The Internet has changed how organizations manage. Historically, management was focused on “walking and talking.” Today, “reading and writing” are becoming more and more central.

This trend is reinforced by a recent META Group study, which found that 80% of business people choose email as their primary communication tool.

The evolution of the information economy is marked by an increasing formalization of how business is done. In the past, business was often based around contacts, lunches and handshakes. Less business is done that way today.

Take, for example, Amazon, which has over 30 million customers. How many of these customers have talked to, let alone met, an Amazon representative?

Very, very few. The vast majority have interacted with Amazon through content. This content is either published on the Amazon Web site or delivered by email.

The META Group study (released April 22, 2003), found that 80% of business people believe that email is a more valuable communication tool than the phone. The top three reasons people prefer email over the phone are these:

  1. It allows communication with multiple parties.

  2. It enables more rapid communication.

  3. It allows for communication to be formally recorded.

“These findings reveal a major tipping point in the evolution of communications,” states Matt Cain of the META Group. “Clearly, email best suits a changing business climate characterized by geographically distributed workgroups, extreme mobility, the need for rapid information dissemination, and a desire for reusable business records.”

Content—whether in emails, Web sites or printed documents—has become the oil that lubricates business. It is surprising, therefore, how poor many organizations are at understanding the value and cost of content.

“Only 6% of organizations undertake ongoing, specific measurement of the return on investment (ROI) of their intranet,” according to a Prescient Digital Media study published in June 2003.

I'm not surprised by the results of this study. I give content management workshops all over the world. I have yet to find an organization that is seriously examining the ROI for its content.

This is an unsustainable situation. The modern organization is creating more and more content. But it is not measuring how much that content costs to create and what value it has established. How can managers manage content professionally if they cannot measure it effectively?

One of the Internet myths was that it no longer matters how you write, that good grammar and proper spelling are now irrelevant.

The exact opposite is true. It has never been more important to write well. It has never been more important to communicate in a clear, simple, short way.

Think about how you read. If the first couple of paragraphs are not relevant, you switch off. Improving your ability to write will improve your ability to be read. In an attention-deficit economy, those who get read, get ahead.

Organizations are very poor at organizing content. Many Web sites are closer to content dumps than well-organized libraries. If you don't organize your content well, people won't be able to quickly find it. What can't be found, can't be read.

Content is a driver of value. How well you manage your content—create, edit and publish it—will increasingly be a measure of how good a manager you are.

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image of Gerry McGovern
Gerry McGovern ( 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.