Looking back, I’ve been involved with microcontent for 25 years in the content business with Avitage. Although we never called it that.
The name Avitage was created from “audio-video montage”. A montage is a picture created from many little source images.
Microcontent is each slide in your PowerPoint decks. If you think about where “knowledge” is stored in your organization, you might respond, “in our people’s heads, in our PowerPoint, and in document, video and perhaps audio files.” Probably in that order.
Our first software application managed PowerPoint at the slide level. The application allowed individual slides to be assembled into “Collections,” without duplicating source slides. It operated in a manner similar to the thumbnail view in PowerPoint. But it managed an entire organization’s sanctioned and personal PowerPoint.
We subsequently associated audio with each slide. Audio as microcontent. One audio element could provide coaching on the intent and use of the slide. A second audio element could provide a quality narrative for the slide. This dramatically increased the knowledge value of each visual asset.
This modular and associated approach to managing content enabled us to easily combine the narrative with the visual to produce a third asset type — video (MP4) — for each slide! Video as Microcontent.
I share this story as an example that illustrates the hidden power of microcontent. Tailored assembly creates highly targeted and relevant finished assets. The drag-and-drop sequencing of selected elements enabled customization of a source Collection by any user. It worked similar to PowerPoint. When a user selected the desired media output they received a link to a custom PowerPoint, MP3 audio, or MP4 video. Each could be streamed or downloaded.
That’s hidden power #1 — content tailored for relevance.
Hidden power #2 is content accuracy and freshness. As modular, microcontent assets, each separate but associated element could easily be updated. Pre-assembled “virtual” collections didn’t have to be edited the way finished assets must be. This happened automatically, even if it was just a single source visual, audio or video element that was changed. Think about what’s required to update your PowerPoint inventory. What about your video or document files?
Hidden power #3 is a combination of user experience, shelf-life and asset value, and return-on-content investments.
Today, content relevance, or personalization, is both a mantra and a strategic imperative. All audiences want information “their way.” Whether it’s the contentS or formats, people are looking for answers or insights to specific questions. Unfortunately, content relevance still feels like the search for “The Holy Grail”.
Inaccurate and outdated content is the bane of everyone’s content experience. But maintaining content to extend shelf-life and asset value is a new concept. Traditional content was so vendor, product and procedure specific, it needed to be changed at least annually, if not more frequently. The shift to creating topical and business issue assets makes content maintenance not only practical, but necessary.
I believe the root cause of most content problems starts with the way we think about and create content in the first place. But this activity seems to receive little consideration.
The traditional and still prevalent process is to create finished assets. As an example, a product manager thinks, “how do I produce ‘the right’ presentation for my sellers to use with customers?” Apply this to your role, be it training, marketing, or sales enablement.
This approach doesn’t get us to #1 — content tailored for relevance. It’s purely a packaged play. Even if someone took the time to (try to) unpack and reassemble a new tailored finished asset, they are limited by source elements, skills, time, and perhaps technology.
The traditional approach is also the main culprit for #2 — content accuracy and freshness. How much content updating is really occurring within your (many) content repositories? How about updating content you’ve already delivered? And don’t forget hidden power #3. There’s a lot at stake that is dependent on effective content: user experience, business outcomes, content investments, as well as performance at the functional and individual levels.
During our first 20 years we produced a lot of content for B2B sales, training, marketing and partner organizations. Literally thousands of PowerPoint, audio/video, webinars, emails, and campaign support assets. We discovered very early on, something that few people seem to grasp, and don’t heed at their peril:
The traditional, siloed, project-oriented, creative craftsman approach to content creation is outdated.
It can’t efficiently support the content requirements of ALL customer engaging functions across the enterprise. It will not meet new digital content criteria of empowered buyers, their digital channel and format preferences.
It cannot scale without compromises.
It really is time to rethink and redesign your approach to content generally, especially the way you create content initially.
We no longer sell software or create content. But if you would like to discuss the applicability of microcontent and new content creation methods for your organization please set a convenient time for an initial discussion.