How marketers can scale content production - insights from a world-class magazine publisher

Elvis, Enterprise, News

In today’s marketing teams content is everywhere. There’s product, sales, customer-service, event, advertising, and campaign content, made up of images, copy, video, articles and a multitude of file formats. Often it is several versions of the same thing - for example, low res and hi res versions of the same photo, online and offline versions of an article, translations, and so on. 

Managing this content is a challenge. Smaller teams may use file sharing systems such as Google Drive. Many larger marketing organizations use a Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool to share and find files. In addition, you may use Google Docs to write and share draft articles, a CMS to publish, InDesign to format, Photoshop to design, a Product Information Management (PIM) system to store product information, and so on. If your team works with freelance designers, translators, or content creators, files, versions, and status can become lost or confused. 

While marketing teams struggle to manage content, publishers have had these processes at the heart of their business for decades. PubWorX is a joint venture between magazine giants Hearst and Condé Nast that brings scale and innovation to the magazine industry. They recently spoke about the practices and tools they are using to scale content creation for some of the world’s leading online and print magazines - and some of these insights can be valuable for marketing teams. 

Standardization and automation 

PubWorX uses WoodWing solutions in two key ways; its DAM solution as a photo portal, and its creation and workflow solution as a contributor portal. Important to remember: the workflows below are what works for them - and are just a couple of the limitless number workflow possibilities available. Each organization has its own specific custom needs, and while this may provide some inspiration, you will need to tweak workflows and tooling for your own circumstances. 

The photo portal
Organizations traditionally share images through FTP or file sharing services such as Dropbox - including during the production phase. But at a certain scale of photo production, versions, findability, and approval processes create a level of complexity beyond what these services are suited for. 

PubWorX has implemented a partially automated workflow made up of Google Forms, WoodWing tools, and plain old email, to ensure the smoothest possible production process. It follows these steps: 

  1. An editor creates a Google Form to set a photography assignment and capture metadata regarding the type of photography, contact information, deadlines, and so on. 
  2. A WoodWing tool (Scriba - a rules-based workflow engine) picks up the form, generates a photo assignment in WoodWing’s DAM solution, and creates an assignment for the photographer. 
  3. The assignment triggers an email to the photographer, with a link where they can upload their images. Photographers can maintain their own folder structure to ensure better organization of images.
  4. Once the photographer has uploaded their images and hit the “Finish upload” button, a notification email is triggered to the editor, notifying them that the photo shoot is complete. The metadata supplied in the Google Form is also attached, as well as any new metadata related to the image file. 

It is common for photographers to first upload a large number of low-res images, at which point an editor chooses the images they want to purchase. The editor changes the status of the selected images, which triggers an email back to the photographer to upload the selected hi-res images. 

Editors are then able to use these images in articles in WoodWing’s content creation and workflow module. 

The contributor portal
Marketing teams use a variety of tools to create and track content. A piece of content may start with a brief or a meeting, followed by a draft and collaboration in Google Docs. If there is a clear approval process in place, some parallel offline discussion or email thread is necessary for approval to be given. The story is then copy-pasted into a CMS and/or Adobe InDesign if print is involved, where images are added from a DAM or file sharing service. 

In this scenario, there are multiple points of inefficiency and potential for the workflow to break down. Often feedback comes partly through Google Docs and email, leading to conflicting advice or confusion about what needs to change. Google Docs is great for comments or edits but not to manage approval processes - often there is no clear authoritative voice resolving comments or giving final approval. And content needs to be reformatted for different channels. 

With WoodWing’s creation/workflow solution, writers and editors are working together to create channel-neutral articles. The workflow is as follows:

  1. An editor assigns an article, and an email is sent to the contributor with a link to begin work, and requirements such as word count. 
  2. The contributor works in WoodWing’s content creation and workflow module, writing an article, perhaps adding pictures and so on. When the contributor has finished their post they click “contributor ready”. 
  3. This triggers a message to the editor to approve the article, but also removes the contributor’s rights to the article - ensuring the editor and contributor do not inadvertently do double work. The editor can revert the status at any time if further revisions are necessary.

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One other thing to note here is that WoodWing offers channel-neutral content creation functionality. The editor chooses which channel to publish to, and a template to use. This minimizes the work needed and ensures consistency in terms of look and feel.  

Marketer, it’s time to think like a publisher

As channels proliferate, it is time for marketers to take a leaf from the publisher playbook, and adopt a deliberate, strategic approach not just to the content you are creating, but also to tooling, workflow, and publishing. There are multiple benefits to this approach; workflow management built into the process, one channel through which to make suggestions and edits, and a system that enables channel-neutral content creation. 

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Rhys Wesley, Senior Content Marketer

News junkie and content marketer, observing how brands are behaving like publishers, and publishers are becoming more like brands.