist at real publications? Content Strategist. In publishing, we call those “editors” and they come in a huge variety of flavors, from overall editorial visions (Editor-in-Chief) to production management (Managing Editor) to technical implementation (Assistant Editors). Most content strategists from agencies would be labeled “consulting editor” or “contributing editor” by publishers, since they are advising the client and not actually crafting the result.

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Op-Ed: What is Content Strategy, Really?

Alas, our usual Extractable contributor Simon Mathews is sitting this month out, but we gladly welcome this rather epic debut from Dana Larson, VP/user experience at the aforementioned San Francisco agency. Larson has spent 20+ years in the biz, holding a wide range of positions including copywriter, CMO, content strategy director and ECD. Seeing as she has some experience in the content strategy field as noted, Larson offers a comprehensive look into what this job exactly entails. Read on.

Recently I was reading a discussion on LinkedIn Groups about whether or not it was a promotion to go from copywriter to content strategist. I asked one of my old colleagues what he thought, and his response was, “I don’t know…what is content strategy, really?” Actually, that’s a good question as I think a lot of people don’t really know what content strategy is. Erin Kissane explains this phenomena in her book, The Elements of Content Strategy, by saying, “In an industry in which the efforts of visual designers, information architects, front-end developers, and content creators can be seen center-stage when a new website launches, content strategy is a fundamentally backstage discipline.” And because content strategists typically work with all of these more visible roles, it can make their role seem even less clear-cut.

I’ll get to just what a content strategist does in a bit, but first let’s set the stage by taking a look at a website that was clearly designed without the aid of a content strategist. I’m kind of at a loss for words at how a renowned organization like Massachusetts Institute of Technology could produce something like the Center for Advanced Visual Studies website. Its haphazard placement of text islands obscured by clouds of floating type combined with random web 2.0 animations is a recipe for digital indigestion. Wow. Go there. Now. Resize the window. Experience the wonder. It’s the site that keeps on giving.

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