It’s been nearly seven years—an entire generation in Internet Time—since Jeff Eaton published “The Battle for the Body Field.” The post beautifully sums up the central problem in producing online narrative content:
This fields-and-templates approach works great for content that follows predictable patterns, like product information sheets, photo galleries, and podcasts. It’s at the heart of NPR’s successful “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” system, and it’s hard to find a CMS or web publishing tool that doesn’t offer some way to model different types of content.
But Team Chunk has a deadly weakness. When narrative text is mixed with embedded media, complex call-outs, or other rich supporting material, structured templates have trouble keeping up.
Content strategists have solved a lot of problems since Jeff’s article. Quickly and easily producing clean, reusable narrative content isn’t one of them.
Thankfully, the days of think tanks relying on default WordPress content types are mostly past. Open up the hood of a think tank CMS and you’ll probably see content types like publication, article, event, news, project and person.
On newer sites, you might also see a content type called longform or featured that include some sort of page builder-y components built with things like Gutenberg (WordPress) or Paragraphs (Drupal).
By default, WordPress dumps pretty much everything but your title into that big body field—though most think tanks are getting better about that. It’s basically a document for the web. You can even get a plugin to make your WordPress WYSIWYG editor look like an old version of Microsoft Word. (Don't do that.)
By the time I was hired to help the U.S. Congressional Budget Office rebuild its website, I had learned about content strategy and attended a full-day workshop with Karen McGrane. There I converted to the Gospel of Structured Content and rejected the heresies of blobby WYSIWYG body fields.