Q&A with Deane Barker, Chief Strategy Officer for Blend Interactive

Q&A with Deane Barker, Chief Strategy Officer for Blend Interactive

We are thrilled to have Deane Barker, Chief Strategy Officer at the web design and CMS solutions company Blend Interactive, as a keynote speaker at this year's eZ Conference, which will be held on November 3rd to 5th in New York City.

eZ chatted with Deane about his upcoming talk, "Content at the Edges." In his Thursday morning keynote, Deane will examine how companies are hurt when they cannot easily control peripheral content, such as Tweets, Facebook posts and Google + updates, which Deane calls content at the edges. Deane will also present the ways in which companies can use their CMS to control this content.

Your talk has a pretty provocative title. Can you tell us more about the concept "Content at the Edges?"

I think too often we get concerned with core content, and the content environment is changing a lot. It used to be we just created an article, but now we're finding, in addition to the article, there is a lot of content on the edges. We're finding that those articles will give birth to a Tweet and and a Facebook page or even an Instagram post. So what you have is the content item at the core, then all these little ancillary items around the edges that are becoming problematic to manage.

It can be very easy to manage the core content, but giving editors the ability to generate and control content on the edges is becoming more and more difficult.

You advise customers on how they can harness technology to refine their editorial process. How do you get started on that consulting process?

When you look at an editorial process what you want to find is the problems. You don't want to know if things are going well--if they're going well, they're good. What you want to look for are the things that are very, very painful. And one of the things you'll find in a lot of organizations is the person who can publish Tweets is the person who has the password to Twitter. As long as they have a password to Twitter than they can publish all these Tweets which are related to content.

What happens is: if I publish an article and someone else publishes a related piece on Twitter, then if the Legal department comes to me and says there's a problem with your article and you need to take it down--I can take that article down. But the Tweets are still out there.

Well the Tweet is edge content which is in no way attached to the core content. How do we change that? How do we fix it so that the core content and the Tweet are managed from the same system? And that if there are changes to the core content, the changes will pass through all the content on the edges. That's what you're really trying to enable.

When a customer has great content, what steps can they take to make sure their CMS doesn't get in the way?

One of the common problems you see within companies is that their CMS is very web centered, and they're only concerned with publishing web pages, so it's not a content management system but a web page management system. And I think if we expand that definition to be more of a content management system, then you tend to grow an understanding that the web page is content, and the Tweet is content, same with the Facebook update or Instagram post. All of these things are content that can be managed out of your CMS.

When you have a CMS like this, the Tweet isn't just a random thing that anyone logs in and composes. The Tweet was created in the context of the original article. And it was published around the same time as the original article. If the original article gets deleted I now have a workflow to delete the accompanying tweet because the article knows about the content on the edges. There's a level of knowledge there, so if there's some reason the original article needs to go away, the CMS can clean up everything around the edges.

Can you give us a couple companies that manage content at the edges well?

The best examples of someone who is doing a great job of dealing with content at the edges would be The New York Times and The Onion.

They have both done fantastic jobs of having a core piece of content with multiple promotional items. The Onion does a phenomenal job in driving content to their website through social media posts. And they do a great job in promoting old posts. I can't say the number of times that I click on a Tweet from the Onion for an Onion post that's 5 years old. But they have very high control over the Twitter functions they put out. I wouldn't be surprised if you look back at The Onion you would find these Tweets are all controlled from a central organization.

The New York Times does a wonderful job too of mixing edge content. I just read an article the other day on Donald Trump about how rich Donald Trump really is. And embedded in that article was an article about Donald Trump's tax returns. He had a document with his tax returns, and they were able to embed that content inside the larger context, so they created this kind of overlapping content. For them, content is meeting at the edges, basically.

What do you want people to take away from your talk?

People need to have a much less web page-centric view of their content, more than anything.

They need to understand that we're managing content, we're not managing web pages. We're managing content that might wind up all over the place. And it might not just land on their website, it might end up everywhere. And content is becoming a beast of sorts. One piece of content can give birth to twenty pieces of content on the edge. And you have to ask how can you organize that, how do you control that, how do you make sure that it doesn't get out of control?

I also want people to aim for this pattern we're calling the envelope pattern of content. Instead of your content being on a piece of paper, your content is really an envelope, and you can determine which pieces of paper should be stuffed inside that envelope.

If I came up with an idea for an article about Donald Trump's wealth, that's really an envelope and you can stuff all sort of things that are grouped underneath that content item. And those things all need to be managed really as a package. And they need to be in an envelope to know what's inside and to know where all these different pieces went and where to put them all.

This is an evolution that content editors need to make.

See Deane's keynote talk live at eZ Conference by purchasing your conference tickets here.

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