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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

“Print culture is holding organisations back” – Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern writes weekly on matters of digital content management. His recent post post pretty much defined the digital content challenge the University continues to face, and one that we’ve set up the Prospective Student Web Content team to address.

I’m a big fan of Gerry’s work; he’s written some excellent books and I’ve used his top task analysis technique on many projects.

Gerry McGovern’s website

Learn about top tasks on the Website and Communications Team blog

How print culture is holding us back

Many organizations have not really adapted to the Web but rather have made the Web adapt to them and their print processes, their print thinking and their print culture.

Gerry McGovern

In the article Gerry lists characteristics of print culture. See how many are familiar to you:

  1. You are creating a fixed, contained, physical thing.
  2. It is much more efficient to publish one large thing than many small things.
  3. This thing is a project. It has a fixed publication date. There is no budget to maintain the thing.
  4. Once you have published the thing, it is finished, over with. You do not return to make changes to it.
  5. The overwhelming job of those who create the thing is to get it out there, get it up, publish it, communicate it.
  6. The physical print thing will expire over time. The brochures or reports will end up on dusty shelves, in bins, in landfills. After a couple of years, there will be practically no evidence that the brochure ever existed. Therefore, you do not need to worry that in 18 months someone might find this thing and use the information in it as if it was current.
  7. There is a huge focus on the surface of the thing, the cover of the thing, its standout visual appeal. Vast time is spent on what the hero shot should look like in order to grab attention for the thing. Because it is assumed that everything that is communicated must grab attention. When orgs create a thing they imagine it in a giant magazine store with people walking by, browsing. How will their cover grab attention?


He goes on to say:

“The idea that people have agency, that people may come looking for information other than what the organization wants to communicate today, is an alien concept to the traditional organization.

Search, findability, metadata, information architecture, archiving, review and deletion, continuous improvement, databases; these are all alien concepts to a print culture.”

Covid brings our digital content culture into sharp focus

The pandemic, and the challenges these present to our university, and higher education as a whole, have brought the issues arising from this culture into sharp focus. Our team’s work – reducing duplication and waste in content management practices and focusing on prospective student task success – is more important than ever.

Print culture is holding organizations back – read the full article by Gerry McGovern on his website


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