Building a business case for COPE (part three): content agility

Hello. We’re still working on the business case for an investment to build a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content management solution at CIPD. And for those of you who’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we’re couching the arguments around agility – one of CIPD’s core organisational values, and a principle that has become increasingly important for businesses looking to remain viable and relevant in the global, digital economy. In this post we’ll be looking at why we need to build agility into our content, what content agility means (in broad terms, this isn’t a DITA tutorial ;-)), and how content agility delivers value for CIPD.

From content sluggishness…

We’re left with cul de sacs of insights, when what we want are roadmaps of discoveryWithout searchable content managed in a central repository, we have no overarching view of our content portfolio at CIPD: what we own, or what can be re-used. Without a complete picture of what has come before, the Research Team are hampered in their efforts to create a rich body of content that builds on previous work, creating what my colleague Perry Timms (who has a flair for a rich metaphor) describes as ‘cul de sacs of insights, when what we want are roadmaps of discovery’. Updates to content are sluggish, ad hoc and inconsistent. Findings from the latest research reports do not cascade into our training output: it is extremely difficult to flow what we know into what we teach. content agility

The proposed implementation of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) at CIPD involves the following four components:

  1. Content marked up using DITA XML standard
  2. Content enriched with metadata and taxonomical terms
  3. Content ‘modelled’ into logical, modular units
  4. Content managed in a CCMS and distributed via API

(See the previous post on COPE for more on this.) The proposed COPE framework, in tandem with robust editorial governance, will deliver content agility. We will be able to quickly and easily update and evolve CIPD’s content portfolio in a managed and systematic way, to adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities, and to meet customers’ growing expectations of first-class digital experiences.

So what makes content agile?


With COPE, content is ‘atomised’, broken into logical chunks, self-contained topics covering a particular concept or idea, stored and managed as modular units in a powerful database (a CCMS). These atoms of content can be re-assembled in countless combinations. Think of it in terms of Lego bricks, interlocking units with an almost infinite number of variations.



Each chunk is made intelligent with metadata – <tag>s that express the meaning and function of all of the elements within a unit of content. Metadata is the context and information that tells software programs how to handle content, that makes it meaningful wherever and however it is consumed. The more structure, the more meaning you add to content, the more agile it becomes.

Ironically, it’s more structure that makes content nimble and sets it free

Rachel Lovinger, Razorfish, The Nimble Report

The talented Judi Vernau and team at Metataxis have developed a new global metadata framework for CIPD that includes an expansive corporate taxonomy. The taxonomy is, in its simplest sense, the words we use to describe ourselves and the areas in which we operate, our ‘domain space’ if you will, and will be fundamental to our ability to search our content.


Rather than re-using content by copying and pasting, DITA XML supports re-use by ‘transclusion’, coordinating content updates in a revolutionary new way. A chunk of content is authored in/for one product (created once) and is used by reference (a hyperlink) wherever it is re-used in other products. This means that if the transcluded (ie the original) chunk of content is updated, it is also automatically updated in all other instances where that chunk appears. So the same information lives in many places, but is managed as a single asset. This supports both production efficiency, and content agility.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 17.27.37

Image from DITA Best Practices, Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey & Jennifer Schlotfeldt


XML makes content agile. XML is not concerned with presentation. Content is encoded with structural and semantic meaning, but free of system-specific formatting. Other technologies take the instructions encoded in the XML (the metadata) to deliver the content in a specific way according to the audience accessing the content, the device its being accessed on.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 17.20.38

Being presentation agnostic means that XML can be quickly transformed into other formats, into HTML for online channels and e-books and into PDF (and from PDF into print). Fast transformations considerably reduce time to market. Easy transformations mean that we can meet customers’ diverse and sophisticated digital expectations.

Search and locate

Content encoded in XML can be programmatically and instantaneously queried and located. With CIPD’s content managed in DITA XML in a CCMS, we can search across the entire portfolio thematically – for example on the taxonomical term ‘organisational design’ or on a particular search string, for example ‘Ulrich’.

Some practical applications of content agility at CIPD

1. Exploit commercial opportunities

To fully realise the equity of our content portfolio we must be able to quickly and easily exploit our existing assets. CIPD develops a lot of training courses for large and small organisations. Our Client Development team currently spend a lot of time searching for content. We commission trainers to design training courses that very likely already exist but cannot be found or cannot readily be updated or re-purposed. The proposed COPE framework will increase the findability and availability of appropriate content, it will enable colleagues in the Client Development team to prepare tenders more efficiently, reduce course design costs, and improve course preparation and delivery times. And if we incorporate and build these courses around existing (up to date) content, we’ll be able to leverage our authority, expertise and our point of view – the core of what makes working with CIPD an attractive proposition for B2B clients.

2. Care for and cultivate our knowledge assets

Content is a business asset worthy of being managed efficiently and effectively.

Scott Abel,

Stale information undermines CIPD’s authority and relevance and our customers’ confidence in the brandStale information undermines CIPD’s authority and relevance and our customers’ confidence in the brand. With a single, holistic view of our content in a central management system we can more easily manage the post publication content lifecycle. We can search the database for particular date ranges and topics and review, refresh and (where appropriate) retire content accordingly. With CIPD’s content managed as discreet, logical units in a CCMS, it is relatively straightforward to extend the ROI of individual knowledge assets. We need only swap in a newer ‘chunk’, for example a new case study, to keep a report, for example, consistent, fresh, and relevant. Similarly the modular management of content supports the automated inclusion of region-specific case studies to tailor existing CIPD content to specific markets and territories. COPE helps protect the CIPD brand.

Inconsistency or contradiction damages your brand’s credibility and confuses users about what you stand for.

Colleen Jones, Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content

With all content assets stored in a central, searchable library, we can compare content that covers the same subject area to check that it does not contradict, and consequently confuse. And where necessary we can – through transclusion – correct inaccuracies in an efficient, systematic and coordinated way.

3. Make ad hoc updates

When the language of our domain space shifts, we can quickly flex and adapt our messageWhen the language of our domain space shifts, we can quickly flex and adapt our message. For example, in an emerging field such as human capital metrics, language can change very quickly, the term ‘big data’ might no longer be seen to be very helpful, not scientific or specific enough; or the term ‘HR metrics’ might suddenly be displaced by ‘predictive analytics’. We will be able to search across content held in the CCMS to find where the older, outdated word is used, and update and refresh content with the newly dominant terminology.

4. Make predictable updates

There is some content that needs updating on a predictable basis, for example the four National Minimum Wage rates that change each October and statutory rates including maternity and paternity pay which change in April every year. These rates are referred to across the content portfolio. With content held in XML format in a CCMS, we can run a query to quickly locate such content wherever it appears. Content that is known to require regular or predictable updates can be managed as a ‘variable’ (eg @conref attribute), that because of transclusion can be updated efficiently and in a coordinated fashion across our content portfolio.

5. Respond to breaking news

When news breaks on a subject where CIPD has (or should have) a position, for example zero hours contracts, we can be agile in our response. Where the sum of CIPD’s knowledge is held in a central database we can interrogate our content, find and swiftly disseminate out the relevant messages, or re-assemble and re-position existing content according to changing priorities and shifting opinions.

6. Remain relevant and consistent in fast moving subject areas

This content agility will be particularly beneficial in the most dynamic space in which we operate: employment law. Not only can we update content as new law comes into effect, but we can also reflect and respond to legal rulings as they progress through the justice system, flowing updates through to the appropriate training materials, guidance notes, case reports, FAQs, etc. We can search and locate the relevant content that needs amending, and update in a connected and systematic way as the legal process develops.

7. Cascade research through the content value chain

The implementation of COPE at CIPD will give us a framework to routinely evaluate and update content across the portfolio based on latest research findings and CIPD positioning. We can cascade the latest research findings into existing assets, managing small updates through transclusion, and larger changes by adding in newer chunks of content from the research report. And when our research output challenges ‘received wisdom’ we can identify what needs updating and quickly make the necessary changes.

Speedy transformation and dissemination

For all of the examples above, efficient transformation and APIs connecting the content management system to our distribution channels enables the speedy dissemination of fresh, and relevant and consistent information.

And with the second phase of investment in a dynamic publishing server updates to existing content can be automatically pushed to customers who have already bought or are interacting with the content.

COPE is the architect of agility

The dictionary definition of agility is ‘able to move quickly and easily’. COPE is the architect of agility. With a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content management framework CIPD will have the ability to respond quickly to new commercial opportunities, to keep content fresh and relevant, to efficiently manage ad hoc as well as predictable content updates, to stay on brand with a fresh, relevant and consistent message.


Open standards and open platforms: ‘play nicely children’

Thanks to Matt Goral who contributed to this post.

My colleague – the incredibly talented Matt Goral – and I have recently been noodling on the challenges of connecting up CIPD’s various content technology platforms. In particular the Learning Management System (LMS) and CPD (Continuing Professional Development) tools to the CCMS, the new website and CRM system we hope to implement in the next couple of years.

We’re nothing if not ambitious at CIPD. We have a veritable smorgasbord of digital aspirations, which can never be satisfied by a single platform. Instead, we will need to build an ecosystem of tools, working in concert, in harmony together.

It is of course easy to be seduced by the lure of slick, off the shelf solutions to complex and strategically pressing digital requirements. But when those platforms are proprietary tools, you soon run into trouble trying to connect them all up, to feed data – and content – between systems, and to provide customers with a seamless digital experience.

To build a harmonious content technology ecosystem tools must play nicely together In order to build that harmonious content technology ecosystem the individual tools must be able to connect to and easily communicate with other tools – to play nicely together. If a tool cannot do that, it will not fulfil our aspirations regardless of the individual functionality it offers.

Data is what connects system together

A tool must understand data generated by another toolWhen we talk about connecting systems together we specifically mean enabling a tool to understand data generated by another tool. The simplest, most desirable situation is when one tool outputs a data format that the other tool already accepts; in this case we can simply pass the data directly from one to the other.

Maintenance of ‘glue’ programs is the hidden cost of implementing proprietary systemsIf the systems cannot do this, a third tool is necessary, which translates the data from one format to another and acts as the ‘glue’. Data formats of proprietary systems are not usually publicly available, making this data translation either not possible, or losing information (structure and metadata) during the process. Maintenance of such ‘glue’ programs is the hidden cost of implementing proprietary systems.

It is undesirable to choose a system, only to find out later that you have to pay out considerable costs to make it work with other systems; this is the concern that IT departments raise the world over, and the reason they must be involved from the outset in any digital project.

Open standards and open source

Open source tools are designed with interoperability in mindSo, wherever possible, it is recommended that you use open standards and open source, over closed, proprietary software. Open source tools are designed with interoperability in mind – that is they use open standards to communicate with other programs.

But it’s not just Matt and I who are advocates for open source! Over the past few years increasing numbers of high profile voices have come out in support of open standards.

The UK Government heavily advocates open standards in its own Information and Communications Technology [ICT] Strategy, aiming to provide better public services for less cost.

[The] Cabinet Office … mandates that when purchasing software, ICT infrastructure and other ICT goods and services Government departments should wherever possible deploy open standards in their procurement specifications. This is because Government assets should be interoperable and open for re-use in order to maximise return on investment, avoid technological or supplier lock-in, reduce operational risk in ICT projects and provide responsive services for citizens and business.

Typical benefits of open source software include lower procurement prices, no license costs, interoperability, easier integration and customisation, fewer barriers to reuse, conformance to open technology and data standards giving autonomy over your own information, and freedom from vendor lock in.

Funnily enough, a couple of weeks ago a group of us at CIPD were lucky enough to talk to Andy Beale, Director of Common Technical Services at the Government Digital Services agency. Andy said his two guiding principles for IT were to make sure that every service is accessible through the web browser (‘the browser is the window into what we do’ he said) and to use open standards wherever possible. So, direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak!

Similarly the charity Jisc, champions of the use of digital technologies in education and research, make a strong case for systems interoperability using open standards.

Building our Virtual Learning and CPD capability on top of COPE

Central to content strategy at CIPD is our COPE (Create Once Publish Everywhere) solution. Hopefully, if we get the go ahead 😉 the first year’s work will involve the implementation of a Component Content Management System (CCMS). We’ll also take that time to scope requirements for a dynamic delivery server. The CCMS will hold the ‘raw’ DITA XML – the building blocks from which we will build products; the dynamic delivery server will hold the ‘published’ products and distribute them to onward channels and platforms.

It is with these two systems that we will provide the backend functionality that will enable CIPD to the build world-class Virtual Learning and CPD solutions our customers deserve. If our COPE solution seamlessly integrates with open platform LMS and CPD systems, we can exploit incipient and unforeseen innovations in the Virtual Learning space.

The COPE solution is preeminent

The management of ‘intelligent’ source content must always be the preeminent considerationTo deliver on our digital aspirations it is imperative that individual systems work together, but the COPE framework should be considered the preeminent solution. That is, other content delivery platforms, be they website or Virtual Learning, should build on the central foundational technology of the CCMS and dynamic delivery server. Otherwise we will make compromises in terms of the content structure and metadata – fitting them for a particular delivery channel. We have a diverse publishing portfolio (training content, research reports, web content, online products, textbooks, professional books, etc.). This coupled with the inevitable, exponential growth of digital channels, mean that the management of ‘intelligent’ source content must always be the preeminent consideration in our content technology solution.

Our digital aspirations as seen from the customer perspective


The customer wants a seamless digital experience: they do not want to have to use multiple logins for different tools. Customers also want to reconnect with previous experiences on another platform/device. For example, they might want to send comments and reflections made in the CPD tool through to the Virtual Learning platform, or vice versa.

This is achieved by establishing an ecosystem of tools that work well together, and ensuring the data transfer between them is ‘lossless’, that is content structure and metadata are preserved.

Linking and Search

The customer wants to see suggested content that is relevant to them. Moreover, they would like that content to be personalised specifically to them, rather than simply to their customer group, and that suggestions get ‘smarter’ as the customer interacts more with the system. They also want to be able to search for specific topics and content.

This can be achieved by applying CIPD taxonomy terms at content source (i.e. at authoring stage in the XML) and the Virtual Learning and CPD platforms using data from the proposed CRM system. The use of taxonomy and a Content Server’s faceted search functionality can generate such content and recommendations automatically, without hard-coding the links (like Amazon’s ‘you might also be interested in’). This implies that the delivery platform needs to be connected to and make use of the data provided by the CRM and the Content Server. It will also need to be able to send its own data back to those systems.

Portability and Rewards

Rita Gunther McGrath talks of people’s ‘entrepreneurial careers’. No longer are jobs for life, instead we move from job to job, employer to employer. Therefore our customers will want to take their CPD data with them and use it with each employer’s system and/or a public CPD platform. This is particularly true of the feedback and acknowledgement they received for their effort, but also any comments and reflections they might have made.

We need to give customers their CPD data in an open standard formatWe cannot predict the ways in which the customer would like to use their data, how they might like to present it, or what systems they might want to use it with. So to make this portability as easy, and as flexible as possible, we need to be able to give them their data in an open standard format (e.g. XML, LEAP2A, Open Badges, etc.). After all, it’s their data. (See NHS Hackney and the ePortfolio Data Liberation Front.)

It’s a philosophical argument. It’s my data. About me. I want it liberated.

Agility and future ‘readiness’

Finally, the customer wants functionality that they and we cannot even begin to predict right now. The only way to keep up and respond is to be able to experiment with and customise the platform. With proprietary platforms we are at the mercy of the vendor as to which new functionality is implemented, when and how.

Architecture of agility

By investing in open source tools using open standards – interoperable platforms that ‘play nicely together’ and can be customised and adapted – we can build an architecture of agility, giving CIPD the best chance of delivering on our digital aspirations, now and in the future.

Building a business case for COPE (part two): a brief detour into a proof of concept

As part of the ongoing endeavour to build a case for a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content management solution at CIPD, I was asked some time ago to develop a ‘proof of concept’: to demonstrate the potential for re-using content from our research reports in other products.

I’ve been struggling with this request for a while now, for a number of reasons. Firstly, having worked as a Project Manager in a previous life, ‘proof of concept’ to me felt like a technical challenge. Something that required some kind of small(ish)-scale technology implementation – the setting up an XML editor, a source code control system, and DITA OpenToolkit, not to mention some upfront IA to determine the right content model – to prove that we could re-mix content and produce something new. But I wasn’t sure that this was the right approach. Because the time and effort involved felt like it would further stall the project getting off the ground. Because setting up a DITA environment without a CCMS is a bit like trying to build a corporate website using Notepad and a directory system. Because after all that effort, we’d still only be able to show a relatively uninspiring PDF, maybe an ebook and some help-page style HTML.

And because… well because our research output, as it stands today, isn’t that user-friendly. We produce roughly 70 research papers a year. They’re interesting, certainly, and thought provoking a lot of the time. And they demonstrate to the world that we know what we’re talking about; that we are a serious institution. But – whisper it – some of them are a bit dull.

How do we capitalise on our ‘knowledge capital’?How do we take that flat, dry, academic content and use it to reach as wide an audience as possible? How do we re-use it in ways that not just inform, but delight our customers? How do we capitalise on our ‘knowledge capital’?

So this week I’m blogging about my ‘proof of concept’ journey and how we need to ‘re-imagine’ our existing publishing model. But first let’s look at our ‘as is’ state, which can be summed up in a three-letter acronym – PDF: my personal bête noire.

Why a PDF-only approach is an issue for CIPD and our customers

We currently produce most of our research content in text and graphics, published in PDF format, available for download from the report’s landing page on the CIPD website.

Content is difficult to find internally and on the website

Our research reports are written and edited in Word and laid out to PDF in InDesign and stored on a shared drive. Without labelling the files with metadata and without a content or document management system to store them in, our research reports are extremely difficult for internal users to find.

And our website’s confusing information architecture and sickly search engine makes it difficult for users (and colleagues) to find research content from within our site.

(Our website falls into the classic trap of perfectly representing our own internal model of the business, rather than organising information in a way that customers find useful.)

PDFs are difficult to read…

Readers have to scroll down and then scroll up ad infinitumWell certainly they’re tricky to read on tablets, and almost impossible to read on a smartphone. PDF has a zoom function, but unlike HTML, PDF s don’t adapt and reflow according to the screen size they’re displayed on. And lots of our research reports are laid out to a three-column design. Readers have to scroll down to read ‘below the fold’ on the first column and then scroll up again to read the top of the next column, ad infinitum.

(‘Above the fold’ on a website or screen is whatever is visible when the page first opens. Information that is ‘below the fold’ becomes visible only when the user scrolls down the page.)

With a non-responsive website, we already have a high bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter a site and ‘bounce off’ ie leave, rather than continue to view other pages) for users accessing the site using tablets and smartphones. Research by our online acquisition team last year found the bounce rate was 58% for mobiles and 50% for tablets, compared with 39% for desktop. The team also found that platforms more associated with desktop computers had a much higher download rate for PDF than platforms associated with mobile and tablet.

…So much so that no one is actually reading them!

What if someone had already figured out the answers to the world’s most pressing policy problems, but those solutions were buried deep in a PDF, somewhere nobody will ever read them?

This provocative question comes from the Washington Post, in an article with the fantastic title: The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads. In fact, I think the title so wonderful, and so apposite, that I’ve blu tacked it to the wall behind my desk!

The World Bank releases hundreds of – long and highly technical – reports a year in PDF posted to their website. In answer to the question Is anyone actually reading these things? they analysed their web traffic data, and found

Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded, not even once. Another 40 percent of their reports had been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Only 13 percent had seen more than 250 downloads in their lifetimes. Since most World Bank reports have a stated objective of informing public debate or government policy, this seems like a pretty lousy track record. 

Wall Street Journal, The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads 

Well, that’s not quite true for CIPD’s research reports. Actually quite a lot of people are reading them – some of the most popular reports get around 1500 downloads, approximately 11% of our total membership (which proves there is great stuff in there). But that’s not as many as might read the research if the content was available in more formats, on a responsive website, in more easily digested chunks, distributed across more channels.

Re-use is extremely difficult

Re-use is difficult when you don’t know what content you have. But also, the research reports are developed and laid out in unstructured and inflexible formats (Word, InDesign) which makes extracting the text and images for re-use in other products, and other contexts, extremely difficult.

Often the entire report is re-used, impacting print costs, and wasting students’ timeResearch reports are often re-used within other products and by other departments at CIPD, mostly in our training courses and course materials, so there is an existing appetite, and a need, for re-use. But that re-use is manual; updates are ad hoc and uncoordinated. And because it is difficult to re-use the relevant excerpts, it is often the entire report that is re-used, impacting print costs, and students’ time.

A single distribution channel and format limits reach

Search engines will only index the research report once if it only appears in one place (ie on the report’s landing page). Search on ‘trust in organisations’ and you would hope to find the CIPD research report: Where has all the trust gone? but it doesn’t rank on Google’s first three pages.

To make content findable it needs to be available in as many formats, on as many channels as possible, and shared as widely as possible on social media.

A single distribution channel and format limits sharing

We have to ask ourselves not only how many people will read a 96-page report, but also how many will want to share it? Although we have the ShareThis social media button at the bottom of every research report’s landing page, users can only share a link to the entire research report, ie to the PDF. People are more likely to access and to share if there are more digestible content types available.

A single publishing format limits choice

Generally speaking, CIPD’s knowledge capital is published in flat, slightly dry, longish academic papers. They are not easy to digest for those who are time poor, for those whose learning preferences or styles do not favour dense academic argument, or for those who just prefer to consume content in other, less formal ways.

Increasingly customers expect to have many choices about how they consume content, appropriate to their needs, preferences and contexts: podcasts, videos, infographics, full text HTML on responsive websites, e-books, as well as print and PDF.

OK we get it: PDFs suck! What about that proof of concept? 

What is a proof of concept?

I find the first place to start, when I’m struggling with anything, is with a definition. According to Wikipedia, a proof of concept is:

a realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory has the potential of being used.

So the proof of concept must set out to demonstrate in principle the feasibility of re-using CIPD’s research reports – the text and graphics currently locked away in PDF – in other products.

So we don’t need a proof of concept, but rather a paradigm shift

Although it is certainly of tremendous importance, we can’t build a sophisticated, systematic and innovative re-use capability at CIPD by simply(!) breaking up the text into chunks and managing it in DITA XML in a CCMS.

The text and graphical content alone isn’t ‘rich’ enough, isn’t sufficiently malleable, to meet all of our digital ambitions and our customers’ expectations.

Therefore the way that we currently produce and publish our research reports does not readily lend itself to a re-use model – there is no proof of concept per se that can be built out from our current research publishing activities.

Rather we need a paradigm shift in the way we think about the creation, publication and distribution of our research content.

Re-imagination: the new publishing paradigm

We still need to publish the in-depth research report, for those who want to access the academic research and to provide the bedrock of evidence to anchor CIPD’s reputation and the overlying strata of products and offerings.

But to get the full benefit of COPE, and to remain relevant and discoverable, we must develop a broad asset base of multimedia content around each research theme, to satisfy users’ varying content consumption choices, to extend CIPD’s reach, to innovate, and exploit new commercial opportunities.

We must re-imagine our research content.

…Treat anything you develop as pieces of a larger whole. View all of the pieces of content you plan to create as expressions of a single bigger idea. Or alternatively—if you are starting with something larger, like a white paper or ebook—think about how you can create smaller chunks of sharable content from that single content asset.

Ann Hadley and CC Chapman, Content Rules

We can, and should, approach this re-imagining from both ends: as well as breaking up the research report itself into reusable chunks of content, we should plan for and generate an ecosystem of rich media assets around a research report or topic.

But let’s first look at creating smaller chunks from the larger asset.

Breaking the whole into chunks: text and graphics

Developing a content model (ie the structure of how we break up the research reports in to logical chunks), applying rich metadata, and managing text and graphics from within a CCMS will allow us to:

  • Find content that already exists
  • Identify gaps and commission only what we need
  • Re-use text and graphic content in other product streams, eg training courses
  • Publish efficiently in new formats – full HTML on the website and ebooks (as well as catering to the demographic that still prefer PDF and print)
  • Translate text and graphic content
  • Manage content creation, editing and review workflows

That content has more flexibility, more re-formatting and re-use opportunities and output options. But this model still only leaves us with the text and the graphics we’ve created for the research report.

Develop a complimentary ecosystem of multimedia assets

Building an ecosystem of multimedia assets and resources around a single topic is relatively straightforward. We could record audio and video interviews with the CIPD research advisor, the authors and case study participants; take photos; produce infographics; blog – both during the development process (following John Stepper’s concept of working out loud), as well as to coincide with publication.

In fact we can, with relatively little effort, generate a third tier of assets associated with the research reports. CIPD runs numerous events and conference seminars that are tied to our research output. We could capture video and audio interviews from key speakers, record panel discussions, take photos, conduct vox pops with attendees, and so on.

We already take quite a bit of footage at CIPD events, but we’re not collecting these satellites of rich media assets in any coordinated, systematic way. Nor are we storing or tagging them in a way that means they can be easily found or associated with other related content.

Reimagine; don’t recycle. Recycling is an afterthought; good content is intentionally reimagined, at its inception, for various platforms and formats.

Ann Hadley and CC Chapman, Content Rules

With a little investment in the necessary hardware (which are relatively cheap; the smartphone in your pocket has high quality audio and video capability) and software, and some kind of media asset management system, we can intentionally re-imagine.

(Of course, we mustn’t forget that to comply with accessibility guidelines, video must include closed captions and transcripts must be provided for audio files.)

Use re-imagined assets to create enhanced and freemium products

Multimedia assets gathered during the development process can be included in a number of enhanced and freemium products, for example enhanced (ie EPUB 3) ebooks, digital training courses, MOOCS, themed collections, digital conference programmes.

So, there’s our proof of concept. Not really a proof of concept after all, but rather a plea for a fresh approach to developing, managing and publishing our research content – what Hadley and Chapman call ‘re-imagination’.

And what can we do with all those ‘re-imagined’ assets? Well, the only limit to re-imagination is our imagination.