Thomas Schedler
Thomas Schedler
Co-Founder & CEO – Sulu GmbH
Sulu's technical Master Blaster. Tries to keep our code on it's toes and to master Heston Blumenthal recipes on his very seldom free days.

The Power of Content Modeling: A Deep Dive into Structured Content Techniques

Organizations today must grapple with multiple content types, numerous platforms, and varying consumer needs. This complexity means that businesses need not just a publishing tool but a complete content management strategy — one that is adaptable and scalable to grow with their audience.

Enter content modeling: a process that determines how content will be used, reused, and organized in a content management system (CMS).

In this blog post, we delve into the intricacies of structured content techniques — we’ll demonstrate how content modeling empowers businesses, examine its benefits and best practices, look at real-world case studies, and consider exciting future trends.

Sulu CMS, with its robust content modeling capabilities, stands at the forefront of this evolution. Its flexibility, scalability, and intuitive approach help businesses take advantage of all these new opportunities.

Understanding Content Modeling

Content modeling, at its core, is a technique for defining and structuring content. It serves as a blueprint that determines the format, relationships, and management of various content types within a CMS. This modeling process enables content creators and managers to have clear guidelines about what information each content piece should contain, and how it should be arranged, related, and presented.

Content modeling hinges on three primary components: content types, attributes, and relationships.

  • Content types define the various kinds of content used by an organization — such as blog posts, product descriptions, or testimonials.
  • Attributes are specific pieces of information contained within a content type, like the title, sections of the body (text, images, quotes), or author of a blog post.
  • Relationships represent the connections between different content types, enabling a more interconnected and navigable content ecosystem.

Let’s consider an example. An online bookstore may have two main content types: “Books” and “Authors”:

  • In the “Books” content type, attributes might include “title”, “genre”, “price”, and “author”.
  • In the “Authors” content type, attributes could be “name”, “biography”, and “list of books written”.

A relationship can now be established between “Books” and “Authors”. A book is associated with an author (or authors), and conversely, an author is linked to one or more books they’ve written. This relationship enables content interconnectivity – for instance, on a book’s product page, a visitor can click on the author’s name to navigate to the profile page listing all the books they’ve written.

Developers, don’t get confused!

On the dev side, Sulu uses the term “content type” to refer to the smallest unit of a structured data model. This isn’t the same thing as the “content types” we’re discussing here: blogs, landing pages, product descriptions, etc.

The Power of Structured Content

Structured content offers a host of advantages for both content creation and management. Let’s consider them in relation to the example of the popular streaming platform Netflix.

  • Improved content consistency, reusability, and scalability
    Netflix has a vast library of content categories (movies, series, documentaries), each with multiple attributes (title, description, genre, cast, etc.). By using structured content modeling, Netflix ensures a consistent layout and information structure across all titles. This also allows them to easily reuse descriptions, cast lists, or metadata on various interfaces — TV, mobile, web. The scalable nature of content modeling is proven when they add new shows or movies to their platform while maintaining a seamless user experience.
  • Enhanced user experience and personalized content delivery
    Netflix goes beyond mere content presentation to deliver a personalized user experience. This is achieved by meticulously mapping the relationships between different content types, such as viewer preferences, viewing history, and content categories. By using this structured data, Netflix can recommend shows and movies based on each user’s unique viewing habits.
  • Streamlined content maintenance and updates
    The structured content model adopted by Netflix also facilitates efficient content maintenance and updates. For instance, if Netflix decides to include director’s names in all movie descriptions, this update can be easily implemented across the entire library thanks to their structured content model. This standardization not only streamlines updates but also minimizes the risk of inconsistencies and errors.

Content Modeling Techniques

Content modeling is a systematic process involving several crucial steps:

  1. Planning and analyzing content requirements
    Before creating a structured content model, it’s crucial to analyze the content’s purpose, target audience, and distribution channels. Example: A travel blog may plan content requirements based on destinations, travel tips, and photography.
  2. Identifying and defining content types and attributes
    In a structured content model, content types like articles, videos, and images are defined, along with their specific attributes. Example: An e-commerce website may define product content types with attributes such as name, price, description, and images.
  3. Establishing relationships and hierarchies between content entities
    Once content types and attributes are defined, it’s crucial to establish relationships and hierarchies between different content entities. Example: A news website may establish relationships between reporters and the articles they write.
  4. Leveraging metadata and taxonomy for content organization
    Metadata and taxonomy play pivotal roles in structuring and organizing content. They allow for efficient content categorization and searchability, enhancing usability and accessibility. Example: A recipe website may use metadata tags like cuisine type, cooking time, and dietary restrictions to help users find specific recipes.
  5. Applying content governance and workflow processes
    Finally, implementing content governance and workflow processes ensures consistent and efficient content creation, approval, and publication. It fosters collaboration and accountability, making the content management process more streamlined and transparent. Example: A content management system may have approval workflows for blog posts before they are published.

Content Modeling in Action: Sulu CMS

Sulu CMS is built with the principles of structured content at its core. At its heart lies an intuitive interface that allows for the easy creation and management of content types and attributes. This intuitive design extends to managing attributes, where Sulu CMS offers straightforward mechanisms to detail each content type.

Sulu’s block-based approach puts the power of creation in the hands of editors and marketers. Developers can offer a suite of pre-determined building blocks that, despite their substantial options, preserve the brand’s visual consistency. Editors can then artfully assemble these blocks, crafting pages that fulfill their unique objectives without risking design integrity or website functionality.

But the strength of Sulu CMS goes beyond rendering web pages. Its commitment to structured content extends its utility, allowing seamless integration of its content into other systems. This flexibility empowers developers to add CMS functionality to Symfony applications, reuse assets in other apps, or apply their own frontend stack, enhancing the overall digital experience. The inherent semantics of Sulu’s structured content bolster this cross-platform capability, ensuring coherent and efficient content usage across a variety of channels.

Sulu CMS also provides powerful tools for metadata and taxonomy management. These tools assist in refining content organization, aiding in better categorization, searchability, and accessibility. It allows businesses to leverage metadata and taxonomy to their advantage, enhancing content discovery and personalization.

You can request a personalized demo of Sulu today and see how it can transform your content management.

Best Practices for Effective Content Modeling

Following a few best practices can increase the effectiveness of your content modeling process and maximize the impact of your structured content:

  • Collaboration is key: Content strategists, information architects, and developers should work together to create a model that serves the needs of all stakeholders. This collaborative approach ensures a well-rounded content model that balances user experience, technical feasibility, and strategic alignment.
  • Embrace consistency and standardization: Consistency is the hallmark of a good content model. Standardizing content types, attributes, and relationships promotes uniformity across all content pieces.
  • Continual evaluation and refinement: Content modeling is not a one-and-done process. It requires continual evaluation and refinement to keep up with evolving business needs, user expectations, and industry trends. Regular reviews of your content model can identify areas for improvement and opportunities for enhancement.
  • Prioritize accessibility: In content modeling, accessibility should not be an afterthought. It’s essential to consider how different users, including those with disabilities, will interact with your content. Including accessibility considerations in your content model promotes inclusivity and ensures a broader reach for your content.

Case Studies: Real-World Examples of Content Modeling Success

National Public Radio (NPR) stands as a testament to the power of structured content. They have long embraced a digital strategy of “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” (COPE), which has greatly influenced the open and structured content models field. The NPR One app leverages metadata tagged to NPR’s content, offering listeners a customized stream of radio stories. Content independence and portability were central to their approach. By separating content from display and ensuring its portability, they remained flexible and adaptive. This made it possible to present the same content on different platforms seamlessly – be it the NPR website, the NPR One app, or an affiliate website – ultimately enhancing the user experience and content utility.

The Guardian, a global news publisher, also implemented a COPE approach through effective content modeling, drastically improving their efficiency. In the early 2000s, they developed their proprietary editorial system, the Octopus Editorial System (OES), built around the concept of structured content. This system enabled multiple team members to work simultaneously on different aspects of an article. Their model accommodated metadata for individual content pieces and allowed for easy adaptation to new content types, such as video.

The Guardian’s structured content model, coupled with their unique workflow database, simplified the task of supporting new digital platforms. It also proved crucial for the integration with various publishing platforms. The approach facilitated the management of the legal status and syndication rights of stories, differentiated publication across platforms, and improved efficiency by letting the team focus on areas needing work as deadlines approached.

Content modeling continues to evolve with emerging technologies and approaches. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are gradually becoming integral parts of content structuring, as they can automate and optimize content organization and presentation based on user behavior and preferences. In addition, predictive analytics are enabling content personalization at an unprecedented level, transforming the way content is curated for individual users. This continued innovation promises exciting advancements in content modeling and management, pushing the boundaries of user engagement and experience.

Conclusion: Embracing the Benefits of Structured Modeling

By adopting structured content techniques, businesses can ensure content consistency, reusability, scalability, and improved user experience, enhancing the overall content management process. The future of content modeling is ripe with potential, promising revolutionary changes in content creation, delivery, and maintenance. Embracing these innovations will be a crucial step for businesses wanting to stay competitive and relevant in the digital age.

Are you ready to elevate your content management game? Start using Sulu today for free and discover the benefits of structured content for your business.