The Lifecycle of Digital Content

by Churchill Masheti

The digital sphere is never short of content. Be it videos, brochures, infographics, or even blogs; all these are related to digital content. It passes through several phases from its conception to storage, also known as the publishing workflow. Production of content requires resources such as time and money. Thus it is necessary to ensure that the investment is worthwhile.  As you may know, the job is never yet done just after publishing the content, and that is why it is essential to understand the lifecycle of digital content. 

Why focus on the lifecycle of digital content?

When working in the publishing industry, it is vital to have a consistent content lifecycle. By doing this, you will be able to produce content that is;

  • User-centered: Having substantial knowledge of the content lifecycle and applying the correct one enables you to create and produce content that resonates with your target group. Achieving this is crucial as you will want users to consume your content as much as possible.
  • Factually accurate: Publishing of valid and verifiable content is only possible if you know and adhere to the different stages, especially the initial ones for this case. Your publication’s credibility is boosted, leading to retaining your available users if not attracting more.
  • Meets the minimum standards required for delivery of digital public products: Through understanding different phases of the content life cycle, it will always meet the threshold with regards to the required standards. 
  • Having a clear structure of the content lifecycle also allows you to keep on track as much as the different stages are concerned to get the utmost benefit from the entire investment.

Get to know the different stages of digital content

As per the above reasons, it is evident that the content lifecycle is significant for publishing purposes. You might as well realize that new content is treated way differently from that which has been out for some time. In the following, we will describe these mentioned stages and give tips on how to handle the content within each of them.

Proper research is essential to come up with high-quality digital content (Koolshooters/Pexels)

1. Discovery of content and research

This represents the earliest stage of the content lifecycle where you work in conjunction with other people, for example, those who research about the users or experts of a particular matter. By that, you can gain valuable insights, such as who your users are and what type of content they might need. Hence, you will be able to understand the kind of information required or the problem you need to solve before designing the content.
The content discovery could involve testing existing content and pointing out the current users’ experience and how you can improve it. After close analysis of your evidence gathered, you will be able to develop user-centered stories, which is essential to achieve.

2. Make a plan for the content

Before the content creation, start with planning it to ensure your efforts are headed in the right direction. Think about how the content you already have or intend to produce relates to your goals and how you can measure success.
Take care of the necessary tools for the process by putting in the right technologies and people to enable efficiency, control, and accuracy. Liaise with the marketing and the creative department and understand what is working and not working with the current set of infrastructure available and, if possible, fix that which you can.

3. Designing and writing your content

After the planning phase, you can dive into designing and writing your content. It includes converting the user stories into actual content items, thereby coming up with the exact material for production.

Several things fall into this stage. These include; choosing the format of content that exhaustively answers the user's need, e.g., plain text, writing content in line with your organization's editorial style, making sure that your content can be easily found by putting correct headings. All of these will also guarantee easy use. Consider the following tips on how to write great stories effectively.

Design and write your digital content in a clear manner to represent your publication in the best way possible (Lina Kivaka/Pexels)

4. Fact-checking your content before publishing

When the final draft of the content is finally out, you must check and review that it abides by your company’s editorial style and is free from errors and factually correct. Fact-checking is paramount as publishing inaccurate information may lead to problems and sometimes legal issues depending on the kind of information.
In some instances, you may need to use an expert on a given subject matter to comment on factual inaccuracies but limited to the style, tone, and structure.

5. Publish and manage the content

Ahead of publishing, agree with your stakeholders on when and how the content will be updated and maintained, establish if the content is successful, and when to review or finally delete it.

On the other hand, management involves uploading and organizing content, controlling how users engage with your content, and updating for future use.

Conduct a last-minute check and ensure that links provided are working correctly and any other information tagged on them, such as photos. If you outsource your content, check on our recommendation on how to find quality content for your publication.

Distribute all your digital content across all social platforms to increase the reach (Oleg Magni/Pexels)

6. Distribute your latest digital content

Now you intend to share your content with the world, which brings the necessity of distribution. You could use several ways to do this. It could either be that you have specific affiliates or publish it on social media or your blog. Due to the digital element, you must distribute your content easily, traceable, and securely.
Other ways of distributing your content include the use of portals, embed codes, and sharing of links, which make it easier to receive and use.

7. Remove and archive old content

Once the content becomes obsolete, you should remove it because sometimes it may prevent users from finding what they need. Therefore, you may decide to keep it for future or historical use if need be. However, before removing any content, get approval from the content owner or any other stakeholder. 

Typically, content is either joined or replaced by already existing content on the site. In case you want to remove the content altogether, you should direct all the traffic from the old page to a web archive and be sure to follow your organization's policy on archiving. This comes after you realize that the content is not relevant anymore, does not belong to your current focus, or is not up to the quality standard of recent content. When doing this, make sure that your old content is still valuable by making it discoverable to your current users.

No digital content team? No problem!

Nevertheless, there are specific situations where you work entirely alone, for example, as a freelancer. In this setting, you don't have a team around you to help you with the content's research, analysis, and even editing. It would be best to learn to use online tools to aid the different stages you need to get your content through before publishing. These tools are of different types, and each serves another purpose. For example, you can use DrumUp during your content research to get inspiration for new content and save interesting posts for future purposes. Engage with your followers and users via social media to find out what content they are looking for. Grammarly, WordHippo, and ProWritingAid can be used for writing as well as editing your articles. Although you probably won't post as much content as a whole editorial department, you should also keep track of your "old" content by updating, adjusting, or archiving it. But make sure to discuss changes with everyone who has been involved. Even this attenuated form of the digital content's lifecycle will support your publishing goals.

If you are working in the publishing industry, we at The Story Market pride ourselves on connecting the best journalists around the world with the best publications. We also offer tips to publishers e.g. on successful collaboration with journalists. 

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