Content Management Tidbits

Cooking and serving content for you… since 1998

The chef’s glossary

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A buzzword is a buzzword is a buzzword… but it’s better to use it appriopriately. The funny thing about buzzwords is the way they spread: you hear them for the first time, you seldom have the guts to ask right away for their meaning (especially us, non-native English speakers!) but you “kind-of-get-it” from the context, and it takes you several months to refine that initial personal definition. Until something or somebody proves you wrong.

Here’s a glossary of the most common words or locutions associated with content management. And the meaning I personally attach to them. If you disagree with one of the definitions (or have a more fitting one), please feel free to correct or enrich mine.

Content audit

It’s a phase that takes place in the early stages of a project. All the existing content (copies, data, raw information) is scrutinized and assessed. I personally prefer the definition of “content census”, because of the importance of having every piece of information analyzed, just like a universal census does, and because it stresses the need of describing each and every piece of information. Above all if we deem it unsuitable to keep on using it. More on: “How To Do a Content Audit”, by Hilary Marsh.

Content life-cycle

“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. The imagine of an old chemist/alchemist’s lab comes to mind when thinking about the process content undergoes before being published: that is, the content life-cycle. The content is subject to a series of processes, starting from the planning stage, until it’s ready for the final reader: content is designed, then written (usually starting from raw notes), edited, sometimes translated and localized, hopefully double-checked, then someone approves it and publishes it. Designing the content life-cycle means setting up a procedure for each one of these tasks, and identifying the key players, those who will be in charge of them. Imagine the key players as flasks, burners or condensers. And the CMS as the pipeline that connects them together, provided with valves and taps to ensure that the right authorizations are given before content gets to the next step.

Content Management System

Content Management Systems are softwares that basically let you store, classify, version, publish and search content. A CMS can be set up to follow the content life-cycle, so that only authorized users can accomplish a task, and every task is tracked and logged for future checks.
There are tens of major CMS softwares, built for big and complex organizations with complicated workflows (Enterprise Content Management), but there are also small and open source CMS platforms, suited for individuals or small businesses who usually have only one in-house staff member in charge of their content.

Editorial strategy

This is a tricky definition, because it has different meanings depending on the business context. Let’s stick to a general marketing one, and start with some etymology: “strategy” is a plan for achieving goals or objectives (source: Dictionary of Marketing Terms); “editorial” here has nothing to do with the kind of article where the “editor” speaks his mind, but refers to the pristine Latin meaning: pertaining to publishing (editus means “put out”, “given out”). So, in broad terms, the editorial strategy is the set of actions tied to any kind of publishing. In the media business context it’s a very complex matter (usually coincident with the overall marketing strategy); for organizations whose core business is not publishing, the editorial strategy has become a part of the promotion actions, because the Internet forced them to became “publishers” of themselves.


Format can be broadly translated as “layout”. In the traditional publishing/advertising world, formats used to be fixed, with a designer in charge of the visual part, and a journalist/copy/screenwriter in charge of “filling the holes”. When paper (or film) is not involved, those boundaries can be (and are) often crossed.


Granularity is a concept mutuated from science (and computing), and it indicates the fineness with which a complex object is broken down into smaller parts. And the content manager is often called to assess which kind of granularity content should have: for instance an article can be broken down to a title, an abstract, a date, an author, the body, a summary, tags, and so on (fine granularity); or, it could be simply processed as a title and a body (low granularity). Setting up a content management process that requires fine granularity is certainly more time consuming, but it allows the system to generate cross-references that are the real asset of online communication.


If I had to pick a definition of this term, I would go with “data that speak about other data”. This is one of the cases when etymology can be more effective than an attempt at an exhaustive explanation. Really understanding metadata, infact, means dealing with information science, mark up languages, relational databases, and other practices the newcomer might find a bit esoteric. But don’t worry and think about it as a librarian task: every piece of content is a book, and the metadata is a data-sheet you need to fill in order to make that book searchable. By the CMS, or by external agents, as search engines. Some content managers enjoy this task so much, they move on to become the ones who invent or perfect the data-sheet so that their content is always (hopefully) on top.


Coming soon


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Written by Paola

August 20, 2009 at 10:55 am

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