By Robert Rose published September 27, 2010

Content Mobility: The Key to Content Migration

When we think of mobile and content these days, the conversation usually goes to publishing content for mobile devices such as iPhones, Blackberries and Android phones.  While the mobile platform is interesting – and something other CMI contributors have covered – by “mobile” I actually mean something quite different. I’m talking about content mobility: migrating content from one CMS to another.

The dreaded site re-design

As your content marketing effort gears up, chances are you’re going to be producing a lot more content. That means, you’ll be developing more websites, blogs, social media, thought pieces and email. Not only does this mean that you need to handle a lot more disaggregated data, but you will probably also think about re-designing your website(s) or tweaking your online strategy to take advantage of all this new content. With that, you’re probably due for a new content management system (CMS) and with it — cue dramatic, scary music — the most dreaded part of that project: the content migration.

If you have ever gone through a content migration from one CMS to another, you know what a painful process it can be. So, how do we make sure our content is as “mobile” as possible?

When you’re planning your next CMS rollout, here are two key things you should make sure to put into strategy.

Managing all your content is easy if your content is normalized

The first key to content mobility is your ability to manage and publish the content you have – and re-use it in a way that gives you the most flexibility.

There is a lot of content you already manage, and you already need to publish it to many different interfaces including your website, social media platforms, email and, yes, smart phones too.

But over the next few years, you’re going to have to publish that content to innumerable other interfaces and formats as well – including kiosks, televisions and automobiles, Xboxes, etc.  How do you make sure your content will be compatible with all these new interfaces?

Find a system that will change with your needs
There’s no way to anticipate all the different types and amount of content you’re going to need to manage, so you need to implement a system that will change as your needs change:

  • Make sure that your CMS separates content from the presentation of that content.
  • Make sure your CMS can easily produce an “export” of your content in some easy to understand and normalized fashion. For example, most of the popular blogging tools export all your content in ways that the other blogging tools can import easily.

Remember: Content management is a two-way street

As content becomes more disaggregated – and the need to curate external content becomes part of the marketer’s daily life – the ability for your CMS to ingest data from external services becomes increasingly important. This is content that will come in from blog comments, Twitter feeds, emails, guest blog posts, syndicated sources, etc.

When we think of managing Web content, we almost always immediately think of “an easy way to publish.” However, in today’s content marketing environment, your content not only lives in multiple systems, it gets created in multiple systems.

  • On the outbound side, you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, blogs, micro-sites, email, etc.
  • On the inbound side, you have comments to blogs or articles, article ratings, curated external content, etc.

So, as you’re considering your next CMS, consider two takeaway tips:

Takeaway Tip #1: Your CMS should be as much a management system as it is a publishing system

Consider a CMS that ingests content as well as it publishes content. Your CMS should have the ability (whether you use it or not) to automatically archive and/or manage your Twitter feed, your Facebook updates and all your blog posts.

For example, use workflow to route blog comments or site questions to the right person who can comment or answer. Then ask yourself how can you start re-using that content. Can you republish an “index” of your Twitter stream with your event hashtag as a way to recap a product launch event?

Takeaway Tip #2: It’s not ALWAYS a good idea to move ALL the content into one CMS
I know this can be a touchy subject, but I’ll give you an example.  Let’s say you have – or your company is moving to – an enterprise content management system (ECMS) that stores content in a proprietary way. If the  pressure is to move the blog you’ve been managing for six years into that CMS, I’d think long and hard about that.

If that blog is in WordPress or something similar, it’s a good bet that it’s pretty mobile and can go into just about any other system. It could very well be a better strategy to continue to use the WordPress blog for management, and maybe archive the blog content into the new ECMS system.

If Wired is right, and tomorrow’s websites are declared dead or you need to publish your content in some specialized XML format that some unnamed search network will use, you’re going to need a method to manage your content that can facilitate, not hinder, that change. You shouldn’t have to reinvent your content management process every time you redesign your site or any time there’s a new online format. While it’s impossible to anticipate all the new features you’ll need to meet these challenges, and since new technologies can exponentially add to your budget, you’ll want to weigh your priorities carefully.

Design by process not by project

When you’re next designing your website, micro-site or landing page program, start to think of it as a content marketing platform, not an end product. The solution you pick to support the content management process should be flexible enough to format your online content for what you need and be able to change as your web strategy changes.

Here’s a goal: Make this the last website re-design you ever do. The perfect website / CMS / content marketing tool implementation means that you can make incremental changes to your site as you determine success, so that six months from now your site looks completely different, but you’ve not gone through the arduous process of a complete site re-design. It’s a re-design that happens by process, rather than project.

Making sure your content marketing is “mobile” means you’re ready for whatever may come down the road – whether it’s publishing to some new Web format or just archiving social media content for search purposes. It means that you’ll spend less time migrating content in the future and more time creating new and compelling content for your success.

Author: Robert Rose

Robert Rose is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory - the education and advisory group of The Content Marketing Institute. As a strategist, Robert has worked with more than 500 companies including global brands such as Capital One, Dell, Ernst & Young, Hewlett Packard, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert is the author of three books. His latest, Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has just been released. His last book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, was called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” You can hear Robert on his weekly podcast with co-host Joe Pulizzi, "This Old Marketing”. Robert is also an early-stage investor and advisor to a number of technology startups, serving on the advisory boards for a number of companies, such as Akoonu, DivvyHQ and Tint. Follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

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  • Rahel Anne Bailie

    Great comment, Robert. People might want to start thinking about the Content Management Interoperability Standard (CMIS) that deals with portable content between systems.

    • Robert Rose

      Always great to see you!!
      No doubt CMIS should start playing a bigger role…. But correct me if I’m wrong (it’s been a while since I looked at it) but CMIS was focused on ECM – and didn’t offer up any Web standards yet… is that still right?

  • Mel

    Hi Robert
    Good, thought provoking article, thanks.
    It’s good to read that “its a good bet” that the content in WordPress is pretty mobile. What’s the best way to find out for sure?

    • Robert Rose

      Mel…. It’s pretty simple… There’s an Export feature in WordPress that allows you to export your content (and other things like categories, users etc…) in an XML format. Most of the other blogging platforms will automatically ingest that (if you were switching for example)…. Now, it gets a little trickier if you’re using custom themes and custom fields – but theoretically it should all come out pretty well normalized (meaning fielded and well described)…. Then, any good CMS worth its salt should be able to import that content pretty readily…. The key with WP is keeping the software upgraded…. Hit me up by email if you have any other questions… Happy to help…

  • mobile websites

    Give more details about this topic. Thanks for such a good article blog.

  • David Hobbs

    You make good points here, especially that content should be made as mobile as possible. That said, I don’t think there’s any way for complete mobility. As you mention, content will be re-used in many ways, many (most?) of which we cannot even foresee yet. So even if you separate presentation from content, the content may not be in a format that lends itself for everyone conceivable use in the future. For example, let’s say tomorrow a new four-character-at-a-time display format becomes all the rage. To maximize your content for that new format, it will have to be modified (with perhaps an alternative version of the content that only has four character words). Also, deeper tagging of content may be necessary for future uses. Migrations also aren’t just about content, but all the various other elements that have to be recreated in a new system (templates, content types, functionality, metadata, etc). So I’m definitely a fan of the idea of content mobility, but I don’t think it’s possible to attain complete mobility.

    • Robert Rose

      Indeed… Complete content mobility is a bit like nirvana no? A place that one imagines, and tries to reach – but always lies just out of our grasp….. In my head the “key” above is one you might find on the janitor’s ring (handy but certainly not uncommon) – not the magical skeleton type…

      Thanks for the kind words and the RT’s…