WORKFLOWS SPECIAL - CONTENT CREATION 

How can the quality and quantity of a publisher’s output be improved?

Welcome to our latest workflows special, this time looking at all aspects of content creation. All of the insights and opinions come from leading suppliers to the publishing sector and from senior editors at UK publishing companies.

By James Evelegh

How can the quality and quantity of a publisher’s output be improved?
Photograph: iStock.

Our ‘content creation’ special feature consists of five separate sections:

Key trends

Key performance areas

How can the quality and quantity of a publisher’s output be improved?

In a nutshell

Suppliers spotlight

In this section, our contributors answer the question, 'How can the quality and quantity of a publisher’s output be improved?'

Rob van Dorp, owner, AdFactory International: “Have editorial and design staff work in the same system, so that changes can be handled correctly and statuses are always up to date.”

Cesare Navarotto, chief digital officer, Atex: “Invest in people and in technology.”

Brian Alford, founder & CEO, Bright Sites: “The best way to improve quality and quantity is to make use of automation, recommendations as part of the editorial workflow and AI to enrich articles with videos, matching images and SEO improvements based on real-time trending data. Modern CMSs offers these tools and increase output and quality by a multiplying factor.”

Phil Arnold, managing director UK, censhare: “One thing that can be further explored would be to use fixed templates and automated ways of rendering pages from XML input. It’s amazing what can be done with creativity in creating such templates. Readers will hardly notice the difference.”

Luke Nicholls, content director, edie: “It’s important to understand what actually constitutes ‘quality’ content for your brand. Of course, it should be well written or produced, but what type of content does your audience deem to be of the highest quality – exclusive? Insightful? In-depth? Keeping a close eye on your analytics, conducting reader surveys and organising editorial board meetings can all help you to build a clear understanding of this.

“The quality can then be continually improved by having a culture of open feedback in the team, and by encouraging innovation. Whether it’s through holding regular ‘copy clinics’ to look back over each other’s articles, or tasking team members to come up with a set number of new content ideas in a given week or month – the leaders in the team play a key role in encouraging a positive growth mindset.

“Quantity can be a bit of a red herring as producing more content will not necessarily lead to higher audience numbers. But if you do need to increase outputs for whatever reason, without increasing the resources available, then this will come down to efficiency of process and possibly also sacrificing some of the more resource-intensive stuff.”

Russell Pierpoint, managing director, Evolved Media: “There is probably a mixture of things that collectively improve processes. Some is real time collaboration for efficient edit and approval. Some is making use of technologies for background automation, such as image enhancement, content suggestions, SEO. Each one is small, but put together, they have a big collective impact on freeing up staff time to focus on the core of creating content.”

Nigel Abbott, enterprise sales advisor, FotoWare: “Automation provides greater control and reduces the opportunity for manual errors in a number of areas, as well as enabling organisations to process a greater volume of content at a higher speed.”

Rob Corbidge, head of content intelligence, Glide Publishing Platform: “It may sound glib, but make it good, and send it to as many places as you can as quick as you can. If you crack that, you give everything you do much more chance of succeeding – and you are covering the fundamentals to build your business.

“Of course, it’s still on you to know your audience, and make something they want to see or read. Bad content won’t get much traction. Content without reach won’t get much of an audience. And being late to a story kills off the chance to ride a wave of relevance.

“But, if you have upped the rate and reach of delivery by a factor, you’ve essentially magicked assets out of thin air. If you have good stuff, get it out there.”

Martin Cloake, managing editor, Global Relay: “I don’t think this is any more original than ‘invest in your product, including your staff’. Good content costs money to produce, but it can generate money too. Being smarter about that isn’t a burden, it’s an opportunity.”

David Coveney, director, interconnect: “If you look closely, most business build up legacy in processes, working practices and software that can often end up costing lots. One key thing to do is to talk to the people who actually produce that content and ask them what holds them back. Don’t just talk to the editor, but actually every single person involved. They are the ones who have to deal with bad software every day. Even better are people who are new to the organisation and have experience from elsewhere. Then work out what you can chuck out. A bit of Marie Kondo on your business will make a difference.”

Paul Driscoll, director, Media Systems: “Mundane and repetitive tasks should be automated, bottlenecks be identified and reports that measure productivity be used to help identify other areas of concern. Remedial action can then be undertaken, be it with regard to personnel or the underlying technology. Then, with the right workflows in place, ones that ensure ease of use, transparency and aid collaborative working, more time will be free for the users to create better content. The less time spent in trying to find content, in having to constantly switch between applications, in not knowing what the incoming workload is and where content sits within the production cycle, means more time to concentrate on the content itself.”

Pete Fergusson, founder & CEO, Nemorin: “Please allocate enough time for quality control in post-production. A few hours for a grade and sound mix, at least. Half the creative is in post-production, so pay attention to it – it’s way too often overlooked.”

Gavin Thompson, regional editor, Newsquest (Wales): “We all have too much to do. There are so many new platforms, new tools, new trends. Try to define what you are about, what your purpose is and shape your content and the methods of delivery around that. And make sure your teams understand it too.”

Mike Hoy, managing director, Papermule: “What is it they say? You can have any two of ‘Good’, ‘Cheap’ and ‘Fast’; so be careful where priorities lay!

“I always think ‘quality over quantity’ and that if you want the latter you’d better be damn sure you’ve the processes and controls in place to make sure that any scaling ensures the quality doesn’t drop.

“Any good systems and working practices should ensure the appropriate checks and measures occur at optimal stages in the cycle and that ultimately people remain responsible for the approval, sign-off, or release process. How many times have you spotted a newspaper with a ‘HEADLINE GOES HERE’ tag in print!? The quest for quantity meant the proverbial ball was dropped. What about the elaborate marketing email with a URL link without tracking or, worse still, to nowhere? Ensuring your solutions encapsulate the necessary checks and measures to catch unfortunate mistakes or at the very least, identify those responsible, should be a key requirement of any approach.”

Rich Cheary, CEO, Publisher’s Toolbox: “We believe in the existence of a cloud-based single-asset reference point which preserves the original asset’s level of entitlement and quality. By allowing multiple front-facing platforms with reference provides for more analytics and intelligence to be collected and applied to the media for future ROI and value growth – wouldn’t it be nice to know your highest performing media assets.

“By allowing multiple points of reference, we can collate more quantifiable data to increase quality and allow for simpler selection, recommendation and utilisation of assets.

“Image and video optimisation contributes massively to overall editorial or production quality. By utilising advanced cloud-based media services, scalability and quality is achieved while preserving the highest resolution image or video, and scaling it for the end user based on their device and connection quality.”

Esther Newman, editor, Women's Running: “Time, resource and patience. Invest in your teams, financially and practically. Content creators need good training to point them in the right direction, and the space to practice the training without an expectation of instant results. Expecting an increase in quality and quantity without considering an equal uplift in resource will not work. Something will give. If you’re creating five pieces of mediocre content a week, and want ten pieces of brilliant content, you need to triple the time.”

Tom Pijsel, lead product manager, WoodWing: “Focus the content teams on the creation of content, instead of burdening them with disconnected workflows and systems to create and get a sign-off on the content they produce.”


This special feature was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.