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Glossary term

Content management

Quick definition

Content management refers to the end-to-end process of sourcing, creating, managing, and delivering content.

Key takeaways


Companies don’t need a separate content management system (CMS) to deliver content and experiences, but it is the best practice to ensure consistency and efficiency.

Content isn’t static — companies must constantly make sure the content they produce is up to date and generating consumer engagement. The goal isn’t to just deliver content — it’s to drive conversions.

In addition to a CMS, many companies need a digital asset management (DAM) solution to store and manage all content.

Companies can overcome challenges with content management by avoiding content silos.

Karthik Muralidharan is on the product marketing team for Adobe Experience Manager Sites, Adobe’s content management system. He is a former management consultant with experience in customer relationship management, channel effectiveness, and customer insights and loyalty. On the Adobe Experience Manager Sites team, he works with sales to help create product messaging.

Q: What is content?

A: In the context of a content management system, content is digital information, rendered on digital devices and consumed by an external reader. Examples of content include text, images, and video.

Q: What are the main features of content management?

A: The first important feature is the ability to create content. And you need the ability to make changes to that content and update it as needs arise. Content can’t be static.

You also need a set of processes and capabilities to deliver the content. If it’s digital content you intend to house on a website, you need a way to translate the content into HTML code. If it’s content that needs to show up on a mobile device, you need a way to adjust the content to fit the screen.

Q: What is a content management system?

A: A content management system (CMS) provides a systematic way for businesses to deliver content. It's a tool that helps companies build, manage, and make updates to an experience with the right user interface. A CMS will tap into a separate system that stores all a company’s content assets, then extract that content and bring it into the experience being created.

One of the key components of a CMS is providing the capability for a content editor, who is usually someone on a marketing team, to make changes to digital content when it is in the format it will be published in. Using a CMS, the content editor can easily preview a website and see how it will look when it’s finally rendered.

Examples of web content management systems include Wordpress and Drupal.

Q: What are the benefits of using a CMS?

A: Companies don’t necessarily need a CMS to deliver content to a website. A company can own the domain name and, with a lot of coding, they can find a way to deliver that web page themselves.

But content management isn’t just one person's job. A brand might have 50 people working on content, and only certain people would be responsible for updating the experience online. Certain people would just be contributors, while others would need to approve the content before it goes up. And without a proper system of record to track these workflows, it becomes impossible to manage. So another purpose of a CMS is to help manage all those workloads between the teams and to ensure that a company efficiently creates, updates, and publishes content.

Ultimately, a CMS platform helps companies deliver content to more than just one website. If a company needs to deliver content to a different channel, that content needs to be adopted to a different form factor. And if the company doesn't have a CMS, they have to re-create the content separately for that different form factor. For example, if a company is delivering content to a website and a mobile experience, and they’re not using a CMS, they have to create those experiences completely independently. But with the right CMS, a company can create the content once and deploy it or put it in the right format for all the other channels.

The other benefit of a CMS is that it allows companies to better integrate with the other systems needed for the business to run. The main objective of a website may be rendering content, but that’s not its only purpose. A commerce site, for instance, will need to have the capability for people to not just view the content, but make a purchase. That means the site needs to have links or different checkout buttons that tie into a back-end commerce system. But the company wants those links to exist on the web experience, so the two need to be integrated.

It's extremely difficult for a company to have no system of management and still publish content regularly. Most businesses have multiple webpages or multiple people delivering content, and they need to centralize that process somehow. A lot of companies will choose to build it on their own, but it’s expensive and hard to maintain. And it doesn’t generally make sense to invest so many resources when other companies exist to provide content management systems.

Brands or companies can't just deliver a static experience and expect to continue to engage and convert customers. They need to adapt to the latest trends and deliver the new information they want to communicate quickly and efficiently. If a company created their own CMS and were delivering content manually, it would take a significant amount of time. The developers have to get involved whenever a company makes a change — even something as small as correcting a digit in a phone number. And it can take two weeks to make this tiny change because of the back and forth between the marketer and developer, so companies don't want to lose that velocity for publishing content to change things.

A CMS is an easy-to-use tool that accelerates a company’s ability to deliver and update content. It allows a company to push out evergreen content and respond to changing consumer demands.

Q: What other tools are necessary for managing content?

A: Having a digital asset management (DAM) system or document management system is crucial. A small company that doesn’t have many assets will use Dropbox or another basic file-sharing tool, but a lot of enterprises will have thousands and thousands of assets. Companies with a large number of assets need a DAM solution to make sure the content is up to date, in compliance, licensed, and properly tagged. A DAM system helps companies easily find the right content when they need it, which can then be pulled into their CMS for delivery.

Q: What is the content life cycle?

A: It starts with ideation. The creative team comes up with an idea for content, and then they make it happen. Once the content is created, it’s added to the asset management solution, which serves as a living library that allows companies to access their content at any time. The CMS will then pull the content as needed and publish it on a website or as part of an experience.

At that point, the content is live. It is being actively promoted. Customers are engaging with the content, and the company is tracking and analyzing how the content is performing. At the end of the content life cycle, the company no longer needs customers to see or interact with the content at that time, so they remove it from the experience. If the company sees the potential for the content to go live again in the future, they will continue to store it in the DAM solution. If not, they will retire the content.

A piece of content can be retired, or removed from the digital asset library, for a variety of reasons. The content may be out of date or not relevant anymore, or the rights to an image may have expired. While there are assets that a company may want to hold indefinitely, it’s not efficient to continue to store content that’s not being used. The library will keep growing. Eventually, most content will be either removed or modified.

Q: Why is content management important?

A: Personalized content is how every company engages with their consumer. Although both in-person and digital experiences matter to a company, digital experiences have been growing in importance recently. Every company has a website — even your mom-and-pop shops. Many companies have mobile apps too. Today’s consumers are engaging with content across even more touch-points, such as voice devices, IoT, and wearables. These digital experiences are nothing if they don’t have fresh, engaging content.

Q: How do companies define a content strategy?

A: Part of defining a content management strategy is making sure the company has teams aligned for each phase of the content management process and that the hand-off process between teams happens smoothly.

Another important piece is empowering the marketing or content teams to publish content. One of the challenges companies face if they don’t have a CMS is needing to rely on IT to publish content. And IT can handle everything from a technical standpoint, but ultimately they're not the ones creating those experiences or figuring out what they should look like. Marketing teams need to be involved in the publishing process. So a good content management strategy would figure out how to keep the marketing team empowered. Marketers need the right CMS or right tool that provides an in-context preview and drag-and-drop functionality.

These tools and processes empower your marketing teams to more fully participate in the content life cycle. Without a good content management strategy, multiple teams are working on multiple pieces, and efficiencies are lost.

Q: What challenges do companies face when managing content?

A: Mistakes can happen surrounding the emergence of new channels. Content management systems ultimately were designed to publish web experiences. And web experiences have traditionally been rendered with HTML.

Today, there are many new channels or types of web experiences that aren't powered by HTML, like a single-page application (SPA), which is a different front-end framework that's faster and more responsive. But a traditional CMS doesn’t support delivering content to SPAs. Sending content up to new channels like single-page applications or even mobile or voice can’t be delivered by a legacy CMS.

One mistake companies make is using a CMS that's not flexible enough to deliver against all those channels. And what that means is that the CMS can only deliver for the web experience, so then they need their IT teams and developers to create those experiences for different front-end frameworks.

Another problem companies make is over-indexing on new experiences, independent of channel. Companies want to serve up content to any endpoint, so they choose a headless solution that allows them to deliver content anywhere. But the problem with a headless model is it's a purely developer-centric model. And companies using a headless model then take the power out of their marketing teams and now have developers maintaining control of the look and feel of all the experiences, which can slow down how quickly they get to market with these experiences.

Although the company has gained some speed in delivering to these new channels, they lose out on the ability for marketing to approve experiences in the right way. And it creates more friction between the IT and marketing teams. Companies face the challenge of figuring out how to support both a headless model and a CMS that empowers marketing teams to update and make changes to content.

Q: What are content management best practices?

A: One best practice is to not create content silos. Companies will have separate teams creating content for different channels, which creates consistency problems. If one team updates their content, the company has to make sure every other team also makes updates. It slows everything down. So one best practice is to centralize content creation. All content should be created by one team and then published to different channels.

Content will look different on different devices. But if there is one team managing content for both channels, and the company needs to make a change to the content, the company won’t need to go to separate teams to request the change. They only have to inform one team, and that team can make sure the changes are made across all channels at the same time.

Another best practice is to have the mechanisms to analyze content and focus on personalization. A lot of companies aren't actively tracking how that content is performing or they're not actively personalizing that content. Delivering content is not enough — the goal is to convert customers. And customers won’t convert if they’re shown content they aren’t interested in. Before a company ever delivers content, they need to have the right mechanisms to track it and tailor the content to users in different locations or on different devices.