The information technology (IT) industry fundamentally doesn't understand the true value of web content. This lack of understanding is just one more reason why IT will continue to decline in influence over the next five years.First off, let me say that I am not opposed to technology. My laptop is my office. What I am opposed to is a particular technology mindset which exhibits a type of gadget addiction, an obsession with the new, and a relentless desire to automate everything it comes across.
Information is a strange word. Some people see information as a noun. It is a thing. These people look at eight words and see 60 characters. What interests them is not the meaning of these words but whether the characters were dynamically generated, and whether they are stored in XML.
Others see information as a verb; as the process of communicating knowledge that results in action. These people don't see 60 characters but rather a heading that is going to engage readers' attention and get them to act.
Historically, the IT industry has had a small "i" focus on the information and a big "T" focus on the technology. When IT did focus on the information it was very much as a noun; something to be processed, distributed and stored. When IT was in charge of the website, the focus was not so much on content management, as on content management software and other applications.
The technology industry has an unhealthy obsession with itself.
I read in a technology magazine that 2004 was the year when technology became cool again. I'm going to let you in on a secret here: technology was never and will never be cool. When I tested a whole range of words with over 1,000 people in 12 countries, the word "technology" was at the very bottom of the list.
Many IT departments have indeed done a great job in introducing their organizations to the importance of the Web. However, the Web should no longer be managed by IT. The public website should be managed by marketing, and the intranet should be managed by communications.
It may well be that certain IT people who have championed the Web will move over to marketing/communications. It may in fact be necessary for a new type of department to emerge. Whatever happens, a web team is required that is focused on the power of words to drive action. Because, let's face it, when you take away the words from a webpage or from a web application, what is left?
The managing editor who is in charge of the website must be responsible for everything-the content and the applications. They must ultimately decide whether new content should be published, or whether new applications should be developed. Their decisions must be based on a deep understanding of their staff, their customers, or whoever else their website is targeted at.
There are absolutely wonderful opportunities today for good web editors. Progressive organizations now recognize that content needs to be managed by skilled people. The next phase of the Web is about increasing productivity with content, delivering better services with content, making more sales with content, building lasting brands with content.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.