Lessons from Retail — Part 4 — Rethinking Content Management and Team Structure

The industry’s been talking for years about the prime qualities that make up “the Modern Marketer.” By many accounts, it takes equal parts creative vision, data analytics capabilities, technological know-how, tough-minded business sense, and great team-building skills to be the marketer that leads the pack. But in our real world of tight budgets and even tighter timelines, who has the time and energy (and training?) to check off all of these boxes?

According to the World Economic Forum’s recent report on “The Future of Jobs,” we’re at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, “where developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another.” These developments, in tandem with shifts in socioeconomic, political, and demographic spheres, are revolutionizing the ways that people think about world and their work in it, and also, how they interact with each other.

We see this on a practical level through the innovative new technologies that have been introduced over the past few decades — the mobile phone, then smartphones; tablets and other personal digital devices; smart cars, smart watches, smart refrigerators, and a whole host of other items that fall under the term “the Internet of Things.”

These changes have shifted our work lives too. With the monumental shifts in the way that media content is distributed today — from the early days of advertising on brand websites, to running integrated campaigns that crossed media channels and devices, to the present day, where the majority of content distribution takes place on third-party networks that are controlled by a small number of multinational technology giants — I argue that we also need to rethink the team structure that can help media organizations to thrive in an industry that’s being irrevocably shaped by omni-channel monetization and traffic management.

In 2016, organizations need to adapt their teams to include four operational areas that, for the most part, had been bit players or outsourced to third-party vendors under previous organizational models:

From Design and Creative, to Content Creation and Management. Designers, artists, and Creative Directorships have been around since before the days of Mad Men. But our new era of Big Data requires Content Creation specialists (e.g., writers, editors, and designers) who can develop raw, platform-agnostic content pieces that come together to make up marketing’s Big Ideas. Then, other experts — the Content Management team of technologists, taxonomists, and data architects — tag that content with the various layers of meta-data and category information that are required to optimize content cross-sell and distribution.

Content Distribution and Analytics — where digital art and science come together. In a sector driven by omni-channel viewing and hyper-collection of data, there will be no mobile vs. desktop, Facebook vs. my app, SEO vs. social. Instead, we’re moving towards an open approach focused on Content Distribution as the new editorial group: These specialists will organize a story to seamlessly cater to different channels and plan and execute its distribution based on either the users’ or the context’s specific needs. Then, overarching the whole development and distribution process are the Content Scientists — a role that our evolving industry simply cannot do without if media organizations are to continue to compete with data-rich social networking environments. Content Scientists are responsible for to analyzing performance from the perspective of the Monetization Equation, focusing on Traffic, Targeting, and financial variables (including revenues and costs), and feeding this back into the system in order to produce a more viable economy of scale for today’s publishers.

[See “Part 3 — The Contradictions of Content Monetization” for more details on the new model for content monetization in the age of third-party syndication.]

My view on Content Teams skills

As we dive headlong into the last half of the 2010s, publishers are facing some tough decisions that revolve around Targeting, Traffic, and People. Third-party syndication as a distribution pathway is set to expand further if the Facebooks, Googles, Apples, and Snapchats have anything to say about it (and they do, to the greatest extent). It’s time for publishers to get even smarter about how they manage their content distribution, and to do so, they’ve also got to change the way their resources (especially their ever-important human resources) come together so they can keep plying the murky waters of omni-channel media distribution in the years to come.