Who’s Responsible For Content That Expires?

When it comes to your Web site content, who is responsible for removing it after its lifecycle? For many of you publishers out there, I’d wager that you treat your expired content the same way you treat your recently deceased and always distant Aunt Mildred … Whoever has the bandwidth to get the job done gets stuck with figuring out what to do next, and more people than necessary will ultimately have to become involved.

We owe expired content and our expired Aunt Mildreds a lot more respect than that my friends. Had we only had taken the time to plan for the end of their lives ahead of time, numerous people’s time and productivity wouldn’t be taxed by these untimely deaths.

Enter the Content Strategy, enter the Governance Plan!

As I stated in a post from a few weeks ago, I’m of the belief that good content strategists forge fruitful relationships with content managers. One of the most important facets to this relationship is related to the governance of content. As content strategists, we’re essentially serving as the funeral director for our content managers tasked with dealing with expired content on our sites. Through various touchpoints and reviews, gap anlaysis and a complete content inventory that maps the site, a good content strategist should be able to establish all of the things that need to be accounted for when a piece of content expires. The strategist will be able to answer all of the manager’s funeral questions. Some examples you ask?

  • Does the content link to other critical content on the site? (Does it serve as a gate to non-expired content)
  • Has the content been embedded on or linked to from partner or vendor sites?
  • Will the removal of this content create a gap in our messaging plan?
  • Does this content simply need a refresh as opposed to complete removal?
  • Will the content need to be archived?

Those are just a few things that come to mind. Believe me, there’s a lot more. Just like when dear old aunt Mildred died, there are tons of things you never seem to think about until content is gone.

So, why haven’t we been preparing for the death of content and the death of aunt Mildred?

I believe most organizations fail at governance because they expect that their content management systems or the manager of said system to do all of the lifting. They overlook the need for a governance model prior to CMS selection or workflow development, opting instead to (prematurely) dive into technical design and development, hoping the creative skinning and product capabilities will magically solve operational requirements.

In other words, strategy for the content that goes in your CONTENT management system comes after you select the system. How incredibly backwards is this!!

There are many schools of thought out there about how to establish a governance model, and I’m sure that all of them have some merit, but without the strong collaboration between content strategists and content managers little will be done to solve the headaches that come when content finally expires.

If you’re interesting in reading up more on the governance process, check out Navigation Arts has some pretty insightful research, as does Razorfish (PDF).

The moral of the story really is to plan ahead, and determine all of the factors that will occur if your content or your aunt Mildred suddenly expire.

Have you implemented a Governance Model? I’m curious to hear the details. Comment below!

Photo by Dave Shea (a.k.a Mezzoblue)

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Teri Reblin says:

    We have not implemented a governance model yet. The good news is it’s finally on our radar! I’m interested in connecting with others to hear about their process for getting this going and the decisions made along the way.

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