Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

04/11/2014

In Publishing, which is Most Important: Technology or Content?


In publishing – new tech needs content to flourish!

Not only traditional publishers – but digital publishers as well – are struggling with the new publishing industry virus ‘CD’.

Now, just what is ‘CD’? It is the ‘Constant Disruption’ caused by rapid-fire changes in publishing and media technology and their impact on content strategy in old and new publishing circles.

Content in a printed, fixed-form format dictates much of the story — the font used, the subtleties of the fixed page design, etc. What some have called the ‘story container’.

But, as media channels and formats have mixed, merged, morphed and multiplied at warp speed – the necessity of format-free content is rising forth!

But, despite the format, the content still holds more weight than the ever-evolving technology. After all, “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.” – Say Media’s CTO David Lerman.

Just as they did when desktop publishing replaced typesetting and manual markup, writers and editors need to develop new skills!

Why? You will find out why by reading tonight’s research article.

Key excerpt: “Web-led, and cloud-based content systems are clearly on the rise, despite the present stopgap of turning print page layout systems into tools for generating native tablet and smartphone apps. Nimble content creation and management tools are still in their infancy, and will improve dramatically over the next five years. However, we cannot afford to forget that content engagement depends on the art of the story, and that great storytellers can thrive in spite of (or hopefully with the aid of) the tools they use.

 

Technology or Content: Which Comes First?

John Parsons, FOLIO magazine

 

Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum tells us that the form of a medium is inherently part of the message itself. Content in printed magazine form, for example, dictates many aspects of the story-from its written style and word count to the subtleties of fixed page design. The shape of a “story container” leaves its mark on the story itself.

Now, however, as media channels mix, merge, and multiply at breakneck speed, the idea of format-free content is an attractive one. If only content could be created once and output more or less automatically to multiple channels. To test the practical implications of that idea, we spoke with a number of publishers. At the heart of our discussion were content authoring and management technology, plus the chicken-and-egg question that makes modern content strategy so difficult.

It’s About the Story

We spoke with two traditional magazine publishers (Source Interlink and Forbes) and two pure-play digital companies (Say Media and Glam). Although the four represent wildly diverse audiences and demographics, some common themes and strategies emerged.

Most agree that effective narrative remains as the essential ingredient for success, no matter how strange and distracting the various media channels and platforms may seem. “The tools and tricks change with the medium, but the fundamentals of storytelling never do,” says Say Media’s CTO David Lerman. “Great storytelling is great storytelling, whether it’s on a tablet or a cave wall.”

Each company we interviewed is embracing the disruptive nature of an always-connected audience, both in terms of content creation technology and in dealing with the implications for its writers and editors. The traditional publishers are concerned about
the continuing role of print, but are remarkably upbeat about it.

“Long term, the future of print is as a premium format,” says Source Interlink’s chief content officer Angus MacKenzie. He notes that the diversity of brand-centered content made possible by new media platforms can now be curated to produce a vastly superior “best of” printed edition. Such a product, he reasons, would have enduring financial value to subscribers and advertisers.

Content curation is also a common theme. Glam Media CEO Samir Arora notes that only professionally created content-curated for quality and discoverability-could create lasting value for a brand. “Social collecting, sharing, and remixing of information can be done by any consumer,” he says. “Content creation should be from professional content businesses, authors, and studios.”

Expertise Matters

We spoke with Forbes Media’s chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin, who is enthusiastic about both the core expertise of the company’s content creators and the technology they use. Forbes writers, editors, and contributors use the company’s Falcon publishing platform and a customized version of WordPress to create and edit content. Users may search for details of their own and related content, incorporate photos from a secure library, embed elements such as video, and publish selected content to Forbes channels and social media. The permission-based, on-screen editing tools have significantly compressed journalistic time frames, and extended the reach of Forbes’ team of journalists and contributors, D’Vorkin notes.

Although the right tools are important, D’Vorkin emphasizes that a rigorous onboarding process has resulted in the team of experts who are at the heart of Forbes’ content strategy. “Once we vet contributors, we give them the tools to self-publish, without there being a gatekeeper in the way,” he says. “Our system, both human and technological, is designed to monitor content very carefully and quickly-after publishing it.”

Part of the feedback involves subscriber feedback, which each content creator is required to monitor. “In every layer of our system, there is a built-in ‘meritocracy filter,’ which includes the audience,” he adds. “Our commenting system requires that the author engage with comments from the community. He or she can simply say ‘yes, I approve this comment,’ meaning that it’s productive, or disagrees with me in a productive way, or it takes the story forward.”

See also: Media Execs Share Game-Changing Tech Initiatives

Once the author approves the comment, it’s displayed with the article by default. “You can find the comments of anybody who’s just yelling, screaming, and being irrational, if you want, but it’s an extra click,” D’Vorkin says. “Because of that system, most people have figured that out. They then decide not to comment-unless they’re going to bring their A game.”

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