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The 5 Superpowers of Intelligent Content: Themes From ICC


With its ability to morph into the right kind of content at the right time, intelligent content has powers beyond those of your average content.

During the Intelligent Content Conference 2015, keynote speaker Scott Abel introduced the idea of superpowered content. As the conference progressed, the superpowers of intelligent content were revealed in session after session.

An origin story of superpowered content

Scott Abel was the first to compare intelligent content’s abilities to superpowers.


Remarking on intelligent content’s versatility – its adaptability to multiple purposes, technologies, and outputs – Scott declared it “content with superpowers.”

Intelligent content is “intentionally designed and structured to help us find answers, discover errors, and respond to threats and opportunities,” he continued.

Although there were no capes in evidence throughout the week, we heard plenty about intelligent content’s extraordinary powers – no fewer than five. This kind of content, we learned, has the following characteristics:

  1. Magically modular
  2. Amazingly adaptable
  3. Supremely scalable
  4. Fabulously future-proof
  5. Decidedly disruptive

Intelligent content superpower 1: Magically modular

When content is semantically categorized, it can move faster than a speeding bullet to meet emerging customer needs.

As Noz Urbina pointed out in his talk The Non-Terrifying Intro to Semantic Content, intelligent content breaks down easily into semantically labeled components that can reassemble into a new, more powerful, more relevant whole.

Modular content is reusable content, meaning that all forms of content creation become more efficient and more consistent. This reusability then enables the creation of a more contextualized experience, feeding back into the seemingly psychic powers of producing the right content at the right time.


As this slice from Noz’s presentation illustrates, reuse is the superpowered version of regular repurposing.

On this page multiple pieces of modular content come together to accurately describe a product, but could easily be reassembled into a catalog listing, a different web page comparing products with particular features, or an email promoting this item when it’s on sale.

These pieces can also be configured to meet the demands of the ever-growing list of devices where our consumers expect to find our (perfectly formatted) content.

Intelligent content superpower 2: Amazingly adaptable

Like the Incredible Shrinking Woman, intelligent content can adjust its size to provide the most power in any given situation.

Huge, high-effort content pieces aren’t always the right solution. When they aren’t, we need content that’s smart enough to adjust and adapt.

In a talk entitled Simple Ways to Massively Increase Your Content Marketing Effectiveness, Nick Bell brought us some seriously painful data revealing that a company’s high-effort content often doesn’t convert as well as content that’s less awesome but lower effort.

His revelatory stats:


High-effort content –  if it’s semantically categorized – can be adapted to continue working within medium-effort and low-effort channels, where it can drive more leads and create more customers. (Source quoted in Nick’s slides: Compendium)

For those of us who love high-effort content – say, a beautifully crafted e-book full of original research that takes weeks to finalize – this data may come as a blow. The good news is that this kind of high-effort content –  if it’s semantically categorized – can continue working within medium-effort and low-effort channels, where it can drive more leads and create more customers.

Intelligent content can change size at will to suit the conversion goal, audience, location, and device type of its current mission.

Intelligent content superpower 3: Supremely scalable

The founder of the Intelligent Content Conference, Ann Rockley, compared content production to a manufacturing process during her discussion of How to Create an Agile Content Factory.

Rather than crafting each piece of content from scratch, content producers with intelligent content at their disposal can crank up their production schedules by employing the powers of semantic labeling and modularity.

With the right strategy and management system in place, content marketers and other writers can increase their pace of output without sacrificing quality or relevance.

In Rockley’s experience, some content marketers can feel limited by the constant reuse of semantic content, but she sees this reusability as a benefit. Writers don’t have to keep worrying about and recreating the same things over and over; they can focus more on creative ways to meet customers’ needs with existing content.

The structure provided by semantically categorized, superscalable intelligent content is actually freeing rather than limiting.

Intelligent content superpower 4: Fabulously future-proof

One of the superpowers that generated the most discussion at the conference was immunity to the vagaries of the future.

Because it is modular, adaptable, and scalable, intelligent content can meet the unknown with confidence. Whether the next “villain” is a new social network, innovative technology (Apple Watch, anyone?), or an emerging market segment, intelligent content can be adapted to meet the threat or opportunity.

For those of us already struggling to keep content production on pace with the demands of marketing and development, new channels can sound like more of a curse than a blessing. But using intelligent content means that we can adapt our existing content and distribution methods to meet the new channels’ demands rather than starting from scratch each time.

Intelligent content superpower 5: Decidedly disruptive

In her keynote speech, Neuroscience of Presentation: The Science of Making Your Story Memorable, Dr. Carmen Simon eloquently reminded us that “habituation kills marketing.” If we want our content to claw its way into our customers’ minds and stay there, we’ve got to disrupt their content consumption patterns.

Fortunately intelligent content can provide a powerful disruption.

In fact, its ability to use data to anticipate a consumer’s needs can seem akin to psychic powers.

Whether it’s new Help documentation suggested by a customer’s behavior within some software, or an e-book that shows up in someone’s inbox to solve a problem they barely knew they had, intelligent content is there to save the day.

This power of appearing in the nick of time creates some degree of disruption on its own. We can also use intelligent content to create regular variance within the content we distribute.

By mixing up the content and delivery method while maintaining consistency of the most vital parts of our message, we can give our content the best chance of succeeding.

To power up its disruption capabilities even further, Dr. Simon recommended making these shifts regularly:


Intelligent content makes it far simpler to change the stimulus type frequently, avoiding habituation and making our content memorable.

What superpower does your content need?

The Intelligent Content Conference wasn’t shy about revealing the not-so-secret superpowers of intelligent content.

Whether you’re creating content for marketing or documentation, blog posts or PDFs, intelligent content can be a powerful ally.

What superpower does your content need?

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute