Types of Content

Kim Lawless wrote What do we mean by content?

Back in 2007, pioneering content strategist Rachel Lovinger defined the main goal of content strategy as “to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.”

Part of the problem in defining methodology is that content is such a small, generic-sounding label for the big, diverse, unruly, ever-changing universe of digital stuff we consume. To complicate things further, what stuff we can call content seems to be up for debate (there have even been backlashes against the word ‘content’ itself).

But instead of arguing about what is and isn’t content, could it be more helpful — in order to better come up with the ‘how’ of content strategy — to start instead by looking at how to work with particular types of content? Think of content as falling into one of these four major groups: informational, branded, user-generated, and systemic. The lines between them aren’t always completely clear, but each type tends to bring up a unique set of goals and challenges, and desired outcomes.

Informational content
Reduced to its essence, the goal of informational content is to meet one of your users’ most obvious needs — to give them the information they’re looking for. Relevance, clarity and consistency are crucial. To make that happen, one of the biggest challenges is in managing production flow and lifecycle. You need to understand who the authors, approvers and editors are; how content gets from ideation to publication; where it gets published (on your site, to an app, social media channels?) and when — does it change hourly, daily, weekly? And finally, how it will be managed and governed.

Branded content
Rather than strictly informing, branded content builds connections with users on an emotional level. Its goal is to build and support brand messages, persuade people, tell stories, and encourage engagement.

User generated content
Whether it’s through social media, commenting, or more intensive uses of UGC, having content produced by your audience is an effective way to build engagement and loyalty with content, and as a result it has become key to many content marketing strategies. Since real users are contributing content, UGC is often seen to bring both authenticity to brands and engagement to the audience, benefitting from things people are already doing online. In many cases, UGC is being produced in alongside (often in response to) informational or branded content.

Systemic content
This is where you’ll find content that describes content, making it findable, helping it flow to the right places, supporting SEO and even setting it free from the constraints of platform by giving it structure and extensibility, allowing for reuse. It is often available through an api, and helps publishers to identify, organize, and publish content in ways that are meaningful to users.

On any site or platform, the content ecosystem is going to be made up of one or more of these content types. By delving more deeply into the each of these types and clearly defining what outcomes you want from each of them, the ‘how’ of content strategy –- processes, tools, and roles should be involved, for example — starts to become more clear.

This is more than I am really OK with quoting from the original post. Usually I restrict the content I quote to a paragraph or the essential elements of the list post. I will write things in my own words with my own experience and thoughts added to give my point of view.

This time I want to read this over myself and get more from it. Also, the points made don’t make sense once they are taken out of the original context. So, here it is.

Where do you stand or waver on the limits of curating content versus just reprinting someone’s original ideas?

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