Content Strategy Forum 2013

Recapping this year's gathering of strategist and CMS professionals

Insert Content Here listeners may have spotted last week's firestorm of blog posts and tweets about the Content Strategy Forum in Helsinki, Finland. Held once a year, it draws hundreds of CMS, content strategy, and marketing folks: this year's event was no slouch.

I attended the event, and also had a chance to present about the common pitfalls many of Lullabot's clients have dealt with while transitioning to structured content models and multi-channel publishing. Some of the material built on my previous article, When Editors Design, with extra emphasis on the challenges news and media organizations face when their dreams hit the wall of legacy content and Photoshop-driven-design. Slides are up on Slideshare, and should be seeing a few spin-off articles in the near future.


CS Forum was jam-packed with high quality speakers: there were difficult choices in every schedule slot. There were a few standouts:

Margot Bloomstein's Content Strategy for Slow Experiences made the case for more thoughtful, slower-paced content that helps visitors and customers relax in a chaotic world. She cited research showing that customers call frustrating online checkout experiences "slow," but call engaging and enjoyable ones "fast." Even when the two checkout experiences took the same amount of time, their experience of the process was more important than their watches.

Online community was the focus for Misty Weaver. Her Closing the Community Gap talk explored the difference between managing closed communities like support forums, and open communities like social networks where a company's clients talk and connect. As the Drupal community has grown beyond the borders of, it's experienced many of the hiccups she describes: her advice on building healthy interaction between the various "Drupal Islands" is particularly relevant…

Native Advertising has been creeping into more news and entertainment web sites; Razorfish's Hawk Thompson gave an excellent overview of the highlights and lowlights. As more advertisers buy space in print and online publications, blending their content with "native" content, the risk of embarrassing Scientology-level disasters looms large. Hawk emphasized the difference between blending in to fool an audience, and talking about the topics they care about in ways that feel natural.

Finally, Richard Ingram offered a deeply philosophical look at how humans make sense of the world in The Importance of Visualization: Mapping the Way Forward. His talk explored the history of maps and how we've used them to understand chaotic systems -- then explained how the principles of map-making can be used to untangle complex content and business problems.

Drupal in the Content Strategy World

One of the interesting recurring themes throughout the event was the difficulty of getting different disciplines -- content managers, developers, designers, and so on -- on the same page. Everyone understands that it's critical, but many large projects run aground when those teams work in silos, only meeting when they hand off deliverables to each other.

As our community heads into DrupalCon Prague next week, it should be interesting to watch how these cross-disciplinary issues play out.

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