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Own Your Content. And Keep Grizzly Bears at Bay.

by Clinton Forry on December 9th, 2010


The best way to properly take care of your content is to give it an owner. With ownership comes responsibility. With responsibility comes reward. That reward? Content that helps you achieve your business goals.

An example of ownership: my dad’s truck

My dad takes meticulous care of his truck. He changes the oil on a regular basis and performs regular tune-ups.  He keeps an ear out for funny sounds that the engine might be making. He washes it. All of the time.

He needs to do this because he depends on it. It does the work he asks it to do—hauling things, towing things, etc.

It’s also a source of leisure for him. Every fall, he puts a truck camper on the back and goes far out West for a couple of weeks with my mom.

Not only is this truck getting them from one place to another, but it’s also serving as their lodging whilst in the mountains where the deer and antelope play.

If he were to neglect that truck, ignore regular servicing, and pay no mind to its proper operation, he and Mom may end up stranded on some mountain pass with a wild grizzly bear. (See dramatization in photo above.)

His mindful ownership minimizes that risk.

Content needs ownership

Now, keep in mind, things can be owned—and not cared for. This often leads to less-than-stellar (or even catastrophic) results. I’ve seen it happen with trucks. We sometimes see it with content.

Organizations are beginning to recognize the need for useful, usable content that will help them accomplish their business goals.

But, what they often fail to recognize is the need for staff resources and processes, which are required for the responsible ownership of that content. Or, they assign ownership to the content, but don’t tie ownership to website goals.

These organizations don’t look beyond that very instant the “publish” button is pushed. They might even think (and say) things like:

  • “The web is like a filing cabinet that never gets full.”
  • “Someone might look for that content, so keep it on the site.”
  • “Just get the content up there, we’ll deal with it later.”
  • “We’ll have an intern keep an eye on the content.”
  • “We haven’t touched it since 1999.”

Without ownership, and the maintenance and monitoring that go with it, content suffers. Goals become much harder to accomplish. Which puts us perilously close to having our content stranded on a proverbial mountain pass, with the grizzly bear of ineptitude pacing outside.

Have your content serviced every 3,000 miles

The best content owners do far more than just ensuring content makes it to the website. Regular service intervals apply to both Dad’s truck AND effective content.

Mindful content owners make a regularly scheduled habit of:

  • Monitoring content performance against goals and benchmarks
  • Ensuring ongoing relevance of content to business goals
  • Verifying  the accuracy of content
  • Maintaining usefulness and usability of content for those using it

Content (or truck) owners acting as good stewards will be able to use their content (or trucks) to do what their goals demand. People visiting their websites will be instructed and entertained, and they will accomplish tasks. Or take vacations with truck campers. Without fear of grizzly bears.

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(Truck image from Dad, incorporating bear image from Flickr user tiredofh2o (CC: by-nc-sa 2.0))

  • Lauren

    Hi Clinton-

    Great post. I hear this all the time at my office and I’m interested to hear more on the subject,“Someone might look for that content, so keep it on the site.”

    I’m wondering if you could provide more context, because I don’t always see this as a negative thing. We have a lot of long tail topics on our website, and often we keep content that we aren’t actively promoting so someone could find it from search if necessary. We also try not to unpublish old content from previous versions of product because we have a lot of customers still on those versions.

    Of course, this could lead to 1,000s of old documents that someone “might” want to see to see out on your site, but what’s the real risk if they can only find it through search?


  • http://lessworkmoreflow.blogspot.com B. Noz Urbina

    Hi Lauren, my two cents…

    One of the big risks if they can only find it through search is that they’ll find it in searches. : )

    Search is one of the preferred (most people will say *the* preferred) method of finding content today, so having search results clogged up by – as you say – potentially thousands of old hits is detrimental. That doesn’t mean you have to remove it necessarily, but you need to have a process in place for archiving it and your search engine has to take into account what content is in what status and allow users clear, functional access to what they want.

    Combining brute-force textual search with a ‘we’ll just keep it all, just in case’ policy results in less effective search and less than optimal user experience.

    - Noz

  • http://www.content-ment.com Clinton Forry

    I think that Noz summed up the answer I had for @Lauren’s questions quite well.

    There is a balance to be struck, no doubt. Software companies often make the decision to stop supporting certain versions going forward, as the continuing cost of maintenance outweighs their benefit (and obligations.) But they do support those older versions for a set time. It is part of their business plan and goals.

    Best case, they have timelines set from the start that indicate the full lifecycle of support: launch, regular updates, updates after new version release, and finally, retirement.

  • Lauren

    Thanks for the replies. I like Noz’s point in particular about search being a primary way to navigate.

    With regards to maintenance for older software versions, we actually find on our site that it’s more maintenance to try to remove a piece of content than to just keep it out there. To remove it/archive it, we have to go through the process of finding all the old links and updating. In a site as large as ours, this is a very daunting task.

    Great thoughts to chew on.

    Thanks again,

  • http://www.theuniuni.com/ Payton_vege

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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