Content That Counts

Say you pick up a book at your local bookstore. There are some pretty pictures, and the font choice is pleasing and the layout is logical and engaging. But if the story is terrible—boring plot, poorly written, non-engaging language—would you continue reading it? Would you buy that book?

Of course not. And no one would blame you. It’s not a cracking of the chestnut of judging a book by its cover—rather, it’s judging a book for what it contains. Judging it by its content. And if the content isn’t solid, no reader will stick around.

I recently stumbled upon an article on the website A List Apart, and it contains one of the most intriguing, smartest articles I have read about content strategy and web content creation. In her piece “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” Kristina Halvorson writes:

“Until we commit to treating content as a critical asset worthy of strategic planning and meaningful investment, we’ll continue to churn out worthless content in reaction to unmeasured requests. We’ll keep trying to fit words, audio, graphics, and video into page templates that weren’t truly designed with our business’s real-world content requirements in mind. Our customers still won’t find what they’re looking for. And we’ll keep failing to publish useful, usable content that people actually care about.

“Stop pretending content is somebody else’s problem. Take up the torch for content strategy. Learn it. Practice it. Promote it. It’s time to make content matter.”

This is expressed so eloquently, and describes a real-world problem in accurate, easily digestible yet profound terms. So much of the content on the web is, simply stated, not good. Much of it runs the range from forgettable and ineffective to appallingly bad. Some web sites that offer merely mediocre content seem to shine in comparison, simply because the content isn’t awful.

I think we can do better. The world is full of eager writers—smart people who can turn a phrase artfully and draw a reader in. Regrettably, many writers still view the web as an enemy, a passing phase or an irritant. I would urge those writers to keep an open mind. Every day, my appreciation and passion for interactive communication grows. There are so many unique benefits to communicating online; the ability to immediately interact with audiences, the capability to reach a wider group of readers and the leisure of unlimited space are all siren songs that this writer can’t resist.

I’m all about taking up the torch for content strategy. To me, the flame is exciting, challenging, rewarding—and fun.

How do you feel about web content—creating it, consuming it, judging it? Comment below.

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