Content is the core product of any publisher. But even in 2019, many organizations still have outdated workflows and approval processes inherited from print. It is still far too common to see publishers operating on a print/digital divide to some extent, be it in teams, tools, processes, or even all three.
This is a real problem in an industry fighting to reinvent itself as it leaks ad dollars to Google and Facebook. Hours lost in sub-optimal workflows could instead be reinvested into content creation, which in turn can bring in more revenue. But the flipside is also true. Organizations that fail to innovate their workflows run the risk of being locked into a downward spiral, cutting staff to save costs, which in turn leads to less revenue-generating content.
Even as new channels (such as Apple News+) emerge, technology evolves, and reader expectations grow, publishers should focus on creating great stories. As a solution used by publishers such as Hearst, Forbes, and Axel Springer, we have a number of insights on this topic. In this article, we are going to look at how to solve this issue, discussing:
- A "typical" integrated publication system used by publishers today.
- How this typical system still has gaps in workflow management and related areas.
- A potential solution to these gaps - the WoodWing platform.
Typical components of an integrated editorial system
*Note: if you are already familiar with this and want to see what a potential solution looks like skip down to "The Missing Link."
Before diving into the tooling, it's important to briefly mention here that by "publisher" we are specifically referring to organizations that create and publish content at regular intervals in one or more channels - such as magazines, newspapers, large retail brands that may do regular brochures or magazines, and so on. And by 'channels' we are referring to two or more of the following: desktop/laptop and mobile, in app, or (multiple versions of) print.
Sub-optimal workflows and tooling can cost a lot in terms of content output.
At minimum, an organization of this type will use the following systems:
- A design and image processing solution such as Adobe Creative Cloud.
- A page planning tool such as JournalDesigner.
- Content planning and commissioning management such as Desk-Net.
- An ad management tool such as Dataplan.
- A digital asset management solution (such as WoodWing's DAM) to store, share, and find assets.
- A web CMS to publish online.
- An app platform to publish to your own app.
Many organizations use variations of the above solutions in order to publish across one or more channels. However, this setup does leave a number of challenges remaining:
Challenge 1: Editorial review process
The bigger your organization, the more complex your review process is likely to be. Having defined, automated reviewal steps can save organizations enormous amounts of time and pain.
Challenge 2: Preparing different channels (almost) simultaneously
Print to web or web to print is not just a formatting issue. Headlines need to be rewritten for SEO purposes, print layouts may put a hard limit on word count, and so on. Normally this means starting with one version, copying and pasting it somewhere else, and editing or formatting from there.
Challenge 3: Versioning
This can be a critical challenge in certain publications, such as financial reporting, where sensitive information should always be available and the ability to check back on all previous versions is a must-have.
Challenge 4: Managing multiple publications at once, and repurposing content across publications
So far the challenges I've mentioned apply to an individual publication. But consolidation is an increasing trend in the media industry. In recent years it has become more and more common to see multiple titles managed by a small staff, who need to repurpose, or copy paste content into different publications. Likewise many media agencies manage multiple publications at once. With the above solutions, creating, approving, and formatting separate editions of individual publications presents a significant challenge in terms of workflow management.
The missing link
Used by some of the world's leading publishers, WoodWing Enterprise is a solution built specifically to solve these challenges. Here I will go into some brief detail on each challenge:
Teams can define a workflow for their specific organization and channels, enabling internal and external contributors to work on publications simultaneously. Once a step in the workflow is completed, notifications are triggered for the next person in the review process.
Channel neutral content
Content in the editor is created with structured components (titles, text, images, videos etc.) to allow for easy reuse across any channel (digital and print) or sharing among brands. Teams can easily develop variants of the same story and apply channel-specific tweaks before publishing to a new channel.
Channel neutral content
WoodWing Enterprise enables access to every version of a file, which is an important advantage for publications with sensitive information.
Publication overview (print only)
This functionality keeps users up-to-date with how articles or publications are progressing. This means you can set deadlines, track progress and give stakeholders visibility on the project.
And lastly, open APIs.
Publishers are building integrated solutions out of 'best of breed' components. WoodWing Enterprise is built on an open architecture that can fit seamlessly into an integrated solution, including a plugin for Adobe Creative Cloud.
What it all means
Innovative approaches to business models has meant that some traditional leaders such as the New York Times are in a position to hire more staff and invest in more content creation.
While business models are one part of the puzzle, workflow management can have a big impact on efficiency - saving valuable hours and enabling your writers, designers, and editors to focus on telling the stories that matter. This enables you to stay meaningful no matter how many new channels appear (for example, see here how to publish to Apple News+ with WoodWing) or how high your reader expectations are.