Content as a Service — Delivering to channels, devices and apps

The content delivery conundrum

As channels, devices and apps pop in and out of existence, your team of content creators and UX designers is faced with the herculean task of providing a seamless, cross channel experience that is not only consistent but also personalized to each user. However, while most web content management systems (WCMS) today do this well for websites or mobile sites, they fall short when it comes to serving native, HTML5 or hybrid mobile apps, single page applications (SPA) and custom front ends. With the internet of things already here, how then do we ensure that every channel, device and app delivers relevant content ?

Content as a Service (CaaS)

Content is essentially an information service and should be consumed as such. Content creators shouldn’t have to worry whether their content will display correctly on a website, mobile app or custom front end. This separation of concerns between content and its presentation is at the core of the CaaS philosophy where RESTful APIs allow you to, for instance, deliver the same content that serves your website to an iOS or Android app . There are some very good reasons to take web content as a service seriously chief among them being the freedom it affords developers to create highly custom front ends or web apps that can reuse content in innovative ways.

Headless or headfirst into battle ?

Some propose that content management systems shouldn’t worry about content ‘look and feel’ but instead focus on managing raw, structured content. This is the essence of the headless CMS approach — agnosticism towards how content is presented. This frees developers to create highly custom front ends and apps since since they get to define how the content is displayed. But for all the developer freedom that it offers, a headless CMS falls short on the the editor experience of creating, managing and previewing content across web and mobile channels before publishing it. It offers limited information regarding audiences, their context or preferences. Without such insights, experimenting with content or presentation is like taking a shot in the dark.

Curse of the silo

Any CMS that wants to call itself capable should be able to expose content as services to any digital channel — website, mobile app, wearable or store display. But if you use a headless CMS to feed mobile apps and another CMS to manage your website, you’re creating silos and you risk inconsistent content across channels. You could consolidate content into one headless CMS repository and create a custom delivery tier to serve your channels. But you’d then be left with development and maintenance headaches when your marketing teams demand features like personalization, experiments, actionable insights, template and component management, etc. for each digital channel.

Best of both worlds

Is it too much then to ask for both, the freedom to create custom web and mobile experiences and the insights and agility to do that efficiently ? Some content management systems do exactly that — expose content RESTfully as services, but also deliver holistic editorial capabilities and a ubiquitous view of visitors using contextual, behavioral and historical data. This allows you to use these insights (also from integrated systems like ecommerce, CRM or Marketing automation) to define dynamically what content should be delivered to which visitor based on device, geolocation, browsing behaviour or purchase history. So while REST APIs allow developers to expose content (in JSON) to custom front ends or mobile apps, content managers can make informed decisions on the type of content to create, reuse and publish across these channels.

Final thoughts

Content as a service is THE way to serve content — not only to traditional web channels, mobile apps and custom front ends but especially also to wearables, smart devices and in general the channels of the future. But as with any solution, cloud or on premise, you do need to design a content model, define permissions for content exposure, and set up front ends to consume content services. And if you are looking to create relevant, consistent experiences across each touch-point in a consumer’s multi-channel journey, you need to consider solutions that go beyond content delivery, and empowers your team with the insights and agility to create consistent and personal multi-channel experiences.

Marketer, Techie, Storyteller

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