Company / departmental structure

Welcome to our first publishing workflows special, an extended feature taking an in-depth look at all aspects of the content creation process. All of the insights and opinions come from leading suppliers of publishing software and from senior editors at UK publishing companies.

By James Evelegh

Company / departmental structure
Photograph: JJ Ying on Unsplash.

This Publishing Workflows Special consists of nine separate sections:

Content: the broad trends

Content commissioning & creation

Content input

Content design / layout

Content editing & approval

Content publishing & distribution

Company / departmental structure

Editorial skill sets

Suppliers Spotlight

What are the structural and organisational challenges and opportunities?

Publishers should “keep editorial capabilities under constant review, asking: what will Intro: What are the structural and organisational challenges and opportunities?

Publishers should “keep editorial capabilities under constant review, asking: what will we need next and who can provide it? A year ago, for example, I had no idea we’d be hiring a studio technician by now,” says Adrian Barrick, group editorial director, Incisive Media.

Not enough people

“In my opinion,” says Catherine Westwood, group editor-in-chief, Future, “most companies don’t have enough grass-roots staff, especially at content creation level. The traditional pyramid shaped hierarchy depends on there being a wide base populated with teams producing lots of content. However, over time and through attrition, there are dwindling numbers in this fundamental area.”

“I would also add that these often junior staff need mentoring and further training to ensure they have the necessary skills to continue their journey up through the business.”

“Publishers need to realise that while this training and additional learning may seem extraneous versus velocity publishing, investing time in the right people leads to a virtuous circle of quality and quantity over time.”

From Clock commercial director Jason Treloar’s perspective, “teams tend to be stretched and under resourced. Whilst a CMS will and can be automated and deliver efficiencies, human resources will still be needed if quality and volume of content is important. Sometimes, depending on the organisation and its size, the journalist is not the CMS content editor. Having specialist web editors can make a difference in quantity and quality of content.”

For PCS Publishing’s Rich Mansell, part of the answer to under-resourcing is to free up staff time, by reducing “process heavy roles by automating as much of the distribution and manual repetitive tasks involved with producing print and digital products. This can enable a shift in resources towards the content generation and enhancement teams, ensuring a better product offering overall.”

Need for data scientists

“As an industry, we’re drowning in data and starved of insight,” asserts Geoff Marsh, online director, Daily Express: “Numbers aren’t insight, they’re just numbers. Rapidly turning data into truly actionable information is the key. Not many editors hire editorial data scientists. In fact, that job barely exists. My prediction would be that in ten years, we’ll have almost as many data scientists working in newsrooms as we do journalists and that’s a good thing. It means we’ll be better at identifying both editorial and commercial opportunities, working out how to exploit them and become more relevant for increasingly disparate audiences. We’ve moved from guesswork to intelligent guesswork to data-driven decisions. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is truly possible.”

Edwin Bailey, director of marketing & research, Publish Interactive, advises publishers to make “understanding the value your content provides to the reader a core part of the business operations”.

Cross-functional, cross-title integration

Ross Paterson, CEO, WoodWing says: “We see that more publishers are establishing an organisational structure that is less focused on individual brands and channels, but more oriented on content themes with a content-first workflow in mind. Publishers are trying to place the right people into areas where they can contribute to both online and print channels, eradicating the need for multiple editors just because the channel is different.”

“Overall, we see that structural changes are related to creating smarter content, reusing content across different channels, and more scheduling of content for upcoming issues ahead of time.”

“I think the integration of teams to be more cross-functional across channels and production is inevitable and ultimately highly valuable,” says Christopher Ludwig, editor-in-chief, Ultima Media: “However, spreading content teams too thin will be counterproductive. The less time that content creators can create, edit and publish, the less they can grow audiences and revenues. So that means that where teams are joined up, there still needs to be support to ensure the work production flow is still clear and functions at pace – whether it is proper sub-editing, production planning, online content management or social media planning. It depends on the team and size of organisations but expecting editors to literally perform every task will lead to bottlenecks and hurt quality.”

According to Phil Arnold, managing director, censhare (UK), “many publishers have moved toward content hubs creating content for multiple titles as well as layout hubs ensuring that people are no longer siloed working for a single title. Some are taking this further by breaking down the traditional split between print and digital teams and bringing them together as single publishing teams.”

Paul Driscoll, publishing director, Media Systems Limited, agrees that “a centralised team of specialists that manages the majority of the work – ie. a hub – ought to offer the most cost effective structure.”

The WFH opportunity

“Now that remote working is part of all our lives, look to take full advantage,” advises Sean Briggs, managing director, Creative Workflows: “We no longer need to rely on local, city-centric workforces for all tasks. More than ever, we have a global workforce available to us. Talented staff that have in the past been lost to lifestyle changes could now be retained remotely.”

Interested in finding out more about any of the suppliers quoted in this article? Check out the Supplier Spotlight section.

This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.