Johnson Matthey : Bringing the past to light

A timeline reflects a history of content management

click to view

The feature

Johnson Matthey, UK based speciality chemicals company, offers different audiences differing versions of its past. Johnson Matthey highlights its corporate longevity in the characterisation that introduces the Our Company section of its website and has a reference to its being “founded almost 200 years ago in London”. The section navigation includes a History heading that leads to a company timeline. The feature is presented in five 50-year eras (from 1800, 1850 etc), each of which gives one- or two-sentence headline summaries of events at key dates within the time frame. A dropdown menu alongside the timeline navigation offers a choice of three languages: Spanish, French, Japanese. These launch PDF versions of a chronological narrative sub-divided by editorial cross-headings. The narrative includes details not featured in the (English language) timeline; for example, the ‘significant operational difficulties’ between 1983 and 1985 that led to a period of belt-tightening and the sale of Johnson Matthey Bankers to the Bank of England.

The takeaway

The offer of alternative language histories on the main corporate site is a relative novelty but an appropriate ‘extra’ for an international operator such as Johnson Matthey. The offer, as it turns out, of a somewhat alterative version of the company history is altogether a different – and not so appropriate – matter. The contrary (to expectations)) twist that the alternative languages give a fuller account of the company’s history than does the timeline in its ‘local’ language seeds suspicion that a more sanitised version is being served up to the majority of visitors. More likely, though, is that it reflects a two-track approach to the management of the feature. The English timeline ends a few years nearer to the present day than translations appear to, suggesting they represent the content as it used to be before the timeline was introduced. Still, though, someone decided there were chapters that could be consigned to the dustbin.
First published 11 December, 2012
< Back to Tips