This is the year when Web content comes of age.

Organizations will slowly stop viewing content as some cost that needs to be managed. Instead, they will begin to see content as an asset that can drive profits and productivity. A new role will emerge within many organizations: publisher/editor.

Here are some more predictions for this coming year:

1. Finally, content gets taken seriously in 2004. Management will start thinking about content in a whole new way. Content will emerge as a strategic asset. Better organizations will begin to identify processes that will ensure the creation of high-quality content and reduce the creation of poor-quality content.

2. Driven by the emergence of the view of content as an asset, the process of organizational restructuring will gather pace. The role of the chief information officer will come under pressure, as such people tend to have a technology-centric view of information.

3. The battle between IT and communications/marketing over who should be in charge of the Web site will continue. Communications will ultimately win. But IT will fight hard because it has a lot of budget to lose and will have to downsize if it loses responsibility for the Web.

4. The average communications department will be in for a big shakeup. Many organizations communicate with staff and customers not because they see any major benefit in it but simply to be seen to be doing it. With content now being viewed as a potential asset, that will require a very different type of communications department—one with a much sharper profit and productivity focus.

5. The practice of delegating content creation to the most junior resource will decline. Those who can create quality content will start getting recognized and rewarded more. Content creation will be added to the job description of many more people.

6. Writing for the Web will emerge as an important new skill. There will be a particular focus on getting people to create content that drives actions. Writers will begin to think more about how their target audience searches, and will write content accordingly.

7. Metadata will be recognized as a crucial Web writing skill. Keywords, in particular, will be researched before a piece of content is written. Then, these keywords will be included in the content. The common practice today is to add keywords into a keyword metatag after the content is written. Not a good idea.

8. Information architecture will be recognized as a publishing discipline, not some technical thing. Too many people talk about information architecture in some weird language meant for techies. Information architecture is about metadata, navigation, search and layout. It is the responsibility of the editor.

9. Organizations that have multiple intranets or public Web sites will see them for what they are: a significant waste of time and money. Standard publishing processes and designs will drive Web site consolidation as return on investment becomes more of an issue.

10. Finally, someone will be put in charge of the Web site. This person will be given real authority to say what does and doesn't get published. I know that this is a revolutionary concept, but it has been found to be effective in other areas of management.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern (gerry@gerrymcgovern.com) is a content management consultant and author. His latest book is The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online, which teaches unique techniques for identifying and measuring the performance of customers' top tasks.