Reinventing the Magazine Workflow
I recently read an article that suggests the pace of technological change in publishing has slowed. It said there are no real innovations today, or on the horizon.
Certainly innovations equal to desktop publishing, ink-jet printing, computer-to-plate and print-on-demand don't occur every day.
But something remarkable is happening right now. It's not a hot new technology. Rather, it's how publishers are, at last, rapidly embracing the full scope of digital technologies, and reinventing their workflow in the process.
Magazines started adopting workflow systems a decade ago. The Quark Publishing System (QPS) lead the way, and many major magazine groups adopted QPS. Quark became the standard in managed workflow.
Publishers became increasingly dissatisfied with QPS-managed workflows over time. But they stuck with it because, as one publisher said to me, "It's the lemon we know."
One key innovation was Adobe's PDF file format. Printers saw PDF as a Holy Grail, and quickly got magazine customers on board. Publishers didn't have to change much to use PDFs. Their prepress providers handled ads and images, and walked them through the rest.
Gradually, magazine workgroups incorporated subtle changes required to accommodate their printer's PDF needs. But everyday editorial workflow? Still QPS. Or still just brute force with XPress and MS Word.
The Internet ushered in another subtle shift, as publishers took content to the Web. Quark XTensions were added to rip apart XPress pages, to get content into Web publishing applications.
Some publishers eschewed integrated XTensions in favor of cutting and pasting their way to the Web—about as brute force as it gets. Either way, it was more brute force. Workflow became harder, and brittle.
Content management technology arrived, but even that didn't force publishers to retool their workflow. While it motivated publishers to organize large, messy file systems, the asset management tools were simply plugged in to the same old workflow.