An article by Gerry McGovern
There are two roles in web content management that matter: editors and writers. Editors decide what should get published. Writers create the content. Most websites started off with administrators-webmasters-who had lots of responsibility and little authority. Today, we see the emergence of the web editor, a position that will become increasingly important.
If you've been involved in the Web for a number of years, you've probably experienced feelings of frustration. You've had to champion the Web within an organization that didn't quite recognize its importance. At senior management level, in particular, you found little understanding of the Web's true potential.
You've had to work with departments that made you feel that they were doing you a big favor by giving you content. You've had to deal with other groups that had lost their senses and wanted to design their entire site in Flash. You've never had enough budget or staff. It's been an uphill battle.
Don't get cynical. Don't despair. Things are changing. And you've got to be ready for that change. Otherwise, someone else will reap the rewards of all your hard work. The Web is getting serious. There's going to be some professional management put into content management. Are you ready for the new challenges?
Some organizations have recognized that the Web is not that important to their core business. A brochure website will do fine for them. Other organizations are coming to see that the Web can deliver real value.
This recognition has a lot of implications for your job. You need to be regularly putting the point to senior management that the Web needs to be professionally managed. You need to explain that right now, the website is not getting the attention it deserves. Content is being published without any real thought or planning. The homepage, in particular, is a mess of political compromises.
Somebody needs to be put in charge. Somebody who has real authority. Somebody who can say no, that's not being published. Somebody who can say, take that down, it's out of date. Somebody who can say, if you don't have that content to me by Tuesday, there'll be hell to pay.
Very few organizations have a web editor who is genuinely in charge today. People are nominally in charge. In essence, they are put-it-uppers; people who are given content-if they're lucky-and gratefully put it up on the website. If it's distributed publishing, they probably oversee the day-to-day running of the system. But they have no real authority.
Have you got too much content on your website? Is a lot of that content badly written? Is a lot of it out-of-date? Beware of the ignorance of senior management. One of these days they will pay attention. They will ask some basic questions. Why is there so much content? Why is it so badly written? Why is so much of it out-of-date?
Instead of having excuses, you need to have a plan. It should be your plan that awakens senior management to the true potential of the Web. This plan should isolate the problems facing the website and propose practical solutions. Like putting an editor in charge. Such as you.
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. He has also authored several authoritative books
on the subject.