Contents started out as a conversation Krista and I had two years ago, when the idea of content strategy was starting to catch fire. By 2009, it was becoming clear that organizations with substantial websites needed professional help wrangling the hundreds or thousands of “pages” of content they were creating and trying to manage. By 2010, the field was growing like kudzu, throwing vines over everything in its path: “web writing,” content management, information architecture, and online editorial planning sprouted tendrils and started growing together almost too quickly to see. A good time to start a magazine about content.

We didn’t start it then, though, and I’m so glad, because the changes we saw a few years back are modest compared to what’s going on now. Content strategy—essentially online editorial strategy plus a big dose of data-slinging—is only getting more interesting as it matures. But the big changes are happening as the fields we’ve thought of as entirely separate begin to smush together at the edges. Which brings us to the two propositions at the core of this project.

Proposition one

We believe it’s time to recognize that many of us in nominally separate fields and industries—like publishing, digital preservation, technical communication, (new) journalism, learning technology, and yes, content and editorial strategy—are working on the same problem from slightly different angles. Our vocabularies, style, and immediate aims are often different, but at the core, we’re all concerned with the design, creation, presentation, and care of content (mostly text) that serves people (mostly readers).

Proposition two

Our second proposition is that we’d all like to get better at what we do, and that the most efficient way to do that is to crawl out of our many separate bunkers, stop giving each other suspicious looks, and share our best ideas, tools, and practices.

So that’s what we’ve come here to do.

In this issue

Our first issue is a look at our lineage—how we got here, who we are, and what pieces of our shared history are the most important now. Mandy Brown starts us off by separating the genuinely valuable bits of our inheritance from the merely shiny with characteristic precision and economy. Next week, Melissa Rach will introduce her column with a look at the history of content in a business context.

Further in, Tiffani Jones Brown will talk content strategy at Facebook, and Corey Vilhauer will dig into the practicalities of adapting others’ methods to strengthen our own work. At the end of the issue, we’ll post an index of our favorite parts of the conversation about lineages and our professional inheritance, and Relly Annett-Baker will tell us stories to get us through the last nights of the year.

Oh, and we have some tricks up our sleeve, and a few surprises, but for that, you’ll have to wait.

Thank you

Our words of thanks must be incomplete so that they aren’t a thousand lines long. First, I want to say a few unsolicited words about our sponsor.

I met the MailChimp traveling wonder-team this spring when they were making a short film about A Book Apart, but I already knew their work from so many other places. From Brooklyn Beta to Confab and from Creative Mornings to Codex, wherever something smart and fun is happening in the web world, MailChimp is likely to be there, keeping everyone fed, caffeinated, and cheerful. That they’ve elected to sponsor Contents makes me tremendously proud, and puts us in amazing company.

Giant thanks as well to the people who helped us build our new home. WordPress provided the guts, Peter Richardson hauled a lot of PHP, and Spike Grobstein offered invaluable technical help.

And above all, thanks to our writers for throwing in with us—and to you, our first readers, for making it all real.

 

—Erin, on behalf of the team