Leveraging the Benefits of Structured Content for the Life Science Industry

Jan 18, 2023

Structured content is an important tool for formatting and managing content used across many industries. Companies in the life sciences are beginning to implement structured content authoring to shorten the time it takes to get a product to a patient, improve quality, reduce cost, and drive sustainability.    

What is Structured Content? 

Structured content is content that has been broken down into its simplest, usable form. 

In comparison to unstructured content, which is created as a single, long form piece of content, structured content is created in “chunks”, where each chunk is an independent, editable, reusable piece of content. 

These chunks essentially work as building blocks that can be put together in a multitude of ways and contexts. 

If you imagine a document as a solid thing, for example an apple, you can consider these chunks as the molecules that come together to create that apple.  

What is Structured Authoring? 

Structured authoring is an XML-based, standardised approach to content creation. Using this approach, content is created in adherence with prescribed rules.  

In structured authoring, the content is modular, and topic based. It is created and organised according to its type or purpose and tagged by the author using predefined tags.  

Essentially, structured authoring is the creation of structured content typically done in a Component Content Management System (CCMS) where components are the “chunks” of content, which are organised based on the company’s needs. 

How Structured Authoring Fits in the Pharmaceutical Industry 

There is a lot of opportunity for content reuse in the life sciences industry and using structured content authoring is a great solution to take advantage of this opportunity. For example, there is overlap in clinical reports, labeling, and medication research and development. Many companies in the life sciences industry are already beginning to adopt structured authoring because of the numerous benefits.  

With their current systems for managing content, pharma companies take five times longer to create content than other industries. Transitioning to structured content can improve time to market and safety compliance by moving away from copy-and-paste data, which can introduce errors or outdated information, and long-form documents, which take longer to author. Instead, with structured authoring, content is broken down into components (or chunks of content) that can be reused for different outputs and validated for the correct format.  

For example, one component might be a drug label. In the previous system, a drug label might be on a number of documents, and one small change to the drug label might result in a lot of time spent updating each document the label appears on. With structured authoring, the drug label can be modified in one place and then each document using that drug label is updated with the same change. This reduces both time spent authoring and room for error. 

Benefits and Impacts of Structured Authoring 

Structured authoring has many benefits including: 

  • Allowing for content reuse: With structured content, a single chunk of content can be reused as a building block across multiple different larger outputs. For example, a set of “how to” steps can be used in an installation guide or in an online help page, without the need to write it twice. 
  • Promoting single sourcing: Structured authoring allows content to be authored without a focus on one specific output. As the formatting is handled at publishing, content created with structured authoring can be published to a variety of outputs and will conform to the set stylesheet for that output.  
  • Being machine readable: Adding structure to content using a predefined set of rules enables the content to be more understandable to machines than large blocks of unstructured content. This makes it easier to search for content, saving time and effort and also preventing duplication. In particular, it is important for the life sciences, for example with clinical trials, or improving the time it takes to get a new drug to market. 
  • Reducing time spent authoring and editing content: When content is split into chunks that can be reused, authors can save time that would previously have been spent writing that same piece of content in all the locations where it is needed. Similarly, if a piece of content needs to be edited across all locations where it appears, with structured content, the author only needs to update the chunk and the content will update in all locations.  
  • Customising content for context: With structured authoring, tagging can be used to define the audience for which a specific piece of content is relevant, or for which output the content is applicable, which allows a piece of content to be customised for the intended audience or output. 
  • Reducing errors: When content is unstructured, the same information may be copied and pasted into each document separately, creating the need to update each document anytime that information is updated, which leaves room for error. With structured content, errors are reduced by keeping the content in one place, which can then be used in many different documents and formats. 

Key Takeaways 

Structured content can have a significant impact on the way content is created, managed, and used. Structured content can improve the accuracy and quality of content, make it easier to maintain and update, and assist compliance to specific standards and formats in an industry. 

More and more companies in the life science industry are moving towards structured content authoring to manage their content, improve time to market, and promote safety compliance. Here’s how we can help you do just that.


  • van Vulpen, M. (2022) Structured content for pharma, Fonto. Available at: (Accessed: January 18, 2023). 
  • Swisher, V., Cavanagh, S. and Turner, D. (2022) Structured content is coming to pharma: Steps to take today to prepare for tomorrow: Pharma, content structure, Life Sciences: Data Conversion Laboratory, DCL: Data Conversion Laboratory Inc. Available at: (Accessed: January 18, 2023). 
  • Intelligent authoring with Fonto at a global top 5 pharma company (2022) Fonto. Available at: (Accessed: January 18, 2023). 
  • Master structured content for valuable outcomes in pharmaceutical industry – suntec digital (2022) SunTec Digital – Digital Publishing, Conversion and Apps Development Services. Available at: (Accessed: January 18, 2023). 


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