I was thinking lately about two problem sets that exist in separate worlds and wondering if more than simple parallels can be drawn. The first problem is on the consumer home front and centers on the digital media explosion most of us are experiencing in our households. I’ll offer up my situation as a thumbnail of the situation. I have an iTunes library with 12,000+ songs, Picasa photo library with 4,000 family photos, 3 DVRs in the house, flip video library with 3000 micro videos (1 min or less), three computers with files scattered across them, including financial records. When I think about the problem, given my professional background, I have some ideas on where to start to infuse some organization into this growing mess, but I wonder, how would the knowledgeable consumer navigate this mess?
What we all want is a simple way to create, manage, and deliver the media (content) wherever we are – on the patio, in the family room, across multiple rooms during a party, on a web browser when I am traveling and want to see the family photos, on an iPhone when gathering with friends, etc. Even more dynamic would be the ability to call that media up based on association with a family member while in a certain location. That would require painstakingly applying terms (i.e. metadata) with this entire digital media. Applying metadata to this content does not appear to be a mainstream activity most people would engage in. Some programs are helping to apply light metadata, but they have a long way to come. Over the years I have tossed this topic out into conversations with technologists, marketing professionals, and consumer electronics geeks, no one has a simple solution yet.
The second problem set occurs in the corporate setting and manifests itself many times when an organization seeks outside help in designing and deploying a new website. As we are going through the discovery process to define what the new website experience will look like and what information it should present, the content issue jumps into the forefront. Organizations have pockets of information collecting all over the place and usually little focus on managing the content. If people inside these organizations want access to a certain type of information such as financial records, promotions from the last trade show, the most recent 10 proposals, industry specific case studies, or even pricing plans, they need to know whom to ask for it.
These two problems are really opportunities for new ideas applied to simple concepts. Both opportunities require that the solution address the creation, management, and delivery of the content. Looking at the situation from just the creation perspective, for example, will not yield a complete answer. I am sure Microsoft, Google, Apple or another home electronics manufacturer will create a device that helps us cross the consumer adoption chasm and bring the media together in a really useful way. I know that some of these companies have tried to capture the consumer media market already, but they have not yet hit the home run in terms of consumer adoption, probably due to lack of consumer urgency demanding something to address this.
On the corporate side, the answer is to first identify a high priority specific type of content, make an impact, and use that as an example to build upon. Too often, an organization tries to eat the elephant when addressing the content explosion. The recipe for success is to start with a collection of content, improve all aspects of creation, management, and delivery, then iterate or extend to another collection of content. Let’s use a manufacturer who has 1000s of product data sheets and must present this on their public website. The ultimate goal is to move from static PDFs that are posted to web pages and instead deliver dynamic product pages that have rich images and provide the ability to search or browse for products from many perspectives, e.g. size, color, and cost. The content creation step should be altered to capture 8-10 terms to describe the product and associated PDF data sheet. This simple step will help the management of the information as one of the terms should be last updated date. This will help the product managers indentify which product pages need to be updated to feed the natural search process. Lastly, with more terms available to use on product pages on the website, the user of the website should be able to search or browse for the product information using many terms vs. a single categorization structure if all the content were locked into static PDFs. This is an extremely simple example but to build and sustain it requires the organization to make a commitment of resources and to the importance of this information on its website.