Is Your Company Structure Holding You Back?
The ground is shifting under publishers' feet, and with it, desks go sliding—teams are split up or brought together, workflows change, titles evolve, positions are created and job descriptions mesh as companies seek to facilitate new approaches to information creation, packaging and distribution. If reorganization strategies are not well-planned and articulated, it can leave all concerned struggling to find their feet. Publishing Executive asked for some first-hand perspectives on the challenges of company restructuring, and received some interesting answers.
Change the Start Line
Publishers must think not in terms of whether, but when they should integrate print and digital, says a production executive at a prominent association publisher. "Integrating print and digital shouldn't be a question. A single workflow cuts time and cost, and it allows a more easily orchestrated delivery of content to various channels," he says.
Currently available design and production software should make the transition relatively painless, he says. Three years ago, his organization relocated magazine production out of marketing and into IT, on the theory that magazine creation could be divided into "creation" and "delivery" phases. Production "delivers" the content by exporting documents into print (via PDF files) or digital (via ePub).
Printers can—and should—be able to render assistance in this process, he says. "Printers have started offering digital delivery," he notes. "Ask about their latest gimmicks and data-driven vehicles."
Longer term, "get organized," he says. "A content management system or Web management system helps and makes SEO [search engine optimization] easier and more accurate."
The greatest structural obstacle? "Silos," he says. "Separated Web and print-production departments would have different goals, budgets and bosses. This adds costs and, in a CYA [cover your a*s] world, it slows innovation for one or the other, or both."
Unified departments also makes transitioning more difficult than if a top-down approach were used, but the effort is worth it, he says. "You risk death by committee, but a cross-department task force gives all teams some skin in the game."
Perhaps the core trick for publishers today is to leverage the distinct talents of particular teams while ensuring everyone is pulling together; as Future U.S. Vice President Kate Byrne told an audience at the recent Publishing Business Conference & Expo, to keep the "poets" distinct from the "quants"—all while making sure editorial, production and development teams are properly coordinated.
Her solution was to create a "digital producer" position to oversee multiple streams of content and production. "Today an editor-in-chief needs to be more of a producer," she says. "I have all of these great stories—what should [they] look like on a website? What are the drill-down enhancements? What is the truly interactive content?" Hiring a "go-between" allows someone to coordinate these and other bigger-picture questions so that teams are not bogged down.
At one prominent business-to-business publisher, material that originates on the Web and migrates to print is handled by the Web team, while print handles content moving in the opposite direction, as well as daily e-newsletters and site updates. It's part of what an executive there calls a "hybrid" approach.
"That Web team is our 'center of excellence' in how website content should look," he explains. "... They add video if we have it [and] link it to other relevant pieces if possible." Traditional print editors are the expert news gatherers and aggregators. "If they have something they know could be done better they will push it over to Web content—and [Web team members] in turn take a lousy-looking, but news-packed item and make it look decent."
This approach allows for maximum content flexibility, he says, and keeps editors involved in day-to-day website operation while allowing digital teams to drive the look and feel of these sites.
"Other companies handle it ... differently. ... At some larger publishers, they have ... dedicated units where Web and print never cross paths. That really is the worst in my book, but ... it's hard to argue with a big company-they got there somehow."
A Work in Progress
For some publishers, outsourcing is necessary from a cost standpoint, but presents its own workflow challenges. For one business-to-business/enthusiast publisher, outsourcing print production "included a change in just about every internal process and structure. This included new software, bringing prepress in house, a change in the way we process ads, and a totally new billing structure."
Following an "initial shock," he says, the change was successful, eliminating "a good deal of the back and forth, which can be extremely frustrating under a deadline. ... It's about condensing the work and eliminating steps in the process. It's a work in progress that we are always improving." PE