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Book Review: The Digital Crown 69

benrothke writes "With Adobe Flash, it's possible to quickly get a pretty web site up and running; something that many firms do. But if there is no content behind the flashy web page, it's unlikely anyone will return. In The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web, author Ahava Leibtag does a fantastic job on showing how to ensure that your web site has what it takes to get visitors to return, namely great content." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web
author Ahava Leibtag
pages 358
publisher Morgan Kaufmann
rating 10/10
reviewer Ben Rothke
ISBN 978-0124076747
summary Invaluable resource and reference for building an effective web content strategy
Make no mistake, creating good content for a large organization is a massive job. But for those organizations that are serious about doing it right, the book provides the extensive details all of the steps required to create content that will bring customers back to your web site.

Leibtag writes in the introduction that the reason so many websites and other digital strategy projects fail is because the people managing them don't focus on what really matters. They begin changing things for the sake of change and to simply update, without first asking why. They also forget to ask what the updates will accomplish. What this does is create a focus on the wrong priorities. Leibtag notes that the obvious priority is content.

So what is this thing called content? The book defines it as all of the information assets of your company that you want to share with the world.

The book is based around 7 rules, which form the foundation of an effective and comprehensive content strategy, namely:

1. Start with Your Audience

2. Involve Stakeholders Early and Often

3. Keep it Iterative

4. Create Multidisciplinary Content Teams

5. Make Governance Central

6. Workflow that Works

7. Invest in Professionals and Trust Them

Chapter 1 (freely available here) takes a high-level look at where branding and content meet, and details the need for a strategic content initiative.

An interesting point the book makes in chapter 2 which is pervasive throughout the book is to avoid using the term users. Rather refer to them as customers. Leibtag feels that the term users as part of a content strategy, makes them far too removed and abstract. Dealing with them as customers makes them real people and changes the dynamics of the content project. Of course, this transition has to be authentic. Simply performing a find/replace of user/customer in your documentation is not what the author intended; nor will such an approach work.

The book is heavy on understanding requirements and has hundreds of questions that need to be asked before creating content. The book is well worth it for that content alone.

It also stresses the importance of getting all stakeholders involved in the content creation process. As part of the requirements gathering process, the book details 3 roadmap steps which much be done in order to facilitate an effective strategy.

The book notes that content is much more than web pages. Content includes various formats, platforms and channels. An effective strategy must take al lof these into account. The book notes that there are hundreds of possible formats for content. While it is impossible to deal with every possible option; an organization must know what they are in order to ensure they are creating content that is appropriate for their customers.

By the time you hit page 100, it becomes quite clear that content is something that Leibtag is both passionate about and has extensive experience with. An important point she makes is that it is crucial not for focus on design right away in the project, as it eats up way too much time. The key is to focus the majority of your efforts on the content.

The dilemma that the book notes is that during the requirements gathering process, far too many organizations are imagining a gorgeous web site with all kinds of bells and whistles, beautiful colors and pictures. That in turn moves them to spend (i.e., waste) a tremendous amount of time on design; which leads them to neglect contact creation and migration.

The book details multichannel publishing, which is the ability to publish your content on any device and any channel. This is a significant detail, as customers will be accessing your site from desktops with huge screens and bandwidth to mobile devices with smaller screens and often limited bandwidth. This requires you to adapt and change your content publishing process. This is clearly not a trivial endeavor. But doing it right, which the book shows how to do, will payoff in the long run.

Another mistake firms make is that they often think content can be done by just a few people. The book notes that it is an imperative to create multidisciplinary content teams, since web content will touch every part of the organization, and needs their respective input.

One of the multidisciplinary content teams that must be involved is governance. The book notes that governance standards help you set a consistent customer experience across all channels. By following them, you can avoid replicating content, muddying your main messages and confusing your customers. Governance is also critical in setting internal organizational controls.

Leibtag lays out what needs to be done in extreme detail. She makes it quite clear that there are no quick fixes that can be done to create good content. Creating an effective content marketing strategy and architecture is complex, expensive and challenging. But for most organizations, it is also absolutely necessary for them in order to compete.

The author is the head of a content strategy and content marketing consultancy firm. Like all good consultants, they focus on getting answers to the questions clients often don't even know to ask. With that, the book has myriad questions and requirements that you must answer before you embark on getting your content online.

The book also provides numerous case studies of sites that understand the importance of content and designed their site accordingly. After reading the book, the way you look at web sites will be entirely different. You will likely find the sites you intuitively return to coincidentally happened to be those very sites that have done it right and have the content you want.

My only critique of the book is that the author quotes herself and references other articles she wrote far too often. While these articles have valid content, this can come across as somewhat overly promotional. Aside from that, the book is about as good as anything could get on the topic.

For firms that are serious about content and looking for an authoritative reference on how to build out their content and do it right, The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web is certain to be an invaluable resource.

Reviewed by Ben Rothke.

You can purchase The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Book Review: The Digital Crown

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  • Say ! To Flash (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Flash isn't the way forwards. It's not mobile friendly, it's a common attack vector onto PCs and it's a resource hog.

    Just Say ! To Flash

    • Flash is just one web technology out of dozens. It has no relationship to creating good content or websites. It's just one technology. An obsolete one, too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Flash is mobile friendly, Flashbuilder directly builds to Android and iPhone with the same code base.

      Flash is easier to develop and prototype than any language I've ever used. If you know C/C++ or Java, you can prototype quicker in Flash than those two languages. You just get more done in Flash with less code.

      Really the only reason not to use Flash is that Steve Jobs said not to use it. If Bill Gates told you not to use Netscape back in the day, would people have listened to him? Apple just doesn't
      • Re:Say ! To Flash (Score:4, Informative)

        by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:49PM (#45943887) Homepage Journal

        You can build apps with Flash that get CONVERTED to apps that will run on various platforms, but Adobe KILLED Flash Player for ALL mobile platforms two years ago, didn't you hear?

        "Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook."

        November 9, 2011 - []

        "Apple just doesn't like multiplatformed competition."

        Apple had very good technical reasons not to want Flash on iDevices. They told Adobe for YEARS, "give us a good version of Flash for mobile" and Adobe couldn't deliver. Every review of Flash on an Android device talked about how crappy it was. Adobe eventually gave up. No matter how you want to read bullshit like "Over the past two years, weâ(TM)ve delivered Flash Player for mobile browsers and brought the full expressiveness of the web to many mobile devices" the fact is they killed it, and people rarely say "this product was too successful and beloved so we stopped making it."

  • The ability to disable advertisements?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The ability to disable advertisements?

      You should read that carefully. It block advertisements, not slashvertisements.

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:05PM (#45943387)

    This reads just like the last five or ten reviews I've read on various "how to build winning Web sites" books. I was actually chuckling by the time I got to the end. I felt like I'd just won a game of O'Reilly Bingo. What makes this book better than previously available books? Or are the books coming so thick and fast at this point that there's no time for any of them to become "standard references", and no motivation to compare them?

  • Flash? (Score:4, Funny)

    by worf_mo ( 193770 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:09PM (#45943439)

    "With Adobe Flash, it's possible to quickly get a pretty web site up and running"

    Really? The beauty of Flash websites, here on Slashdot of all places? What's next, Amazon's backend rewritten in VB6?

    • by rmstar ( 114746 )

      Really? The beauty of Flash websites, here on Slashdot of all places?

      Indeed. While reading the sumary, I thought they had a database mistake and republished a review from when authoring websites in flash was thought to be a good idea (about ten years ago? I've not seen one of those for a while now.)

  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:10PM (#45943449)

    "1. Start with Your Audience
    2. Involve Stakeholders Early and Often
    3. Keep it Iterative
    4. Create Multidisciplinary Content Teams
    5. Make Governance Central
    6. Workflow that Works
    7. Invest in Professionals and Trust Them "

    I've seen enough powerpoints to know that the first layoff is less than two quarters away.
    Isn't that list a template from "MBA for dummies"?

  • I'm sure the process is more complicated than I think, but it bothers me that we need an entire book to tell people that you should have something to say *before* you try to communicate with others. Perhaps a visit to Condescending Corporate Brand Page would be more helpful.

  • Where's the report spam button when you need it?
  • Strange premise(s) (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:17PM (#45943521) Homepage Journal

    The book seems to part from the premises that

    1) Adobe Flash is essential for building web sites that make people return

    2) Without Flash, it can't be done

    3) Nobody knows, yet, about the revolutionary stuff of "keeping it iterative" and "investing in professionals".

    One more "XYZ for dummies", then.

  • by madprof ( 4723 ) on Monday January 13, 2014 @04:19PM (#45943539)

    Many many professionals long ago abandoned Flash as it became easier to make "pretty" websites with useful dynamic content without it. It was always a nasty piece of technology to work with.
    So why does the reviewer mention it? Maybe because he's hardly an expert in this field himself?
    Take this quote: "You will likely find the sites you intuitively return to coincidentally happened to be those very sites that have done it right and have the content you want. " shit Sherlock. As if we weren't saying this 15 years ago.

    Truth is Ben Rothke writes anodyne book reviews as evidenced by: []
    "...a great resource to help you get there." []
    "...will prove to be an invaluable resource." []
    "...a great resource." []
    "...a great resource to use."

    I might write some half-conceived ideas and submit them for review and maybe I too can have a "great resource" of my very own?
    (P.S. Ben - the SEO boost here is free! But I am making it possible to Google for "Ben Rothke underwear scandal" in return)

    • Your observation that I write anodyne book is accurate. With the exception of this review from September - [] – I prefer to write reviews of books that I think are exceptionally good. I come across plenty of titles that are rubbish, but prefer not to review them. When I come across a book that I think is a great resource, I will try to share that.
      • Re:Flash...? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by madprof ( 4723 ) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @05:10AM (#45948845)

        You don't see a problem with this? People need to know that some books are not worth buying to save wasting their money. They also need to know what the bad bits of books are, rather than just reading that, hey, everything is OK. To what do we compare your view with to work out what "good" means?
        Let me give you an example. I ride a bike. I used to get a commercial magazine that would have cycling gear reviews. Bad products would be marked out as such. Now I don't get that magazine anymore but as a member of a cycling organization I get their in-house magazine. It too has gear reviews but as it is a large charitable organization they are trying hard not to be too negative, perhaps because to avoid upsetting a manufacturer. They feel they can take fewer risks than a commercial publication.
        Whatever the reason, the reviews are useless. Bad point for a piece of gear are kind of papered over and a piece of gear that is only suitable for about 5 people is "OK for some". The biting criticism is missing. This means reviews lack teeth, or at least a reference point. When they review a cycle helmet they will say "this is a good product because it will protect your head". Er, great. And this is better at protecting my head than other helmets...why?

        So some may ask "what style of writing does Ben Rothke find poor?" and we'll never know. Some may ask "so what layout of information in a book does Ben Rothke consider confusing?" and we'll never know. One thing is for sure I shan't be bothering to buy the books to find out because there's no incentive from reading these reviews.
        You realize there are squillions of similar "hey make great content" books out there, right? How does this book fit in with those? Don't know? Then what does your review tell us when we're trying to choose the best one? Think about the cycle helmet example for a second.

        • :::People need to know that some books are not worth buying to save wasting their money.


          As to your bike analogy, you mentioned a commercial magazine; where people get paid. I do not get paid to review books.

          If I was a professional review, then perhaps would have more time to review a wider quality range of books. :::So some may ask "what style of writing does

          Thanks for the recommendation. Will try to use it for future reviews.

          • by madprof ( 4723 )

            Lots of people review things for no money (me included). Finding fault is a very important aspect of any review regardless, and actually criticizing something dispels the "payola" accusation for a lot of people.
            I normally review mountaineering gear that I have bought and used, and my aim is to give a review that I'd have found useful myself. Are the pockets too small on a jacket? Are the boots badly fitting at the heel? Is the compass able to withstand a knock or two? (no it wasn't...!)

  • by saying "With Adobe Flash, it's possible to quickly get a pretty web site up and running". At least not if you want to be taken seriously. If you're trying to open with a joke, make it funny.

  • customer? really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Any site that refers to me as a 'customer' (unless I'm actually shopping) has already lost me.

    Shopping sites have customers.
    Hobby blogs have followers.
    Business sites (non-shopping) have visitors.
    News & information sites (like slashdot) have readers.
    Service websites have users.

    I'm not a 'customer' if I'm looking at photos of the lego spaceship you made on your dining table, and I hope nobody is considered a 'customer' if they're looking at photos of your family!

    • I always thought the advertiser was the customer, and everyone else was the user regardless of content.

  • The phrase "With Adobe Flash" that starts the review is orthogonal to the book and its content, which never anywhere mentions either "Adobe" or "Flash" as far as I can tell, and is unrelated to the rest of the review. The whole thing would be far better if it just started with "It’s possible to quickly get a pretty web site up and running", despite the somewhat awkward wording, since it's got everyone off on an unrelated tangent. (Neither of the words "Adobe" or "Flash" are found by an Amazon "search

  • That's all I see of these web pages that are nothing but flash -- a big blank nothing, and a little icon telling me that NoScript has blocked something.

    At that point, I decide just how interested I am in the content of the page after all. Usually, the answer is "Not interested enough", and I close the tab.

  • For e.g. in India business/trade/commerce/entrepreneurship is exclusively reserved to [] for the past 2000 years.

"Money is the root of all money." -- the moving finger