Cool, then you get the long-ass response I composed last night!
Thank you for the feedback Russ, I am always looking for ways to continue evolving our content and the ways we present our content. And since I have been curating our content pretty much single-handedly for the last 15 years, and since I am the one who actually built this version of our website, largely around our media classification system, I am just the guy you should be talking to
I am curious what sort of system you have in mind. To help the discussion, I will let you know how I’ve been thinking about all this all this time, how the content has essentially “self-organized” over the years, and how I designed the site (within the limits of the platform) in order to offer our users multiple ways of engaging our content.
Because one thing you have to remember is that we have a full 15 years worth of content, and I am still migrating classic “evergreen” content onto this site all the time. It’s a LOT of material to work with, and any classification system(s) we use has to make sense in relation to the rest of the archive as a whole.
As of now, I have designed the site to offer multiple ways to carve up our content. Hopefully you will see that I’ve tried very hard to make it much more than a “green postmodern let’s-give-everyone-an-equal-voice-ism”.
For example, we have:
Homepage — chronological + curated — newest releases listed on the top half, curated selection on the bottom half
Main menu — transformation vs. translation — transformational practice media, translational perspectives media, and courses
Practice page — ILP categories — Body, Mind, Spirit, Shadow, Relationship, Short practices, full modules
Perspectives page — “pseudo-dewey decimal” system — Art & Creativity, Spirituality, Sustainability, Psychology, etc. — This is what @ksv mentioned, I believe.
If you roll over the Perspectives section in the Main Menu, you also get multiple paths through our content:
Recent media (chronological)
Featured Series (The Ken Show, The Daily Evolver, Witt & Wisdom, etc.)
Topics (Art, Spirituality, Sustainability, etc.)
Type (audio, video, article, ebook)
There’s also the Editor’s Picks page, which is a fully curated, rotating list.
Why is it organized like this? The basic idea is to be able to meet people at multiple levels of familiarity, from newcomers to long-time power users, while also making it useful for members, non-members, and not-yet-members alike, all of whom have widely divergent interests that brought them to the site.
So this is why our homepage is chronological — to give newcomers the broadest possible view of the many kinds of content that we produce, and to give supporting members an easy way to stay current with our latest releases. All the other classification systems I listed above are for those daring enough to step off of our homepage and drill down a bit more.
And this is another thing we have to keep in mind — all of this has to be aligned with Integral Life’s LR-quadrant needs, in terms of being financially sustainable and growing our membership. All of which is consistent with our core mission statement, “to bring the most depth to the most span”.
And this is sometimes a tricky needle to thread. Really, it’s multiple needles — our core values, our overall user experience for both members and non-members; the diversity of content topics; our site technology and limitations and and in-house skillsets; our website analytics and metrics and click-rates and email opens; and our ongoing financial growth and sustainability.
So, for example, I agree with you that climate change is way at the top in terms of our priorities as a species. And to whatever extent Integral Life can actually make an impact here, I very much want to create a platform for that.
Of all the content we publish, can you guess which gets the fewest clicks, the fewest opens, the fewest membership signups, and the least overall user engagement?
Weird, right? I have theories about why this is the case, which I am happy to discuss (mostly I think it’s because the problem is simply so large, and it’s so difficult for an individual to feel like they can make any sort of meaningful impact, that people on average are not particularly enthusiastic about clicking that link. The fact that spirituality is by far the most popular topic reinforces this hypothesis, I think. When it comes to climate change, from what I can tell Integral has some really wonderful ways to frame the problem, but not many ways to go about solving it. Yet, perhaps?)
But this certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t want to continue publishing content about this topic. As you say, it’s importance cannot really be overstated. But the trap is, if we started leaning too heavily on this topic, our user engagement would begin to suffer, and then our membership signups and renewals would suffer, and if that goes on for too long the company becomes unsustainable and our ability to produce any content at all dries up.
So what I personally have been trying to do is find more skillful ways to “trojan horse” these ideas into the minds of more and more people. For example, it’s one of the reasons I am so excited to produce The Ken Show, so we can get him talking about issues and current events that I haven’t really heard him talk about in all the content he’s generated over the years, and to create a vehicle that people really enjoy so that, when it’s time to discuss something like climate change, there is an audience ready to listen. Same with The Daily Evolver, which is another effort to make integral more accessible by bringing the wheels a bit closer to the runway.
And part of the art here, I think, is to find the right ways to present this stuff, in terms of the actual content itself, as well as the imagery, writing, and marketing we wrap around it.
Here is one frame I often bring to things like this. When producing content for our audience, I keep the following four styles in mind:
Sugar - This is the typical “clickbait” headline, with very little substance behind it. We generally stay away from this as a category (though I try to sprinkle a bit of sugar on almost everything we do.)
Rice - This is standard fare. Tends to be nutritious (informative), but not very tasty.
Vitamins - This is what people SHOULD be paying attention to, but usually don’t. Only the most committed among us want to take their vitamins. It feels like broccoli wrapped in homework. Many of Integral Life offerings have fallen into this category, but I am trying to shift toward the next category:
Painkiller - Identify a particular pain point, and identify how this media helps relieve that pain. This is what people really respond to.
So using that frame, it makes sense why people respond to something like spirituality with more enthusiasm than climate change. Spirituality is, for many people, a painkiller. Something they can do or listen to right now to make themselves feel better. Climate change is at best a vitamin, possibly even rice.
Different user groups respond to different categories. Membership growth really leans on Painkillers, so we like to put that up front when we can. Long-time members need enough rice and vitamins to stay nourished, and therefore want to remain members. Sugar seems to make everyone sick, but we all crave it every once in awhile.
So my job is to figure out how to competently serve all four in their correct proportions, while also trying to figure out how to make a sugar-coated painkilling vitamin made out of rice.
So that’s kind of how I’ve been thinking about things. I’d love hearing how we can continue to improve, which means I love feedback like this.
So here are a couple things I think we could do together.
The “Featured Perspectives” section on the homepage is due for an update. We could create a thread in the community asking people to suggest features, and I can choose which of those suggestions to use.
This would actually be a more organic process if folks in this community had more discussion on the media threads that get posted here. Those threads show up as comments on the actual content pages, and allow the system to measure “interest” and “enthusiasm” much better than a rating system.
I should also refresh my Editors Picks and come up with a new batch of selections.
One thing I hear is that you would like us to produce more content around the issue of climate change, which I totally support. Have you considered submitting some focused, targeted questions for Ken for a future episode of The Ken Show? One thing I’ve learned is you don’t want to ask open ended questions, like “so what’s an integral approach to climate change”, or else we’ll get a somewhat overgeneralized response. We need some fresh perspectives, which means we need some fresh questions to elicit those perspectives.
I hope this all helps in some small way!