It’s 6 AM and the alarm rings on your smartwatch. It’s time to start the day! So you check the weather forecast on the watch. As you head to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, you speak to the Amazon Echo on the counter. "Alexa. Play me some music."
As you await your caffeine fix, you open your tablet, and cycle through your progression of apps: email, Flipboard, Facebook, Nuzzel and NY Times for Android. You finish your coffee, hit the shower, then jump into your car.
After a quick peek for time-sensitive emails, your Waze app fires up. It connects to your car dashboard via Bluetooth, and is ready to tell you the best way to avoid traffic on your morning commute.
What’s Missing from This Picture?
Your morning routine represents how we consume content today, and provides hints at how we'll do so in the future: smart devices embedded in all aspects of our life, and an evolution from typing, clicking and swiping to using your voice.
And, oh! I forgot to mention that you’re Generation X. Your consumption habits lag behind your more progressive colleagues, who are Millennials and Generation Z. Follow them around and you'll understand even better what the future will bring.
You arrive in the office and power up the laptop. We now get the answer to "what's missing from this picture."
Websites and browsers!
Once upon a time, we sat at a desk, used a computer and visited websites. We still do that today, but far less frequently. As our morning routine shows, content consumption no longer happens when sitting still, but instead when we’re moving, away from a desk or multi-tasking.
If there’s one thing I want you to remember from this article, it’s this:
Your content must be ready to reach users in this new world.
In other words: you need a Content Management System (CMS) that publishes beyond websites. Let's consider how a CMS makes this happen.
Carrie Hane, principal strategist at Tanzen has a good definition of structured content :
"Structured content is content that is planned, developed and connected outside of an interface so it’s ready for any interface. It treats content as data, so it makes sense to people and computers."
In the morning routine I covered, here are the list of devices:
To manage content in a scalable manner, it must be stored outside of an interface, and it must be ready for any interface. Instead of storing web pages, you’re storing the individual content chunks that comprise a web page. These chunks can be made accessible to a smartwatch, an Amazon Echo, or any other device, even a coffee maker!
Content strategists refer to this as COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere. Imagine if you needed to manage separate content systems for each device: to update a product description, you’d need to repeat the same steps for smartwatch, Echo, tablet and smartphone!
METADATA AND TAXONOMY
Metadata is data that’s used to describe content. Taxonomy is the way we organize and classify it.
Both are essential: it’s not enough to make content available to any interface, it must also be meaningful and contextual in the channel it surfaces.
The rendering engine of a CMS knows how to take structured content and have it come to life on a web page.
But in other systems where there's less structure on the front end, it's metadata and taxonomy that help determine which content elements to display.
Related: A 3-Step Plan to Select a CMS
APPLICATION PROGRAMMING INTERFACE (API)
Structured content, metadata and taxonomy prepare content to be ready for the future. But we can't predict what devices we'll use in the future.
And what’s where an API comes in. An API enables devices to make queries to a CMS to access the underlying content items.
The API is the conduit to content stored in a CMS: as devices and form factors proliferate, the API will be used to query and retrieve content, then package and present that content to end users.
Let’s say a restaurant stored its menu items in a structured content CMS .
It could tag a particular item as the daily special. When I ask, "Alexa. Tell me the restaurant's daily special," the Echo knows to make an API call to the CMS to retrieve content items with the proper tag.
To learn how to make content available to applications via an API, you can register to view this on-demand webinar .
While we'll be building and supporting websites for a while longer, maybe it's time to take the "Web" out of "Web CMS." After all, our job is to create and manage content, then make it available wherever customers need it. If we ask, "Alexa. Tell me what the future holds" she may not know the answer. But rest assured, our content will be ready for it.