Building a centralised publishing and distributed authorship model
A centralised publishing and distributed authorship model allows you to unify and centralise content with ONE content repository that’s managed by an appropriate content management system (CMS), such as Drupal. Distributed authorship means content authors are spread across the organisation, embedded in different business units.
The two models for writing web content
There are two main models for writing website content — a centralised web content team or a distributed authorship model.
A centralised content team means that one team writes all content for the organisation’s website. In contrast, the distributed authorship model has content authors spread across different parts of the organisation/business. They’re often subject-matter experts in their field or communications professionals who specialise in a specific area of the organisation/business.
Pros and cons
A centralised content authoring team ensures content consistency across a whole site, however, the bigger and more diverse the organisation, the harder it is for a web team to be across different subjects and content requirements. In addition, a centralised web content team can lead to bottlenecks because all content has to be written by one team.
In a distributed model, content writers are embedded in the relevant section of the organisation/business and are experts in their fields. Editorial consistency can be harder to achieve, but is possible with the proper training and processes in place.
Government — the old way
Government is a good example of a large organisation with diverse content. Traditionally in government, each government agency/department has been responsible for its own website and its own content. However, this model has created many problems, including some big ones like large website-related spends, a duplication of effort and a user experience that was bound by typical government silos.
Government — the new way
The above problems have lead to two movements within government:
Service unification to improve the citizen experience. In this case, it means bringing multiple departments onto one website (e.g. ServiceNSW).
Using shared technological solutions to reduce costs, increase knowledge sharing and improve the citizen experience (Victoria’s Single Digital Presence (SDP) is a good example of this).
Enter the centralised publishing and distributed authorship model.
Centralised publishing and distributed authorship
Centralised publishing and distributed authorship allows you to unify and centralise where the content is managed, with one content repository that’s managed via a CMS like Drupal. With distributed authorship, many different business units and authors have access to the centralised content repository via the CMS.
This model is ideal for large, diverse organisations like government. Many governments around the world have already moved to centralised publishing and distributed authorship. A centralised content publishing system can also facilitate content consolidation and rationalisation if content is being brought across from multiple sites onto one.
The centralised publishing and distributed authorship model delivers many benefits to government organisations. Specifically, this model delivers:
Content and website consolidation/unification
A better user experience, with joined-up user experiences
A more streamlined authoring process
A unified workflow process and consistent content roles
The ability to write content once and re-use it (content can be displayed in different areas of the site or on different sites)
Metadata consistency — with a centralised content publishing system you can use similar tagging and filters in metadata across the organisation. For example, in a well-formed distributed content model, with an appropriate CMS like Drupal, the same metadata that allows visitors to filter events (e.g. audience, department and programs) can easily be used to syndicate those events to various sites.
Knowledge sharing across government departments
Reduced costs due to consolidation and shared technology
In action — Single Digital Presence
Victoria’s SDP launched its beta website last year. SDP is a great example of the centralised publishing and distributed authorship model in action. This project is bringing many separate DPC websites onto vic.gov.au as a starting point. It is anticipated that SDP will enable more Victorian Government agencies to leverage that site or the platform over time. These agencies can either join SDP and become part of the ‘main’ site or can use all the platform and tested components to build their own semi-independent or independent sites with significant cost savings and other benefits (read about how SDP delivers value).
This project was built using a decoupled Drupal solution, which facilitates the centralised publishing and distributed authorship model. A decoupled or ‘headless’ CMS separates the content repository from the presentation of the content. It also means that one piece of content can be displayed on multiple sites — when it’s updated, the content updates across all sites. Decoupling the presentation layer from the CMS also presents lots of options for the future. At the moment, content is presented as a website but in the future it could be through voice experience or any other product that consumes an application programing interface (API).
Unified workflow is also a great advantage of the centralised publishing and distributed authorship model. The centralised publishing model means all content goes through the same workflow. The SDP workflow is shown below.
SDP also uses four content roles:
Content Editors, who can create Draft content and move content through to the Needs Review state.
Content Approvers, who can perform the actions of a Content Editor, plus move content through to Published, move content through to Archived, and move content from Archived to Draft.
Site Admins, who can perform all actions to manage content and perform all actions to manage site configuration.
Preview Users, who can only view unpublished content.
Again, having consistent content roles across an organisation helps to ensure site consistency. Workflow notifications mean content approvers are notified when content is ready to be reviewed and approved for publication.
Implementing the model
Together, Salsa and Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) implemented the centralised publishing and distributed authorship model as a system that can be used for all departments and organisations across the Victorian Government. The system was built on business requirements and the technical architecture was then built to meet those needs.
From a content authoring/publishing distribution, the main requirements were:
Content to be deployed on a central site for vic.gov.au and related sites (there’s a lot of different content that belongs to different business owners, working on different teams).
Content should be easily published across multiple websites and website sub-sections.
It was critical that:
Content editors could access all the content tools to add, edit and manage content
Content editors could manage content via an intuitive and configurable admin user interface
Content editors could select which website/group of sites their content should get published on
A central publishing team could do a final review of content to ensure quality assurance.
Centralised publishing with distributed authorship is definitely a current trend in business and government, because it meets the business requirements of one consolidated content repository, while allowing subject-matter experts and communications professionals across a business/organisation to be content authors.
We think this trend will continue, with decoupled CMSs becoming more popular to meet these content and business requirements.