If you’re a publisher, your brand directly depends on how well you look after your two most valuable commodities: your staff and the content they produce. There are countless ways to present and disseminate your content, but how many services are specifically engineered to make producing your content as efficient and rewarding as it is to publish it?
Techcrunch editor Eric Eldon recently pointed out that:
For those of you who don’t manage publications, this problem might not be obvious. But the way most of us who do are handling assignments these days are through whiteboards, spreadsheets, general-purpose management software like Basecamp or Asana (in my case), or through clunky legacy programs (in the case of many newspaper editors)…
By comparison, the accessibility of easy-to-customize online content delivery products like WordPress, Tumblr and others, is dizzyingly well documented. In contrast to the publicity that accompanies over 73 million WordPress-powered websites, publishers are left to their own devices when it comes to figuring out how best to coordinate basic editorial processes like balancing an editorial budget, communicating with contributors, growing staff numbers, managing editorial hierarchies and repurposing content for multiple platforms. There are CMS-specific plugin ecosystems which address some of these concerns but they require constant maintenance and don’t typically guarantee longevity or ongoing support.
There are of course, a number of good reasons for publishers to invest more attention in their Content Management System front-end, than what happens behind the scenes. A typical audience cares a lot more about the substance and presentation of content, than how it gets made. Publishers focus their efforts on front-end improvements, while their editorial teams periodically summon siege mentality in order to convert editorial chaos to brand-worthy product for their readers (with all the kudos attached). Each publisher may also tell you that their workflow is ‘unique’. This, ultimately, has led most competitive publishers (including Techcrunch) to using powerful, low-cost generic tools that they can assemble on their own terms with minimal upfront investment.
But the paradigm for most publishers – particularly online – is shifting. Competition is fierce. In a high-volume content environment, hacking together production work-arounds is not as cost-effective as it once seemed. If your production process relies on generalist tools, it invariably involves administrative overhead (e.g. email follow-ups, training, app-overload) and doesn’t afford you much scope to scale your publishing volume. Even worse: you may struggle to maintain a high quality of content (there are only so many hours in the day) and may not be offering new contributors a pleasant enough experience for them to want to come back. At a time when engaging your erstwhile audience in idea-generation is becoming increasingly acceptable, running your production process on the ‘magic’ your overworked, omni-competent editors are forced to pull off, week-in, week-out, might cause you to miss out on more exciting content opportunities.
As well as making their production process more efficient, many online publishers are looking for more high-quality participation from their audience and contributors: a sensible but time-intensive aspiration that Google’s search algorithms implicitly endorsed last year. Audiences are having their choices curated and filtered at a staggeringly high frequency, which puts a greater emphasis on finding individuals who can recommend your content as well as help create it. The more adept senior staff can be at organizing a willing group of contributors, the better chance they stand of capitalizing on their existing relationships and retaining new recruits, to the benefit of the quality and quantity of their content output. Asserting ‘best practices’ is another critical part of making this work.
Camayak is a new service that coordinates the most fundamental editorial production requirements in one place, so that publishers can integrate highly flexible, affordable editorial infrastructure with what their existing content delivery products (or CMS) already provide. One of Camayak’s core principles, is that working with staff, freelancers, community members or commercial partners involves no extra training and is therefore highly scalable. In this regard, Camayak and other services are in part drawing on some of the trends that giant publishers have catered to within their own editorial management systems. Content generators like Demand Media compete with their ilk predominantly on the volume and accessibility of their content, which comes from thousands of contributors that need to be organized. To package their material, they need infrastructure which is lean and friendly enough for their producers to engage with, time and again. Patch, Huffington Post and Gawker are other examples of media companies who have thrived on the efficacy of their home-grown content production systems that handle their editorial processes. Financial incentives drive some of this participation, but not all of it: without efficient production tools, publishers will struggle to maintain their momentum in the long run.