At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

Why Content Strategy Helps you Deliver Content on Time, on Strategy and on Budget

Variety of Icons Showing Different Aspects of Content Strategy

(Graphic: Hanns-Peter Nagel)

We live in the age of content. Every minute, users upload 30 hours of video to YouTube, send 204 million emails and view 20 million photos (according to this Intel study from May 2013). We are all content producers now and the ease of publishing and consuming content has changed our lives. It also presents organizations of all sizes with a challenge: for the first time, every piece of content is assembled in one place–on their website. To manage, maintain and monetize all this content, companies increasingly turn to a relatively new discipline: content strategy.

Over the next three months, Flip the Media will take a closer look at the growing field of content strategy. We will interview industry practitioners, give some tips and ideas how to analyse and improve web content, and try to highlight future trends.

In the first installment of our content strategy series, we talk to Jeff Greer, Content Strategist and Digital Experience Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Jeff has 15 years of experience, working for a range of companies, from Disney to e-commerce start-ups. At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, he and his team took on the challenge of implementing content strategy principles in a healthcare organization faced with a new regulatory environment and a sprawling website that had to be re-oriented towards consumers.

For many people “content strategy” is still a relatively new and undefined term with a pretty broad scope. What does “content strategy” mean to you?

For me, content strategy is a practice that helps you deliver content on time, on strategy and on budget. It helps digital teams manage content in a way that’s similar to how they manage design and development. It helps content creators manage their work more effectively, because when done correctly, it provides a disciplined process. And hopefully, with that solid process in place, it leads to engaging content that customers love.

When did you and your organization realize that you needed something like a content strategy and for what reason?

I arrived at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2011. The company was in the early stages of a major redesign. There were thousands of pages of content that needed to be reworked to get the public site ready for health care reform. At the time, no one in the company was accountable for the quality and consistency of the web content. It’s been an interesting, challenging, fun ride. Continue reading

Viral Video: Derrick Coleman, Batteries, and the Power of Storytelling

Flip the Media Viral Video

Batteries are usually not the kind of product that moves us to tears. Unless, that is, if they are part of a powerful story of success against all odds. Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman–deaf since age three and relying on hearing aids and lip-reading for communication–has such a story to tell. Narrated by Coleman himself, this one minute spot for battery maker Duracell’s “Trust Your Power” campaign has all the elements of heart-stirring Superbowl-winning ad. Surprisingly, the ad is not slated to run during the big game. But that’s fine, as long as Derrick Coleman is on the winning side.

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Charettes: Jump on This Cart With Your Transmedia Story

This article is cross-posted from the Washington Filmworks blog.

Science Trak's Norma Straw (left) consults with Comm Lead students Katya Yefimova (center), Sarah McCaffrey (right) and John Hellriegel (back to camera)

Science Trak’s Norma Straw (left) consults with Comm Lead students Katya Yefimova (center), Sarah McCaffrey (right) and John Hellriegel (back to camera)
- Photo by Scott Macklin

When Scott Macklin visited our Advanced Multimedia Storytelling class in the University of Washington’s Communications Leadership (Comm Lead) graduate program to introduce the idea of participating in a charette, I have to admit I was on squishy ground for a second. A minute. I imagined the NPR “Says You” panel having a field day with that one. A type of chewing gum? A small, charred object?

Of course architects and land-use professionals would suffer no confusion on hearing the term: they’ve been conducting the multi-stakeholder design sessions known as charettes for years. Originally derived from the Ecole des Beaux Artes in Paris is the 18th century, the charette was a horse-drawn cart that, depending on who you believe, carried the still-glistening-with-wet-ink projects of architecture students to their waiting professors for final grading. The competing version has the students themselves splayed on the bed of the cart, hastily adding the final touches to their projects as the driver hastened toward the waiting professor’s office.

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Coming to a Newsfeed Near You: the Interactive Infographic

Vector image of smartphone with scroll arrowStunning examples of immersive storytelling are appearing faster than you can say “Parallax”. But not only the vaunted journalistic longform is changing, the humble infographic is also getting a makeover. According to Web Designer Magazine’s just released top web design trends, 2014 is the year interactive infographics will become mainstream.

Interactive infographics are not exactly new, so why are they suddenly all the rage? Here are some of the key factors.

Browser Support. Until recently, interactive infographic were synonymous with expensive programming and design. Today, all major browsers support  CSS3 and HTML5 and some form of transition and animation property. There are still differences in browser support for CSS animations but there is enough of an audience to make the effort worthwile. Since the infographic is “coded into” the browser, it is easier to include links and even little web apps like calculators or games. Plus, once the infographic is set up it can easily be used and modified to fit all screens and devices.

They’re Becoming Easier to Make. If you know some CSS and HTML, you can create an animated infographic. If you get a bit more into it and learn how to use one of the many Javascript visualization libraries you can come up with some unique pieces of content. Even if coding is not your thing, new tools can help you do the job.

Static Infographics are So 2013. Need a piece of content to drive some traffic to your site? Make an infographic! Have a boring, text-heavy website? Make an infographic! What is everybody else doing now? An infographic! If you ever worked in the website or marketing world, you might be familiar with these situations. They occur because infographics are popular. Our brain tends to process visual information better. We don’t like to read text. Infographics are great for sharing and to make a quick point. Need proof? Check this infographic on infographics. To stand out in this sea of infographics, you need to offer something new. For now, interactivity is the way to go. Continue reading

What I Learned Teaching the Future of Marketing

This post was originally published in Mediaplant

By Rob Salkowitz (@robsalk)

Four scenarios developed to predict future of marketingWhen I started teaching a class on the future of marketing at the University of Washington Graduate School of Communications (CommLead program), I got a lot of questions, most of them taking the form of “how do you teach about something that hasn’t happened yet?”

Fair point. It’s hard enough to talk about the present of marketing, seeing as how much of the industry is rethinking its approach to everything from media channel strategy to metrics to the kind of talent that marketing organizations need. Charting the future under these conditions is like mapping the trail up a mountain in the midst of an avalanche.

And yet, that’s what I, and the students, had signed up for. As the instructor, I came to each class with the terrifying knowledge that I might have some information, but I didn’t know the answers. The best I could hope for was to help us ask the right questions.

Sorry, crystal ball not included. When people talk about the future of digital technology, the conversations often revolve around specific predictions: how many zetabytes of data will be created over the next few years, how much infrastructure will move to the cloud, how wearable devices like Google Glass will change our relationship between the digital and physical world?

Those are interesting questions with profound implications for businesses of all kinds, including marketers. They are the kind of thing you could reasonably expect to see addressed in a class called “The Future of Marketing” – and address them we did. However the goal of the class was not only to study the tech trends, but give the students – many of whom are mid-career professionals looking to add skills to help them get ahead in marketing and media – a framework for figuring out how they might play out in different kinds of organizations under different sets of business conditions.

Four visions of the future. To do that, we employed a method called scenario planning, used by many companies and institutions to develop strategies for an uncertain world. After a crash course in the basic technique, the class broke up into four teams, each owning a different version of 2020. Continue reading

Viral Video: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis Show New York How to Start the Day

New Yorkers have a reputation for being cool and sophisticated – even, dare we say, jaded? But clearly they can be won over by the charisma and super talent of our own Seattle sensations, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Are we sounding a little smug and celeb-proud? Shouldn’t we be? Watch this week’s viral video and decide for yourself. (All this, and Seahawks too – look at us go!)

As for your mode-of-commute options next week – you might want to take the bus. Yes, this is really an ad for the Grammys.

But we’re still taking the bus more often from now on.


You’ve Got to be Kitten Me! The Internet Cat Video Festival Comes to Seattle

Cats wih Light Sabres

Photo by Helen Pitlick

The year was 1984 and in Spokane, Wash., Charlie Schmidt was “unemployed and destitute, but there were three things that [he] had: a cat, a camera, and a keyboard.”

Charlie made hundreds of videos of his cat playing a keyboard, now immortalized as Keyboard Cat. The videos lay dormant until he posted one on YouTube in 2007. Cat videos as we know them were born.

Yesterday, the Internet Cat Video Festival made a Seattle stop in its multi-city tour. Cat ladies and gentlemen gathered at Showbox in the Market to watch a series of the web’s most beloved feline shorts.

Everyone in the audience was palpably excited and had been eagerly anticipating the event for weeks. Everyone else was all, “you’ve got to be kitten me.” (according to Buzzfeed, cat people like puns…)

Love them or hate them (and you love them, right?), cat videos have become an industry, launching celebricats like Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, Maru, and more. So what’s the appeal? Wired Magazine tried to get to the bottom of the phenomenon, but I think that Amber Armstrong, a Seattle-based software developer attending the event, sums it up nicely: “Because they’re funny and they make me happy, and they’re also cute.”

Charlie and the Keyboard Cat

Charlie with the current Keyboard Cat (Photo by Helen Pitlick)

A Cat Lady Networking Opportunity

Just about everyone I interviewed shared the same sentiment. “Who’s not a cat video fan?” asked Beth Steinhouse, a volunteer with the Seattle Humane Society. “They’re fun and cute and just a nice little escape.”

But why pay $20 to watch cat videos in a theater when you can watch them for free at home? MC Will Braden, creator of Henri (winner of the Golden Kitty award at the first Internet Cat Video Festival), told the audience: “It’s not about watching cat videos. It’s about watching cat videos together.” Continue reading

Net Neutrality Rules Are Dead (For Now). Why Should Students Care?

Net Neutrality Toll Both

Image from Lindsay Kinkade via Flickr Creative Commons. Adapted by Hanns-Peter Nagel

Students on university campuses everywhere or learning online in massive open online courses (MOOCs) will be sad to hear that a federal appeals court has rejected key parts of the FCC’s Open Internet rules. If they aren’t, they should be, as access to online education and information for all is potentially disappearing behind a toll booth.

So, what are the FCC Open Rules? Here is the CliffsNotes version (I am a student, after all):

Essentially, FCC Open Rules ensure that data on the internet should flow equally from publisher to user without publishers or users being additionally charged by the internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver content in a reliable way. ISPs would not be allowed to discriminate in delivery of their competitors’ information or to only return results of a business partner of the ISP.

In their decision yesterday, the judges did not rule against the open internet rules themselves; they ruled against the FCC being able to enforce them. Currently, ISPs are not classified as entities the FCC can regulate. The FCC is empowered to regulate “common carriers” like phone companies and right now the internet infrastructure is not classified in the same way as public broadcast, radio, or phone lines, which are identified as common carriers.

Bottom line: as things stand today, ISPs can throttle speeds of certain sites, allowing them to push their own services or seek payments for preferential treatment. Cable TV, anybody?

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