Content and technology are inseparable. From the printing press to the blog, how we create and share content with audiences has been defined by the tools available. The next step? Bring brands, content creators and consumers into a tight new ecosystem.
We all love great editorial, illustration and design. But let’s be honest: no writing, art or design movement has ever advanced the dissemination of information as much as a handful of technologists have. Creative people and their audiences have long learned to love geeks bearing gifts.
At every inflection point, content technology has gone beyond attracting attention or making people think differently – as great writers and artists can. It’s opened the door to exponential growth and change in the way we communicate.
Here are three examples. Gutenberg’s printing press meant, for the first time, that ordinary people could consume the written word. Historians estimate there were roughly 30,000 books in the whole of Europe before the first Gutenberg bible was pressed in the 1450s. By 1500, there were up to 12 million books in circulation.
Pushing inky carvings onto dead trees remained the dominant content technology until the 1970s, when electronic word processing allowed people to store, edit and share writing without resorting to paper. And a special mention goes to the Amstrad PCW, which in 1985 became one of the first mass-market computers, sold principally as a word processor.
The web changed everything, and blogging is our final example. Its poster child? Blogger.com, launched in 1999, which allowed anyone with a computer and a modem to create and consume content using nice-looking, customisable templates and reliable hosting.
And then came content marketing
Actually, content marketing pre-dates these technologies. Medieval monks and even hieroglyphic scribes in the Valley of the Kings would craft stories to package brand messages, from the wisdom of the Pharoahs to the advisability of making donations to the church. And let’s not get started on the Medicis…
Until now, content marketing has followed technological shifts. That’s changing. What we’re witnessing now is a revolution in technology driven by the needs of content marketing. And because we all love a buzzword, we’re calling this “ConTech”.
So what makes ConTech different? What are the attributes that qualify something as a ConTech system? Here’s a starter list:
- ConTech has great content at its core.
We’re not talking about collaboration tools or account management software here. ConTech isn’t about process. It’s about a dedicated approach to creating great content, from idea to finished article.
- ConTech has to integrate planning and execution.
What brands value from content marketers is insight on what to produce and how. Cool ConTech weaves this into the process, it’s not an add-on. Human expertise stands behind great ConTech.
- ConTech is not the preserve of experts.
Brands want access the right content experts at their convenience. ConTech must connect people needing content and people creating it, using and applying expertise rather than erecting fences.
- ConTech doesn’t end when the job is signed off.
Content marketers know clients are demanding. They want to know how hard content is working, who’s seeing it and what they’re doing as a result. ConTech must reflect this and offer tools to share, monitor and review.
- ConTech must be scalable.
There are always going to be jobs that need editorial intervention. A ConTech solution without an option for expertise and advice cannot serve the full range of client needs.
As brands get smarter about the content they need, we need low-maintenance systems that can easily scale up, without losing control of quality.
This is not a new challenge. Scale, after all, was what the printing press was about. As social media guru Richard Stacy explains, “This shift from institution to process is one of the defining characteristics of the shift from the Gutenberg to post-Gutenberg world.” He could have been talking about ConTech.
ConTech takes us beyond conventional CMS or content marketing platforms that tend to become tools for collaboration or aggregation. To be truly effective we need to create content eco-systems that cater to all the needs of all users.
Dan Davey is managing director of Progressive Customer Publishing (PCP)