How Digital Content Has Reshaped the Way We Tell Stories
Marketing Marketing Technology

How Digital Content Has Reshaped the Way We Tell Stories

In the age of print publishing, newspapers were typically one-time reads—their only hope for resurrection was as kindling for a fire or as placemats for children’s art projects. At the start of the digital publishing movement, Web copy was essentially a mirror-rendition of the print version, with a few loud banner ads for kicks. There was nothing interactive, even though the change in medium offered a different way to experience the stories. These publishers were just skimming the surface of digital storytelling.

Over time, publishers have been forced to understand the importance of search optimization linking best practices—their motivation: to be found. Beyond sourcing, they drive articles in new directions, knitting connections across the Web, taking readers off on tangents if they dare click, and giving publishers the power to map digital content. Compound that with faster bandwidth and the introduction of multimedia, and you’ve got yourselves something quite different than a book on a screen.

The Rise of Rewritable Content

We now live in the era of digital content. Everything can be scoured, scanned, indexed, encoded, and searched tirelessly. And not just text. Audio, video, photography—virtually any media that’s published online can be trolled for information. All of this metadata (data that labels other data), may sound exhausting in the maintenance, but it is critical in application.

What does it mean to encode digital content? Think of the way you search. What terms do you think in? Maybe you think of the date, or the person who created the asset. Maybe you’re more interested in a description of the contents, or whether it’s CMO-approved. Maybe you’re a writer looking for a photo of a rusty bicycle that’s royalty free.


As the number of publishers in content marketing continues to grow, more content will need to be indexed. The task is no longer about pure content production. It’s about sorting, finding commonalities, and building recommendation engines that make sure relevant content bubbles to the top. And that’s where a DAM comes in.

For those who have a difficult time wrapping their heads around Digital Asset Management, or DAM, start by taking a look at one of its core functions: search. In some ways, Google is one of the most widely, publically accessible digital asset libraries, giving the browser the ability to parse information into asset types like images and videos. But search is just one component of a DAM. The goal of any search is to find what you’re looking for, and if your asset is not classified or “encoded” properly, you might as well call the dogs off, as locating it becomes a hopeless, time-consuming task that distracts from your mission of using it. If you’ve ever scoured your inbox for a particular email to no avail, you can identify with this frustration.

From Hardcover to Software

Digital content has evolved to its latest mix: a composite of photos, video, audio, graphics and other content formats that moves stories in directions it never quite experienced offline. The fundamental way we discover, consume, and reshare stories is constantly shifting. Some stories are delivered to our inbox, while others we stumble upon in search or social media; we think about sharing, promoting, commenting, and interacting with stories in ways that were never before possible. One story can take so many shapes and forms, and the end product may be virtually unrecognizable from the original.

This ever-evolving story comprises many parts. The New York Times explores this newfound complexity in “The Future of News is Not an Article“—in particular, how to leverage this extensive knowledge by encoding it “in a way that makes it searchable and extractable. This means identifying and annotating the potentially reusable pieces of information within an article as it is being written.” These bits of information become “particles.”

What The New York Times calls particles, we call assets. Assets never die, but can be repurposed, revised, and re-appropriated. Articles are subject to constant upgrades and iterations. Over the past decade, we’ve essentially redefined traditional publishing speak in favor of language better suited to software development.

What may have started out as a tool for information architects or digital librarians is about to become much more utilitarian. As content marketing continues to scale, and the number of articles, videos, Tweets, and posts continues to multiply, asset management will become imperative, in particular for enterprise brands juggling enormous catalogs of assets, writer networks, and global demands. Soon, just as keyword search became the lifeblood of SEO, asset management will feed content marketing. We will no longer be thinking in terms of text, photo, or video, but the amalgamation of all assets living together as one. The relationship between creator and the consumer will be continuously evolving, as old stories breathe life to new.

The Digital Content Remix

Many of these digital assets, like video, podcasts, and images, could essentially live on their own, but when compiled into the same story, their context shifts and the story takes on new meaning. Nothing expires; assets can be unearthed with a few keywords and clicks and repurposed. Kind of like how people put their own spin countless times on the same meme.

Mad cat three different ways

The Gen Z Snapchatter may not see anything strange about digital asset management. After all, they are remixers on the fly: Hashtagging, pic-stitching, and over-gramming is all part of their native language.

This reincarnation of assets to tell original stories is all about sustainability. It’s about building on archives and remaking history. And as digital publishers, we have a responsibility to manage what we produce.

A digital story—and the assets that comprise it—never die. Its footprint may continue to live on long after the writer, designer, or producer has abandoned it and moved onto the next one. We must not forget, in our rush to spread knowledge across the Web, that online content has many more dimensions than text on a page. So let’s start by honoring the past, and make way for the future of digital publishing.

Stay tuned for more stories on the Content Standard that explore the intersection between DAM and publishing.

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