Content Management — the next wave

There has been a meme developing in recent weeks, started perhaps by Matt McAllister at Yahoo (my former colleague for a brief time at IDG, former web guru at The Industry Standard and InfoWorld) that open-source blogging tools such as this one — WordPress — represents the true future of content management, providing the masses with a very capable tool for rapid web site development, but more importantly, ongoing refreshment and tweaking.

As I look over the content management landscape — an expensive and complex array of products from the enterprise level down to the personal — the old model of HTML development tools, followed by server-side development tools such as the old Vermeer, now Microsoft Front Page seems throughly dead, swept away in large part by what McAllister and his cohort, Chad Dickerson, correctly identified as the death of the page view model. For large organizations, the trend is still towards large enterprise systems such as Stellent, Documentum, Vignette and Interwoven, but creeping into the landscape is not only open-source CMS such as Bricolage and Drupal, but perfectly capable blog environments such as WordPress.

After 18-months of blogging in the WordPress environment, I see no reason not to recommend and deploy it to any layman anxious to get a site up and running quickly and then continuing with it as the preferred environment for ongoing site refreshment.

The old model, of using Dreamweaver, or Hotmetal, HotDog, etc. to craft a page and then FTP it up to a server, was way out of reach of the average user and insured that site development would remain locked away in the temple of the webmaster and producer. Now, with a tool such as WordPress, any user can manipulate CSS, get images and text live, and then easily syndicate it out without a lot of muss and fuss.

So what does this bode for the very expensive, very capable enterprise CMS vendors? Not much of a threat — a small business is not going to commit to a Vignette license and worry about .TCL templates any time soon. But as Google betas a page builder, and the old Geocities model of quick and dirty page building and hosting is transformed, expect to see a widening gulf between the $500,000 work of Interwoven and the $Zero world of open source CMS’s and blog tools.

As I dive into a refresh of my wife’s interior design company’s website — something I pounded together with Microsoft Frontpage three years ago, my temptation is to trash the entire thing and bring it back inside of WordPress, using the page development facility to build the “old” page model and letting her and her partner blog — if that verb applies to their view of the job — updates and images as needed. The main thing is to get me out of the picture as the gatekeeper. Trying to give a layman a tutorial into FTP and anchor tags, let alone CSS and XML is absurd.

So, what inspires this post? Content management is at the heart of my thinking these days — at one level one of the arguably most complex implementations imaginable — using a CMS to insure content standardization and global commerce across 70 countries — and at the other supporting a little interior design business on Cape Cod with two non-techies, low traffic, and a high need for good design and ongoing content refreshes.

There seems to be no middle ground.

[Chris Murray comments on his blog about his experiences with Documentum]

A-B Testing

This is old, but I’m blogging it so I can remember it:

ContentBiz 2005: Motley Fool and Optimost “Landing Page Tests Case Study” (by David Eckoff, guest blogger): I am attending the 5th Annual Selling Subscriptions to Internet Content Summit in New York this week, privileged to be co-blogging on-location with Dorian Benkoil. This is the first in a series of my reports covering the more interesting presentations from the conference.
Tuesday morning Greg Martz of Motley Fool and Mark Wachen of Optimost presented a case study on “Landing Page Tests – What worked and Failed Out of Dozens of Design and Copy Elements“.
Martz talked about how Motley Fool had been performing standard A-B tests on its landing pages to optimize the design and copy for maximum conversion. However, the A-B tests were very time consuming and limited in scope.
Seeking a better solution, Motley Fool turned to an approach called multivariable testing. What’s that about? It’s a method of testing multiple variables each having multiple values.
Working with Optimost, Motley Fool tested 13 variables, including page heading, headline, order of copy blocks, copy, offer presentation, submit buttons, guarantee language, etc. In total, 88 values were tested, including page headings, 16 headlines, 6 order layouts, etc.
Think you could test that manually? Think again. According to Optimost, with that number of variables and values, there are over 1 BILLION possible permutations!
The result of the initiative: 39.5% increase in clicks to the order page, and 36.4% increase in subscriptions. Whammy!
What advice did Martz and Wachen give the audience?
* Test everything, and everything against everything else. (Copy, offers, submit buttons, images, ordering, etc.)
* In the long term, multivariable testing is much more cost effective than traditional A-B testing.
* Need buy-in of tech and design teams, this is crucial to success. The key is to help the teams develop a culture of testing, instead of relying on gut instinct or a laundry list of best practices.
* Testing instructions: rinse and repeat. Not just a matter of keeping copy or design fresh. Until you get 100% conversion, you can do better!
In my next report, I’ll uncover the details presented by Stephen Wynkoop and Dr. Flint McLaughlin in “How An Optimized Subscription Path Increased Paid Subscribers 175%”.
Guest blogger DAVID ECKOFF is senior director at RealNetworks, where he leads business development for Real SuperPass. The opinions expressed in his guest blogging from the Subscription Summit are his own and not those of Real. You can reach David Eckoff by e-mailing davideckoff …at… gmail.com

Naked Conversation – Scoble & Israel

As I ready myself for a presentation on “community marketing” I ordered two copies of the book, Naked Conversations by Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble and tech PR guru Shel Israel. One for me, one for our CMO.

Seems like a no-brainer to dive into unrestricted corporate blogging and enter the conversation, but there will doubtlessly be pockets of resistance to overcome. This book is helping make the case. So far I am in as far as page 50 and it’s not too infantile, though it is, as all books must do, handshaking down like a modem to the slowest common denominator.

Also just finished IBM Redux, a good history of the Gerstner years at IBM. I have not read Gerstner’s own accounts, the Elephants Can’t Dance” book, but Garr’s book is a good yarn, one of the better corporate tales I’ve read.

The Art of Creating a Community

Let the Good Times Roll–by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Creating a Community

Some good insights from the master evangelist. I’ll follow with my insights on community management and getting the inmates to run the asylum.

Guy is doing great work with his blog. His post following this one is about how he blogs. Sounds a lot like the way I work — after 10 pm, TV on mute.

Seth’s Blog: Flipping the Funnel–new ebook

Seth’s Blog: Flipping the Funnel–new ebook

This Godin e-book was quite useful to me this afternoon as I built a presentation on “community marketing.” I haven’t had time to view the Scoble video on the same topic — reversing the marketing “funnel” of awareness, consideration, comparison, and buying — into turning your customers into your megaphone.

I’m not down with the video thing. Webinars, etc. Too serial. I can read faster than I can watch.

Marketing nightmare at LL Bean

The arrival of the LL Bean Spring 2006 Fishing Catalogue is aways cause for some celebration in my mailbox. I like looking at the new year’s selection of stuff I shouldn’t be buying.

Anyway, some poor soul in Freeport, ME has a lot of explaining to do. The second page of the catalogue invites customers to "Talk to Our Experts at Our FISHING HOTLINE"

The 800 number, which is "800-LLB-FIS_" (to find out why I’ve omitted the last digit, read on) offers some "experts" alright. But not the kind of experts most people want to contact. DO NOT DIAL THE NUMBER IN THE PRESENCE OF ANYONE! THIS IS NOT WORK SAFE!

 

After being told about this Royal Snafu last night, and after hearing the first five seconds, all I can say, is DIAL ALL PHONE NUMBERS before publishing them. I pity poor Bean, they are an excellent company and don’t need people like me blogging their embarassments.

Update: 1.31.06 – Kennebec Journal reported on 1.28 that the number should have been 1-800-FISHLLB. "A most regrettable mistake," sayeth the flack.

 

The Millennial Generation: NYT 1.22

The Sunday business section of the New York Times carries a good examination by Tom Zeller of the "Millennial Generation", those born between 1980 and 2000 (the first generation to be born into a world where PCs were assumed, not introduced, unlike my generation which used typewriters in college and adopted PCs in our 20s). The piece is somewhat pedantic in discussing this new demographic’s infatuation with digital media, instant messaging, social networks, gadgets, etc..

Yet it is worth a read because of the insight that in four years this group will outnumber boomers and GenX.

The good quote from Vicki Cohen,vp at market researcher Frank Magid Associates:

"…every time you turn around there’s something new on the horizon. And this group, as we’ve been noticing, is kind of the arbiter, quickly determining whether things are hot or not." 

The question, for marketing, is the influence of this group on promulgating discoveries to the other demographics. Will a Facebook ever emerge for boomers and seniors? Will Flickr become the favorite of grandparents seeking pictures of the grandchildren? Will text messaging catch on with executives the way instant messaging has permeated corporate communication channels? 

Apologies in advance to non-Times Select members trying to find the piece.

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