There’s not much opportunity, in our slightly Boschian publishing landscape, for resting on laurels—or even just resting. The torque of market pressure is wrenching old-school publishers and newsrooms into new shapes as their foundational business models cease to function. Web content people who work with UX teams are left wandering through obstacle courses of new devices, and systems, and advice about adaptive/responsive/intelligent content. New technologies and use cases seem to demand continuous innovation. (Someone is wondering, right at this moment, if we’re ever really going to see “responsive writing.”)

As an industry—or really, as a loose collection of sibling fields—we’re trying a lot of new things, and also producing heaps of commentary analyzing, anatomizing, and second-guessing each new move. The conversations around “the future of _____” (news, books, content, reading, the web) are dense, interconnected, and often inspiring, but much of the real work of making new things still happens a few layers deeper, in private conversations, on small teams, and in closed conference rooms. It’s our goal, in this issue, to ferret out and expose some of the things we each do privately that could be more widely useful, and to introduce some of the systems and people at the center of our ongoing collective project of sensemaking.

It’s an article of faith at Contents that we all need to get smarter, in practical and immediate ways. We need to know more about our readers. We need to better understand the systems that let them find and use the things we publish. We need better ways of interpreting large quantities of information, and of translating machine-friendly data (big and otherwise) into narratives and insights that humans can use.

We also need to make better and more efficient use of the resources available to us, even when they come from outside of the subfields and niches in which we’re most comfortable. This issue centers on many senses and kinds of “intelligence” that radiate from a range of perspectives and specialties in Contentland. We’ll talk about editorial processes and philosophies, about ways to gain a deeper understanding of our readers’ needs and language, about the design of smarter systems, and quite a lot more.

See you in the comments, and on the tweets.

— Erin