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Everyone is talking about content. Googling the phrase “content strategy” retrieves almost 50 million results — a clear indicator that interest in content is very much in the zeitgeist. By the time you read this, I expect that number will have grown even higher.
But I also suspect that the substance of the talk would be quite different if content were truly respected. I believe this because the way we talk about content is beginning to sound a lot like the way we talk about money.
Imagine you are in a classroom. Let's say a high school classroom. You're sitting at your desk, listening to your favorite teacher—the one who inspired you, the one who got you excited about that thing you love for the first time.
You've stopped taking notes because your body just can't quite function normally when your mind is being blown. You don't feel the pen in your hand, or the surface of the desk under your arms. You're somewhere in between your body and the blackboard. That's the magic of learning; it's transportational.
It appears to be a reader’s market. More written content is freely available than ever before, accessible in just about every format you could imagine. If you want it on paper, you’ve got it. On screen? What size, friend? We can shrink, stretch and stitch it all together every which way because, really, we’re just talking about words here… Or are we?
As soon as I ask that question, several others quickly follow. Is content so flexible? Is content’s most basic unit the word? Or is it, perhaps, the message? In today’s reader’s market, what of the writers and the designers who make reading possible? And are we building tools that honor their work, too? These questions didn’t randomly pop into my head one day. Nor did a design problem get me thinking along these lines. It was while reading — for pleasure — that I noticed something was wrong.
The future of the Web is everywhere. The future of the Web is not at your desk. It's not necessarily in your pocket, either. It's everywhere. With each new technological innovation, we continue to become more and more immersed in the Web, connecting the ever-growing layer of information in the virtual world to the real one around us. But rather than get starry-eyed with utopian wonder about this bright future ahead, we should soberly anticipate the massive amount of planning and design work it will require of designers, developers and others.
The gap between technological innovation and its integration in our daily lives is shrinking at a rate much faster than we can keep pace with—consider the number of unique Web applications you signed up for in the past year alone. This has resulted in a very fragmented experience of the Web. While running several different browsers, with all sorts of plug-ins, you might also be running multiple standalone applications to manage feeds, social media accounts and music playlists.