In boardrooms across the publishing world, plans are being made. The ongoing digital revolution that has disrupted established models and opened up brave new opportunities has given publishing’s business leaders more than a little to think about.
Business processes and operational structures, once rooted in print, are now constantly being adapted to fit with an evolving media landscape. At their heart, publishers remain focused on engaging and building communities of readers or users through quality content. However, shifting market dynamics mean they are being challenged to do this across an expanding range of platforms at a time of unrelenting pressure on traditional revenue streams.
Systems for a multi-platform future
The rise in demand for continuous, real-time content delivery means there is growing recognition that periodical publishing structures are no longer fit for purpose. Instead, flexibility, responsiveness and speed to market are becoming increasingly important. Publishers of all shapes and sizes must, therefore, make difficult strategic decisions about the systems and technology required to support these objectives for growth in a more fluid, multi-platform world.
This challenge is arguably more acute for smaller, independent publishers who are often limited in terms of the time, skills and funding available to them. As such, it is critical that investments are not only fully justified but also planned, implemented and managed in a way that delivers maximum benefit and minimum disruption for both the company and the employees involved.
Understandably, there are often many questions about how to adopt the publishing systems and workflow technology that will make a positive impact, the first of which is often ‘where do I start?’. For publishers looking to modernise their production processes with digital asset management (DAM) and workflow tools, the following ‘Seven Cs’ are key areas to consider:
Content assets, such as digital images, documents, files and data, can often be dispersed across a business, held in a variety of systems, locations and formats. Introducing a more centralised content structure brings publishers greater control and efficiency, with standard naming conventions helping to avoid duplication and wasted time. Data integration and structure also opens the door to further automation and the benefits of Artificial Intelligence, with an example being the use of metadata to accelerate the selection of relevant imagery.
Publishers – and particularly smaller, independent publishers – often face restrictions in the capacity of resource available, in terms of both people and skill sets. When implemented properly and customised to the needs of the specific publisher in question, DAM and workflow systems can accelerate production tasks, enhance productivity and ease capacity issues – a case of working smarter, not harder.
When scoping out investments in production systems, it is important to fully understand the potential benefits technology can bring – both short and long-term – to gauge the real value being returned to the business. There is the potential to underestimate ‘hidden’ gains through increased productivity and the competitive advantages of faster content creation and distribution. There can also be knock-on benefits, with more efficient working practices potentially easing pressures elsewhere in the chain of production and leading to a reduction in other product licensing costs.
It’s important to manage any change to working practices with sensitivity. Established teams can be resistant to new ways of working so the context of the situation and existing working practices should be taken into account. The benefits of new technology should be clearly communicated and teams given the appropriate training so that systems are utilised to their full potential following implementation.
Moving operations from a file server into the Cloud is an increasingly accepted trend being adopted by many publishers. The Cloud enables geographically distributed teams of staff and freelancers to coordinate working activities through a browser interface without the need for a VPN or concerns over device compatibility. In addition, operations can be established and scaled rapidly, with limited demand for additional in-house IT support.
Digital transformation might be high on the agenda but many publishers are yet to embark on the journey. As such, there are gains to be had by those putting more productive processes in place and setting their businesses up for a future based on efficient digital creation and multi-channel distribution. For smaller, independent publishers, while they might lack scale and depth of resources, they compensate in terms of their agility and unity as a business, which makes it possible to manage change closely across the whole organisation.
Whether in the office, offsite at an event or part of a network of freelance contributors, editorial teams should be free to concentrate on content creation. A slick, seamless production workflow, where any potential hurdles are smoothed out or removed, provides the basis for more focused content creation and gives digitally-literate journalists and editors the platform to operate at the pace required to satisfy today’s audiences.
And if you were forced to pick, cultural change is arguably the most important area to focus on. Technology has the potential to unlock powerful gains but, much like a car, it has little purpose without people who appreciate what it can do, have the skills to use it, and understand the direction of travel.