St. Peter, Patron Saint of Website Content Management?

September 16, 2010

Posted in Governance, Higher Ed, and Web Industry.

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Josh Stowe posted a series of tweets today about the Notre Dame Alumni Association implementing a central editing and approval process for all of their website content:

Excited about switching to a centralized content approval process. Anyone can draft, my team approves/publishes, and there’s a style guide.

We can do this b/c we’re an office of about 30. But it’s the only way to go if you’re serious about enforcing standards.

I think you could do this at the university level as long as you had one content person per unit / per every few units.

But a decentralized approach will always yield subpar results. The people posting content need to be content people. Period.

As Josh points out, his area only has about 30 people and not all of them will directly manage content. But many of their people are responsible for the accuracy, freshness, and effectiveness of their portion of the website. Yet these aren’t writers and editors, and they’re definitely not web professionals. They’re subject matter experts who know their areas.

Enter Josh, the department’s web editor and community manager. He is responsible for the content for the overall website. As the gatekeeper for the website, he takes the contributions of the subject matter experts and molds them into the right message and a consistent voice. And just as importantly, he implements the content appropriately – no more styling inconsistencies, no “under construction” baloney, and no more junk web code. And since he’s efficient at these things, the subject matter experts can spend their time doing their jobs and not trying to figure out how to tweak some HTML.

On a larger scale…

Can a University do this? Sure. It would take a lot of resources to do it right, and a cultural shift toward central content management.

The bigger question, perhaps, is whether it’s worth it. Would a University benefit from these, enough to justify the staff needed to manage thousands of pages?

What other schools follow this model, and what are your content management challenges?