content strategy

Surviving the Distraction of Shiny New Objects

Can a shiny new object put your carefully crafted content strategy in peril?

Continuous partial attention is about scanning continuously for opportunities across a network, not solely about optimizing one’s time by multitasking.Wikipedia

Though Linda Stone coined the term in 1997, continuous partial attention has become more of an issue in the world of content than ever before. Real-time technologies allow greater access to more information at any moment. It could be a tweet, an email, a quick check of an RSS reader, etc. Laura Miller wrote a book on the potential impact this may have on individuals. What about the impact on businesses?

David McCandless’s Hierarchy of Digital Distractions has made yet another round on the viral info-sharing circuit. It clearly illustrates what many of the super-connected people are cycling through any minute they are awake. Just as Miller’s book points out, the lack of focus has people bouncing back and forth between the shiny new objects.

Information itself is not the only shiny new object poised to distract. The services and the hardware/gadgets that serve up the next hit garner the most acute attention. Apple’s most recent product unveiling is a…shining example.

What does all of this divided attention mean for content creators and publishers? What impact will it have on what was once a carefully crafted content strategy? Might the continuous partial attention distract to the point of sabotage?

A good content strategy will have workflows in place that address day-to-day activities.  However, there must also be a strategy and associated tactics and workflows that allow for consideration of new business opportunities as they arise.

I put the emphasis on workflow. Why? Because articles that pop up in the “Wall Street Journal” or “New York Times” get mainstream attention, and the echo chamber amplifies any potential into an unavoidable din. If a workflow is in place that allows each new shiny object to be carefully evaluated and vetted with stakeholders, the sooner they can be either implemented or tabled. The sooner, then, you can return to the task at hand: content.

Managers will rejoice in the fact that such a workflow exists, eagerly anticipating changes in the marketplace and technology. It is in the strategy’s best interest to have something in place that can protect it from a band-wagon jumping moment of viral hysteria.

Whether this shiny new object is a service, network, or a new device (looking at you, iPad), there are several key questions to consider.  At the very least, this component should ask two questions of a shiny new object:

  • Does this serve our customers/clients?
  • Does this fulfill an unmet business need?

Aside from the standard questions of “does this have a solid business plan” and “will this be around in the next 8 months,” other questions you may consider including in a shiny-new-object-evaluation component:

  • Would adopting a wait-and-see approach for the next quarter be appropriate?
  • What approach might our competitors adopt?
  • Which current content workflows would be impacted?
  • What is the potential return, aside from simply “being there?”
  • Does this follow our mission/tone/standards?
  • Would this cannibalize resources from things already established in the strategy?

There may be an advantage to being the first in line for a new technology. Bragging rights can count for something in some arenas.  But wouldn’t you rather be the one that does it right, rather than first? Meet your business and customer needs rather than being able to chime in with “first”?

Most likely, new business opportunities will require SOME sort of addition to existing content workflows. Be it one-time tasks of database configuration or appending metadata or modifying a taxonomy, or ongoing issues of manual content ingestion, editing, or transcoding, a disruption will probably be introduced. (Then again, sometimes disruptions become workflows.)

As with any component of a content strategy, the shiny-new-object-vetting portion must also maintain a razor sharp focus on business objectives, the people using your product/service, and the practical realities of your current operation. What were once major distractions and time vampires will hopefully become ever-so-complete-able tasks.

(Cragars! image via Flickr user cindy47452 (cc: by-nc-sa))