The basic premise of content strategy is in some ways so incontrovertible as to be hardly worth a fuss: content is hard work, and as with all work, you can always do it better. Coming as I do from the publishing world, making an argument for why content strategy is needed is akin to arguing that feeling the sun on your shoulders on a bright summer day is a good thing, or that beer is delicious, or that we should all step away from our desks and exercise more. It’s hard to resist a slight rolling of the eyes when saying such things, because by definition they go without saying.
But publishing, while far from dead, has not moved in one great big step from the world of ink and trees to that of pixels and tablets. Many small, sometimes halting, sometimes diverging paths are being followed, more or less simultaneously and with fascinating results. Digital publishing, it turns out, isn’t so much a second print run (as it seemed at first) as a whole other ecosystem, with a unique atmosphere, strange new rain patterns, and its own troubling signs of pollution and climate change. Diving into it means learning how to breathe all over again.
And so it turns out that the editorial process—the cornerstone of traditional publishing—is still relevant but no longer sufficient. It needs its cousins in marketing more than ever (and they are learning new tricks as well), it needs wayfinding several steps beyond the most complex bookstore signage, it needs governance in addition to distribution, and distribution has evolved into something more like attention, which it turns out is much more difficult than checking the levels of cyan as the pages come off press. It needs the both-new-and-old field of content strategy to bring the wealth of our experience from these disparate histories onto our desks (and before the deadline, please).
This is why the publication of our third book—The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane—is so fiercely satisfying. Not only is it an outstanding addition to our list—and, I believe, as relevant to those working inside the field of content strategy as those adjacent to it—but it addresses a topic near and dear to my heart, and it does so brilliantly and beautifully. Moreover, it evangelizes the shared value system that got most of us into the content world in the first place, and the sight of which can be hard to lose among the late nights and the coffee and that blinding blank page.
I’ve always loved the tradition of referring to a publisher as a house—a home, a place with a kitchen and a hearth, closets full of manuscripts, reading rooms, good company, and a well-stocked bar. The first three titles from A Book Apart display what we believe to be important about the web: clean, semantic markup; delightful, progressive designs; and smart, sustainable content. We have not yet exhausted these topics (nor, do I suspect, will we ever), but I do believe we have created a solid foundation on which to continue publishing on these, and related, themes. The walls are up; now let’s fill them.