I should really pay more attention to Louis Gray. He writes some great stuff, and I really like his approach (minimal snark from a well-known tech blogger is very refreshing!)
Anyhow, last week he was talking about the life cycle of his blog content – but it could be about any form of web content. Including government web presences (or at least the ones with RSS feeds).
While it’s still important to be sure the blog itself loads quickly, for those who view it for the first time, or for those who do click through RSS and choose to leave a comment, the look and feel of the blog is less important over time. I expect fewer people are typing in the louisgray.com URL and viewing pages directly, as they accumulate feeds and read more, and see the blog’s UI more as a shell for content than a destination where a reader would spend a good amount of time. At this stage, the blog is simply a point in time for the content to begin its journey.
This feels absolutely right — the website should be a launch pad not a destination point. Meanwhile here in the GoC we’re for the most part treating our sites as destinations — so lots of time gets spent on site redesigns and recoding old pages to match the latest government standard. (Which despite claiming to take into account “modern practices on the Web,” actually says nothing about RSS feeds or dropping content on outposts like a YouTube channel or a Facebook page.)
And where does Louis Gray’s content journey to? (Besides this blog of course …)
I’m using my blog as a way to project content outward – to RSS readers, to aggregators, like FriendFeed, Strands and Social Median, and to connect with readers via e-mail, using Disqus. It also, via RSS, powers popular sharing sites, like ReadBurner and RSSmeme. But none of those activities, with the exception of comments, require actual visits.
The bulk of the activity around the blog is pretty much happening someplace else – making the number one purpose for the blog site itself to convert new visitors into signing up for the RSS feed. So if they bump into the content, via Techmeme, Digg, StumbleUpon, ReadBurner, FriendFeed, or anywhere else, they’ll sign up and take in my content in the way they choose.
So if I were to translate this into my environment as a government communicator: it’s not about my Department’s website. It’s about freeing the site’s content to travel across the Web, and people will consume that content the way they want. The very least I can do to is to create a feed that sets the content free.