Books on Content Strategy

Content strategy covers a vast territory, everything from how to develop ideas for content that might be valuable, how to measure the value of content produced, how to create content efficiently, and how to deliver content effectively to different channels, audiences and to different contexts, to the human and technical management of content at various levels including versioning, metadata, workflows, business rules, governance, and strategy.

I’ve divided relevant books into two categories. In the first category are books that talk generally about content strategy as a discipline and point of view. These books often have the phrase content strategy in their title. The second category of books are those that address some aspect of content is greater detail, but may not be specifically focused on content strategy.

I will continue to update this listing. I recommend all the titles mentioned. This is not an exhaustive list: I am aware of some titles not included here, but have not read them myself so can’t comment on them. I have also not included titles that offer advice with scant evidence justifying that advice.

General content strategy-focused books

The rallying cry here is the importance of structure in content. It’s a great resource for identifying things you need to know in order to manage content effectively, and a welcome discussion of how technology can complement content instead of fighting with it.
Published by: Rosenfeld Media

category: content strategy

This book is very strong in emphasizing process efficiencies resulting from content strategy, such as the re-use of content in different scenarios and channels. It also emphasizes the impact that product and support content has on marketing.
Published by: XML Press

category: content strategy

This is a good introduction to content strategy, with excellent case study examples. The author discusses her approach to message architecture, a way to ensure varied content is unified in what it communicates.
Published by: Morgan Kaufmann

category: content strategy

This is the first book to read if you are new to the discipline, as well as the book to give your boss to get her interested in content strategy.
Published by: New Riders

category: content strategy

A forceful argument for having adaptive content that works across channels. Provides a critical examination of why one shouldn’t assume a vendor’s CMS will deliver the results that audiences expect and require.
Published by: A Book Apart

category: content strategy

A quick reference of some important terms used in content strategy. Intended to ensure that people mean the same thing when using a familiar-sounding term that has a specific meaning, though some contributors seem to refer to terms in slightly different ways.
Published by: XML Press

category: content strategy

The original edition of this book was published in 2002 and was the first book to specifically address content strategy as a discipline. The second edition provides a good general introduction to content strategy, with a deeper discussion of markup and tools than found in other introductory books.
Published by: New Riders

category: content strategy

Books related to content strategy

Analytics

I like the author’s REAN framework: reach, engage, activate, nurture.
Published by: Butterworth Heinemann

category: analytics

The well known information architect discusses the valuable audience and content data that can be tapped by looking at your search logs.
Published by: Rosenfeld Media

category: analytics

A useful discussion of how to use analytics within an organization, including the politics sometimes associated with them.
Published by: Peachpit

category: analytics

Coding Content

Useful discussion of how recommendation engines are constructed such as used by Netflix, and how a service like Google News aggregates and classifies content. Code examples are in Java, but one can get an understanding of many of the principles by reading the text.
Published by: Manning

category: coding content

Good discussion of text search, identifying named entities in text, and mapping articles to topic themes. These capabilities are available from open source tools; it’s time to advocate their use in mainstream content publishing.
Published by: Manning

category: coding content

Examples of implementing semantic web approaches. Informative and practical.
Published by: Apress

category: coding content

Content Assessment

The definitive book on doing a deep-dive into the content you have. Paula explains how to do an audit and inventory, and the many reasons you should do them.
Published by: XML Press

category: content assessment

A very short book that advocates ongoing assessments of one’s content, using audience surveys and A/B testing.
Published by: Peachpit Press

category: content assessment

Content in Context

Although this book is about journalism and layout, there is much of interest for the content strategist. There are excellent case studies on designing content for mobile and tablets, planning large, complex content-rich stories, changes in audience behaviors, and experiments to improve audience engagement.
Published by: Gestalten

category: content in context

A basic text about writing for digital content that is written from an audience-centric, rather than brand-centric, perspective. Unlike most writing texts, this one touches on specific issues in digital content such as UI nomenclature and defining different purposes and tones for various content types. The authors also offer sound guidance on social media tone and voice. While offering excellent advice, the book doesn’t cover important emerging issues, such designing guidelines for adaptive content, or how to handle the growing variation in wording and voice resulting from optimization experiments and personalization.
Published by: Peachpit Press

category: content in context

Content Management and Architecture

The authors have worked on big APIs for NPR and Netflix. The book looks at how content syndication can support various business goals. A very strategic way to think about audiences for your content.
Published by: O’Reilly

category: content management

At nearly 1000 pages, this is a very detailed and comprehensive sourcebook on content management, providing project and technical details missing from many content strategy books. Some aspects are dated, but less than one might expect. It talks about CMSs generically without reference to any specific one.
Published by: Wiley

category: content management

Overview of Digital Asset Management process and infrastructure.
Published by: Apress

category: content management

Few books discuss content management generically. This book provides a high level architectural overview. It may seem too general to be practical, but it does highlight various architectural issues such as which aspects of content will be dynamic, and how they need to be refreshed. A book to consult when talking with your technical team about architectural issues.
Published by: Wiley

category: content management

Content Marketing

Not a book on content marketing per se, but useful background when thinking about the potential value of content marketing. Avoids simplistic funnel-based assumptions about how consumers evaluate brands.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

category: content marketing

Intelligent markup / semantic content

An amazingly thorough and readable guide to the practical foundations of the semantic web — valuable to content specialists who are not developers but need to understand the diverse semantic web landscape. At 800 pages, you’ll likely only refer to parts of it. But the author does a great job illustrating concepts, such as how to describe a Nikon camera with semantic markup.
Published by: Springer

category: intelligent markup

This is the best introductory text about linked data. It is clear, practical, explaining the entire process end-to-end. Not just for people working in the cultural sector.
Published by: American Library Association

category: intelligent markup

Provides an overview of leading linked data formats and use of SPARQL query language. Has a practical focus, oriented toward developers.
Published by: Manning

category: intelligent markup

An accessible and practical book about the semantic web and linked data.
Published by: O’Reilly

category: intelligent markup

The focus here is on how to construct an ontology, rather than simply how to use existing ones.
Published by: Morgan Kaufmann

category: intelligent markup

If you ever wonder how artificial intelligence will eventually interact with content strategy, this book provides examples of interesting prototypes and specialized systems, such as a medical advisor. But the book also provides some practical information on describing content so it can be better understood by computers and search engines.
Published by: Morgan and Claypool

category: intelligent markup

While R is best known as a statistical package, it also offers many capabilities to retrieve textual content from different sources. This extensive 600 page book provides a detailed look into the plumbing of textual content, including XML, JSON, HTML and REST web services. You can learn a lot about how content is structured by learning how data scientists retrieve text information for analysis. While the book gets into detail, it is well-written and assumes no prior knowledge of markup or access protocols.
Published by: Springer

category: intelligent markup

Organizational Issues

A look at usability issues in content management systems.
Published by: XML Press

category: organizational issues

Addresses the increasingly important issue of people processes and coordination relating content. Provides a framework and case studies of digital governance policies, standards and organizational structures. The author is an acknowledged expert, though I wish the book had diagrams illustrating representative processes and structures.
Published by: Rosenfeld Media

category: organizational issues

Project planning

A very useful book by the content strategy director of a major digital agency outlining all the major activities and deliverables associated with content, from project discovery to implementation and maintenance. It will help you plan, estimate effort, and track completion of content-focused digital projects. Note that the focus here is on technology-enabled projects, rather than purely editorial ones.
Published by: XML Press

category: project planning

An approach used by agile development teams has been successfully used by the authors for user experience activities. I expect this approach will be applied to content activities as it becomes better known in the content strategy community.
Published by: O’Reilly

category: project planning

Structuring content (general)

An accessibile introduction on how to create a taxonomy.
Published by: Information Today

category: structuring content

A very basic introduction, but unique in discussing the technological aspects of a taxonomy, and worth reading for that reason.
Published by: Mokita Press

category: structuring content

This book is like a field guide to the many different ways to specify metadata. If you are interested in metadata, this book is fascinating. Note: the book is not a discussion of specific metadata standards.
Published by: Create Space

category: structuring content

Advocates thinking about content from a bottom-up perspective. Good ideas, but may not be appropriate for all kinds of content.
Published by: XML Press

category: structuring content

More than any other book, this one discusses the theoretical rationale for many ideas about content that are embraced by content strategy. Very thorough.
Published by: MIT Press

category: structuring content

Looks at how metadata can help people locate content. Easily accessible, covers both front end and back end concerns.
Published by: Morgan & Claypool Publishers

category: structuring content

The qualities and approaches to indexes and abstracting. A non-tech focus, useful to help get tech right.
Published by: Libraries Unlimited

category: structuring content

A more advanced text looking at traditional and emerging approaches to organizing knowledge.
Published by: Libraries Unlimited

category: structuring content

A solid discussion of the uses of controlled vocabularies, including thesauri. Non-technical: some examples offer support for governance goals.
Published by: Morgan and Claypool

category: structuring content

Although this is a book about visualization of data, it provides an accessible introduction to the underlying structures in content relating to time, geolocation, topics, trees and networks. Many of the examples come from the field of bibliometrics (analyzing the relationship between publications). Read it as background to understanding higher level concepts.
Published by: MIT Press

category: structuring content

User Experience

This book is one of the few to look at content holistically, including user generated content. It is also unique in tying together the complementary roles of metadata and interaction design. Written by a team at Nokia, some of the examples in the book are dated, but the core issues the book addresses remain important.
Published by: Wiley

category: user experience

A mind-stretching book. The focus is how people’s understanding is shaped by their context, and how it can be difficult for people to understand digital systems appropriately because these systems are misaligned with the specific contextual needs of the people using them. With plenty of examples of missing cues, digital activities that function out of context and dodgy APIs, we can consider how to design content to better serve everyday activities, and what metadata is needed to offer that.
Published by: O’Reilly

category: user experience

This is an excellent and sophisticated book that explains how content strategy fits in the broader context of user experience. A practical orientation centered on the design of multichannel customer services.
Published by: Wiley

category: user experience

 

— Michael Andrews

Leave a Reply