The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 7: Know Your Content (w/ Paula Land)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

One of the first things I looked up when I was starting my career in web strategy was “How do you do a content inventory.”

There were a lot of resources — Kristina Halvorson’s first edition of Content Strategy for the Web was one, as was Richard Sheffield’s The Web Content Strategist’s Bible. I picked and chose and created a spreadsheet, a template I then used for my next project … after adding and removing a few columns. Each project was like this: I’d open the old spreadsheet, copy, delete all data, add a column, remove a column, rinse, repeat.

That’s the thing with an inventory or an audit: we spend a lot of time in the early days of our careers wondering what goes into each of our deliverables, until we get a little wiser and more experienced and realize there’s hundreds of potential fields. Some sites need a focus on content model. Some need a focus on titles and calls to action. Some just need a basic outline of resources. For something so straight forward, you’d think it would be more standardized.

But that’s not the web. The web is not a system: it’s a web, and while there are thousands of points of standardization along the process from spark to launch, it’s still a creative endeavor that can be done in millions of ways.

This month, we talk to someone who helped fill the gap we all found in the early days of the industry: someone who wrote a book that’s just about content inventories. We welcome Paula Land, author of The Content Inventory and Audit Handbook and principal at Strategic Content LLC, to talk about content inventories and content audits, including what separates the two, when and how to worry about auditing, and her first ever content inventory, which arrived as a spreadsheet on one-and-a-half inches of printed paper.

From our interview:


What is your definition that separates … this is a content inventory, this is a content audit — and is there really even a difference in some places?


It is true that people kind of conflate these two things, and of course, you kind of can’t do one without the other — well certainly it’s hard to do an audit without doing an inventory.

You can certainly do an inventory first, but it is definitely quantitative versus qualitative. The thing is, what I’m finding more and more as I teach classes in doing it, there’s some gray area. There’s a lot you can learn even just from the data.

Doing an inventory, there are things you can start to evaluate just from that spreadsheet, or that Excel file, or that report. But ultimately it’s objective versus subjective, or the quantitative versus qualitative. The audit is when you start applying human analysis to that, and bringing in the context.

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