This time with feeling: A fresh look at content modeling

Database modeling isn’t something you typically associate with a content strategist—particularly not the kind who is obsessed with things like brand, message, and editorial style.

But maybe it should be.

As I started writing a book and delving into “the future of content,” I began thinking a lot about what’s wrong with how content gets structured now (or, more often, doesn’t get structured), and why content modeling hasn’t caught on beyond some relatively niche, typically tech-comms realms.

Then it struck me. Many people who otherwise obsess over content don’t want to model it because it comes off all clinical and dreary. It seems technical and too dry and not at all what we’re about. Content is complex and beautiful and weighty and important, and reducing it to a diagram of chunks seems so…soulless.

It needn’t be.

Architectural angle of the Eiffel Tower
Structure can be rather beautiful, n’est pas?

Here’s the real deal: If you think rich, meaningful, lovable content matters (and if you don’t, please just leave this site now), then you need to care about its structure—and it’s not enough to leave the modeling up to the database folks.

The shape you give your content is what’s going to lend it life and keep its message intact when you can no longer control where it appears or how it will be consumed. If you don’t, all that effort to make content that matters will be wasted when it’s either stuck to a single page designed for a single device, or sent out into the wild as one big undifferentiated blob.

Over the last couple months, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to folks who don’t think content modeling is dreary. And you don’t have to wait ‘til my book is out to hear from them. I posted a collection of smart thoughts from some of them over at the book blog. I’d love for you to check it out.

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