COLUMN 

Unknown unknowns

How much do you know about things you don’t know? The process of finding out can be exciting and profitable.

By James Evelegh

Unknown unknowns

I was recently reminded of the late Donald Rumsfeld’s tortuous but word-perfect description of things we know and don’t know by an email from a reader.

The reader, an editor of a regional newspaper, had found our recent ‘workflows special’ helpful. He emailed to say: “I am hugely grateful to you for compiling this CMS piece and the way in which you have broken it down. It helps us answer a whole range of questions as we switch from being Heath Robinson to streamlined and also helps us explore things we'd never thought of. All very exciting.”

It's the “things we'd never thought of” which leapt out, or to paraphrase the late US defence secretary, “there are things we don’t know we don’t know”.

This editor had had the foresight to know that his content management systems needed modernising, but the really exciting thing was not so much the benefits he knew he would get from using a proper system, but the ones he didn’t know!

It’s the hundred and one unexpected efficiencies and revenue generating possibilities that come from using a fit-for-purpose system – whether it is to manage your editorial workflows, your audience, your ad bookings, whatever – that is the icing on the cake from properly investing in your systems.

If the benefits are so exciting, why do some publishers soldier on with inadequate systems? A combination of being too busy, the current system (just about) working, fear of change and upheaval, a misreading of the costs & benefits, and, often, simply a lack of awareness of what’s out there. Some, sadly, just have their head stuck in the sand.

My advice (which I’m guilty of not always following myself) is to find the time to reassess the way you do things and to talk to system and service providers. What’s the harm in talking, and it could lead to an exhilarating unleashing of your publishing potential.

Incidentally… you can find many leading suppliers on our Publishing Services Directory.

You can catch James Evelegh’s regular column in the InPubWeekly newsletter, which you can register to receive here.