Expand content reach and variety with structured API delivery

The best way to boost your content’s impact is to expand its reach and variety. But achieving both those objectives has been elusive until recently. Publishers can now use an innovative new solution: structured API content delivery.

Michael Andrews

Published on Jan 24, 2023

Structured API content delivery offers organizations a better approach to delivering content to their customers. It solves a hidden but persistent problem in content operations while providing a host of benefits.

The dilemma of reach or variety

Web teams have tended to emphasize one of two objectives. Either they focused on building the most appealing web page that would draw the most views, or else they focused on developing variations of a web page that would appeal to more narrow segments. They needed to decide whether to go broad or narrow.

Consider how you might develop a homepage. You might have one homepage that every visitor to your website will see. The homepage content is the same for everyone, but it gets lots of views. Your goal will be to design homepage content that will appeal to the most people.

Alternatively, you could, in principle, develop individually personalized homepages that are unique for each visitor. Your homepage content would be much more varied, but each variation’s impact will be limited to a single visitor. You’ll want to maximize the unique appeal of each homepage variation.

This simple example illustrates a problem that’s bedeviled publishers for a long time.

Publishers confront a numerical tradeoff between their content’s reach (the number of potential viewers) and its variety (the amount of variation that the content offers viewers).

The more variety you provide, the less reach each variation can achieve because it will appeal to fewer people. You are splitting up audience interest among different versions.

Publishers have faced the dilemma of whether to produce fewer web pages, each of which will appeal to more people, or more web pages, each of which will appeal to fewer people.

They face this tradeoff because the content on each web page is fixed and can do only one job.

CMS page templates force tradeoffs

Customers should be able to access a wide variety of content that will interest them. They expect content tailored to their needs and interests and don’t want limits placed on what they can access.

Publishers should be able to offer varied content that’s widely accessed. At the same time, they need to streamline their operations and maximize the value of what they produce, especially as more organizations scrutinize their spending.

But the dominant process used in CMSs to create and manage content blocks enterprises and their customers from a robust mix of content. The problem stems from how the content is created and stored in the CMS. The culprit is what’s known as a page template, which determines what content will be associated with a specific web page. Content is planned around page templates.

Traditional CMSs rely on templates to preassemble web pages. The content’s purpose is defined by the web page. All the content details are created to fit together on a specific web page. The web page determines what content is available.

Planning content around page templates means that existing content can support only one use case. The content is “closed” in the sense that it can’t be adapted to other purposes. It locks up the content within a page, meaning that the content:

  • Is hard to change (limiting its variation)
  • Can’t be used for additional purposes (limiting its potential to reach additional audiences).

More recently, some CMS vendors have introduced “components” within page templates seeking to make pages more flexible. While an improvement over fixed page types, component pages don’t really solve the problem. The page is still defining the boundaries of how content can be used. You can substitute a component within a page, which might modify the purpose of the page slightly. But you can’t use the same information and messages to support diverse purposes. The overall content still supports a single purpose only.

Page templates limit the usefulness of your content. Publishers need a better option.

How structured API content delivery makes content more productive

Content does not have to be defined by a specific web page. An alternative approach is to use a CMS that offers structured API content delivery. Instead of having to choose between either reach or variety, publishers can now boost both their reach and variety.

Structured API content delivery makes content more modular and overcomes the tradeoffs associated with traditional CMSs. The content that’s created doesn’t depend on page templates—it can be delivered anywhere.

Structured API content delivery is a distinctive advantage of a modular content platform. It combines two capabilities: structuring content into distinct pieces and using APIs to select and deliver those pieces that are relevant to customers when they are needed.

You gain true flexibility in your content. Structured API content delivery enables the flexible assembly of content to satisfy a wide range of use cases. Modular content is independent of a specific web page. The content is unconfined instead of being locked within a page.

Publishers can leverage the granular structure of the content to deliver the content in diverse ways. With structured API content delivery, publishers can select and combine any details independently of what they relate to. Their information transcends a specific purpose.

Structured API content delivery overcomes the tradeoff dilemma by enabling publishers to combine their information and messages in multiple ways. Their content becomes multi-dimensional.

Benefit 1: Publishers can deliver greater variation in content outputs. Instead of only varying the content associated with a single web page template, publishers can use the content on various kinds of web pages, vastly broadening the range of pages they can offer. The content items are more flexible.

Benefit 2: Content gains greater reach. Each web page can draw on a multitude of content items, not just one. That enables each content item to be delivered in many places and at separate times, increasing the reach of each content item. The same content item could be used many times in different contexts. On an aggregate level, the content item can reach more people because it can be used to support more circumstances in various user interfaces and pages.

Benefit 3: Content delivery is more granular and precise. In addition to allowing publishers to combine different content items in many ways, structured API delivery allows specific content elements (informational details within a content item) to be extracted and delivered on demand. The API will connect with the structure within the content—the elements specifying the content’s details. An API query can select the precise details required to meet customer needs in a specific circumstance. That’s useful when you have many details in your content item, but the customer only needs to see a few of them now. Your detailed information and messages can reach more customers and be used to support varied circumstances without needing to change the content.

All this is possible because structured API content delivery decouples the content’s structure from the design’s structure. Existing content can support multiple use cases and scenarios. Most CMSs don’t do this, which limits the flexibility of the content they manage and reduces the lifetime value of the content you’ve created.

It’s time to open up your content

Many content managers and creators aren’t aware that their current CMS limits their content’s combined variety and reach. They just know that managing each web page separately is a pain. They want more impact from the content they’ve produced. Could an updated version of their CMS let them boost the impact of their content? Unfortunately, the source of their problems runs deeper than any update can fix.

Structured API content delivery is not available from legacy platforms. Many legacy CMSs, some of which have been around for 10 or 15 years, now say they’ve added headless CMS capabilities. Even though these CMSs have an API, they don’t support structured API content delivery. They don’t allow organizations to easily increase their content’s reach and variety. They still rely on page templates for the foundation of their content management.

A genuinely modular content platform is built on a foundation that supports structured API content delivery. To learn more about the characteristics of a modular content platform and its benefits, check out our guide, How to Compare CMS Options.

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