Creating Digital Content: What is It?

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Digital content includes the words, pictures/images and videos that we traditionally think about. But it also includes other things that haven’t always been traditionally at the forefront of content – it includes understanding how different technologies consume and display content, how that content needs to be architected to be able to be displayed and to be found, and how users want to consume that content based on devices and technology platforms.

Woah! Does that mean content is no longer king?

I fundamentally believe that content is king. But content can no longer drive other things – like layouts and designs and how it is consumed. WHAT???? (all the content people are freaking out right now).

So fundamentally – digital content is any content that exists in the form of data. But creating digital content has taken on some new meanings.

Some History

I’m not a know it all. In fact, I think that any one who wants to be considered digital can’t be a know it all. The space evolves way to fast for anyone to be an expert. I would actually consider myself a generalist, because as the space has evolved its driven deep subject matter expertise in things like content, analytics, AI/ML, voice, IoT etc. So I know a little about a lot of things and look for those who know a lot about minimal things to know that I’ve found a great partner. So for these reasons, this is a brief digital content history.

In traditional content, it was the content that drove the design and layout of pages. It did even in the first iteration of websites. To some degree it still drives some website or larger screened experiences.

There was the initial launch of the website. It could have some text and animated GIFs and maybe some photos. There was the abysmal digital magazine (gosh remember that?) – where we tried so hard to take an actual magazine and put it online. We calmed down and at some point were like “hey, let’s just PDF the darn things and put it up on the site.”

I recall the launch of parallax websites – because it was a way for imagery to be the true driver of the experience rather than the words. It was revolutionary and it was beautiful. Parallax websites were revolutionary because it got digital content out of this box that we were all stuck in, and closer to that magazine like experience we were hoping for online.

Then we realized content needed to be found and devices began to rapidly change and social media launched. Content as king became even more apparent, but what did change dramatically was how content’s ability to drive design took a massive shift.

The change

Devices and technology began to drive layout and design and content design was now required to take somewhat of a back set.

If you don’t agree with me, it probably means you didn’t make the leap to what digital leaders are looking for when they are hiring. Just saying.

Here are some very real examples:

Remember flash? Well that has been a slow and agonizing death (yes, it’s still dying) – but what was most frightful for content creators when this became a reality at the time, was the basic ability to play videos and be able to view animation online. HTML5 jumped into be the saviour in this situation, but the truth was the death of flash was driven by technology and device changes. Video content was not at the forefront of that decision making. (The rivalry between Apple and Adobe also probably played a part in this – and the fact that iPhones weren’t going to support flash – but whatevs).

In 2005 YouTube launched and in 2007 the iPhone launched. Maybe a coinky dink – maybe market stressors provided ample opportunity to solve for the flash crisis. Whatever it meant – video content consumption changed. What it needed to be viewed changed. What it needed to be found changed. Decisions on using your own player or a social player changed. Whatever decision was made was driven by the technology changes and device changes and therefore meant that the content couldn’t drive the design.

Not true say you? I say try making a video that is longer than 45 seconds and see where you net out with that.

Usability changed as a result, and many content creators began to realize that social channels dedicated to videos were a better place to play than prop technology, because it made finding their content easier and it was where people who wanted to watch videos were. It was where they realized that they could try to make that 5 minute video all they wanted, but the costs and the consumption wasn’t really working out.

Twitter drove us to the 140 character limit – though newly expanded to 280. As it turns out, Twitter’s decision to extend the character limit on tweets has done little to change how people use the service. So um yeah – what was that about content driving design?


Realistically speaking, do you think that based on the size of your watch screen and it’s underlying technology that it is content that dictates what get’s displayed? I would argue… not really. However, I would also take it one step further and argue – how users use it and what they want to consume will have huge influence in driving design.

Welcome UX and IA teams.

We have screens on watches on fridges in cars and this is going to continue to evolve. What we are going to see, is an evolution in what ends up being the simplest way for content to be consumed unilaterally by all of these things. We are going to continue to push the concept of “publish once and be everywhere”, for cost reasons: companies don’t have limitless buckets of money to hire 8 million specialized resources because we have 8 million ways to display; for logical reasons: why do we need to do this 8 million times in 8 million ways; and for future reasons: things are moving to voice which means content is going to be forced to do different things online, and with the rise of AI and ML content is going to be shaped and designed at times without human intervention.

Because of all of the above – content cannot drive design.

However, though it cannot drive design it still is king. So fundamentally it does mean that you need to be better at creating compelling, unique content. It also means that you need digital content specialists (IA/UX/SEO/digital copy writers) to help you prep your content for digital consumption and to meet new legal accessibility requirements (otherwise you should probably just publish paper copies).

And while I make no claims in being a digital expert, I do know this – if you want to show digital professionals that you have evolved past paper thinking… it means that you need to know how to make content king when it no longer drives design. It means you understand that how it is consumed will be dependent on how the device and therefore the underlying technologies flexibility in its UI exist.

Help Support Movember

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Hi all – I know that it’s been a while.  Yes, my last post was in July 2015, but I swear I have a good reason!  I started my Executive MBA in August, and let’s just say things have been super intense trying to juggle a full time job, a new marriage and a number of other things I have on the go.

That said, this was definitely important and necessary to post. One that I have no trouble in taking a moment to draw some attention too. Men – prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, with more than 1.1 million cases recorded in 2012.

I know that some of the mustaches out there are scary, but that stat is even more frightening.  For the love of all the men out there, please get your check ups in, and know the signs to look for.  If you are not sure, you can learn more here: Movember Canada.

You can help my colleague Jared  reach his goal of $1000 here: Jared’s page. Besides – look at that selfie and that very serious ‘stash – how could you not?

Here’s what local governments care about when it comes to connected cities

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Being connected to the world around us has taken on a different meaning in the age of Big Data. People connect more and more with their technology at times, than they do with actually real people.

I’m working in a time where as a manager, there are coaching opportunities that exist with millennials, because they don’t talk to people on the phone. E-mails back and forth escalate issues, rather than talking them through face to face.

Nonetheless there are efficiencies and conveniences to be had by sharing data. Part of that is connecting to our cities. This is a good read:

Now There’s a Barbie of Ava DuVernay

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I have been a Barbie fan despite all of the controversy that they have garnered over the years. For those that know me, know that I didn’t find it offensive if someone referred to me being Barbie like.

In high school they called me the brown Barbie doll. Some may have found that offensive, but I didn’t take it that way. I was tiny, loved dressing up and playing with make-up. I also happened to be an honour roll student, head of our debating team and head of our cheer leading team.

I was tiny and fierce. I still think that I am today LOL.

I love the new slant of finding a more comprehensive way to idealize women based on real people who are doing amazing things – especially women who break glass ceilings. I’d like to consider myself one of those women.

BlackBerry Ltd working with Google Inc to secure Android devices

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I loved blackberry. When it came out, I was so addicted. My first blackberry was a pink blackberry pearl. I didn’t know how I had ever lived without a phone like this before. It did everything I needed it too, and while I wasn’t overly pleased with having to add a data package for the first time, BBM changed my life. I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever text at all.

I was a staunch blackberry supporter and refused to support Apple products. I am Canadian, and I was going to support a Canadian over American company any day!
Being Canadian, we didn’t have a Silicon Valley so to speak, but Waterloo, Ontario became the place to be. Blackberry offered flexible working situations for its employees allowing work from homes most of the time and on the odd occasion coming into the office.

I applied for a community manager role, and went through 3 interviews. I was so thrilled, and with the career path I had chosen, it would have meant everything to me to work at Blackberry.

I was offered the role with Rogers Digital Media which I ended up taking after also being offered a position with Telus. I questioned my decision at the time, and wondered if walking away from Blackberry was the right decision for my career.

Little did I know, that shortly after that Blackberry would start unhinging. I held on to my blackberry at all costs. Eventually however, I couldn’t deny where things were shifting and I gave in to an iPhone and iPad.

I hope that this strategic move from Blackberry, can help a Canadian legend closer to the global tech giant they once were.

Financial Post

Waterloo-based Blackberry Ltd. has forged a partnership with Google Inc.’s new Android for Work service, enabling cross-platform business enterprise on BlackBerry devices, according to an announcement on Wednesday.

As BlackBerry’s market share continues to dwindle – 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2014 – the company has shifted its approach to competitors, most notably Google’s Android operating system, allowing Android apps to run on the company’s BlackBerry 10 platform. With the latest version of BlackBerry’s operating system (10.3.1), many Android applications are now accessible directly through BB10’s Amazon Appstore app, although a number of them suffer from compatibility issues.

BlackBerry also created a partnership with Samsung late last year that brought the company’s popular BES 12 enterprise mobile device management software to Samsung Android devices.

“I am not afraid of competing when I know I am more nimble. I never think [that] going alone is the right strategy. But we have a value add that…

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6 Canadians among final 100 up for one-way trip to Mars

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I just had to re-post this blog because as Canadian how could you not be fascinated by other Canadians who are brave enough to risk their lives for the rest of mankind?

Maybe this might the moment (or at least in the next 9 years) that all people on earth finally start to realize that we are one kind -race and religion have no baring on our future.  Our future will be based on human collaboration.

In order to survive the next ventures that are going to exist for our species, we are all going to have rise above the pettiness of fighting for land and ideologies. It will be this planet with or against other intergalactic species in the pursuit of exploration, technology, energy and co-habitation.

Taking warring ways beyond our stratosphere can have no positive contribution to our civilization and our ability to advance as a species.

Global News

WATCH: Two B.C. women are among 100 semi-finalists around the world for the “Mars One” mission to the red planet. Ted Chernecki reports.

A half-dozen Canadians remain in the running for a controversial plan by a Dutch-based organization to establish a colony on Mars by 2025.

Mars One, the non-profit organization spearheading the project, says the six Canadians include four people from Ontario and two from British Columbia.

READ MORE: N.S. man out of running to live on Mars

A seventh Canadian, a 29-year-old man from the Yukon, who was also selected, dropped out for personal reasons.

The organization says the four women and two men are among a group of about 100 from which they will select a final 24 people to man the missions.

One year ago, 75 Canadians were selected from more than 202,000 who applied in 2012.

Mars One says the mission will cost about $6 billion…

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A CIO’s Christmas List

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I know that this is a little early in the year – but I don’t know if this just for CIO’s or for any techie. In 2013 I posted my list for tech girls, 2014 my cousin posted this…. it gives everyone a full year to get thinking about their techy loved ones.

A CIO's Voice

aciosvoice.jpg2014 has been a great year. Things are looking better. Hopefully the momentum will carry into 2015.

I have tried to be really good by being the best CIO I can. So Santa, this year, I would like the following:

  • Apple iPhone 6 plus. I have decided bigger is better but I haven’t figured out how to carry it.
  • A development team that can hit the ground running and fix code quickly.
  • An approved IT budget where I don’t have to make drastic cuts and figure out how to do more with so much less.
  • A migration plan to get legacy applications into the cloud.
  • Not to be hacked by foreign governments.
  • One of those toy helicopters. I think your elves are messing with us. I have yet to fly one of those straight and have it last longer than 3 days without breaking it.
  • A new set of golf clubs…

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Digital Strategy

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As you flow through my blog, you will see I mention a lot about strategy.  The more and more that I have grown in my career is the more and more I have invested in trying to see the bigger picture and how all of the pieces connect.  I have recently started taking the Digital Strategy certification program at the University of British Colombia – and  I have to say that the introductory course totally has my creative juices flowing.  I have not been able stop consuming the content and I’ve spent pretty much all day online clicking on links and reading some very interesting articles and blog posts.

There was an older blog post referenced for reading and it was a list that the author created in what he felt were qualities of  great digital strategist.  It’s entitled What Makes for a Great Digital Strategist? and his list includes 4 items that I totally agree with.

He looks for qualities such as being an inventor, an integrator, empathetic and unyeilding. These are definitely qualities that are integral to a digital strategist role. I would add to this list with 3 other qualities.

Big Picture Thinking
You have to be able to see the forest through the trees and understand in that tangled mess how you will get through to the other side.

Calculated Risk Taker
Inevitably you will at times need to take things and throw them against the wall to see if it sticks. It might not work, and you will have to take a few steps back to sort it out and try again.

Someone who is constantly in pursuit of knowledge. Gathering intel to make better decisions, learning from others mistakes to make better decisions and products. Using that knowledge and understanding how to action theoretical insights.

Things to Consider over the Holidays

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ImageTechnology is everywhere and most likely this holiday season is full of people wondering what technological gadgets they will find for themselves under the Christmas Tree.  

However, what do you get for the tech person that seems to know and have everything?  Especially if that tech person is a hmmm… a woman?

Well here would be my top 5 picks:

1.  iPhone 5s 32G in pink.  Now I already have an iPhone so this is why I am suggesting this.  It is an older version so I would like to have an upgrade.  I would caution that understanding what device your woman is using is important because there are compatibility issues when changing devices when it comes to your SIM card, as well as apps that might be available between the Blackberry, Android and IOS devices.

2. Micheal Kors, LV, Gucci or Rhinestone studded case holder for tablets and phones.  I am a total girly, girl and love things that sparkle!  Now, not every woman is as over the top as myself, so getting a classy designer holding case that doesnt come across as too flashy can also be a great call. (What would be even cooler, would be to match the phone, tablet and laptop case).

3. Blue tooth or Sonos Sounds systems.  Yes, techy girls LOVE sound systems that sync up with their devices.  I myself already am on the Sonos system and learned of the Sonos 2 that I would just love to have in my bathroom!  Sonos also offers a surround sound system for your television as well.  I have to say that I listen to music all the time, so anything  that allows the sound to fill my condo makes me a happy woman.

4. iTunes gift cards.  I can’t say this enough.  I love music and hate having to pay for it.  I also made the mistake of signing up for the paid version of iCloud with Apple.  I didn’t renew the subscription and now it is holding my playlists and synced music hostage.  BAD, BAD idea.  It’s like having to pay for everything twice.  With that said, a gift card would give me back all the things that I already paid for.  Apple really does take advantage of its users sometimes.

5. I was going to say Apple TV, but I felt that this post was getting really Apple centric – and for those that know me, know that I am not the biggest Apple fan because of the way the take advantage of their customers.  So, I will parlay that into my suggestion of a Keyboard for their tablet.  I love keyboards – I am a firm supporter of feeling the keys on the tips of my fingers and totally hate touch screen typing.  I would use my tablet more if I had a real keyboard.

Cheers, and I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season

The Future of Communications and Marketing in Digital

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digital-communications-interns1Today in the market we see a lot of jobs that are geared to having communications or marketing practitioners “specialized” in digital media.  Is this the way that the industry will move forward?

Here is the thing… in certain regards it makes sense that you have individuals who are familiar with publications, or broadcast and of course digital.  However, a well rounded practitioner should be well versed in all areas of communications.  As we move forward with technology, more and more it becomes apparent that these mediums bleed into one another, and have become tripods with each one depending on the other.

Yes there are definitely shifts in the way organizations spend their advertising/communications/pr dollars, with more moving away from print and into digital.  That being said, it does not mean that all the mediums disappear and one will emerge the champion.  Audiences consume information in so many different ways, and the most  important decision you need to make as a practitioner is where to find them, if that medium makes sense for your target and what you are trying to achieve.

When you divide the three mediums so specifically, you end up with departments that compete for dollar spends based on their specific “specialty”.  I’m not disputing that it does not make sense that happens, but I will say that divisions like that mean that it becomes a personal interest on obtaining larger dollars, rather than whether or not it makes overall sense for a campaign or an organizational objective.

I firmly believe that at this juncture in the evolution of our industry, being a digital specialist should not exist.  I’ve mentioned this before, and I will mention this again – digital is another medium.  It is another tool in the tool belt for marketing and communications practitioners to use.  There should be no reason why anyone on any team should not be familiar with all three mediums, have some exposure to all of them, and have a firm grasp and understanding how they all should be used.

Teams should be educated in all ways that each of the mediums change.  That being said, I also believe that every professional should have a vested interest in self education and keeping themselves current and relevant as well.  The future of digital in these professions is that it will be common place – as it is in every day life already.