Web Publishing A Headache For Newspapers

Lot of newspapers have started publishing news online in addition to their print versions. Especially after reports of plummeting revenues for print-only newspapers, online news has seen frantic activity. The customization and personalization that the online medium offers is tempting and usable for the news readers. It also provides a 24/7 access to the readers, no dependency on anything else. As the article rightly suggests

Newspapers must stop defining business as ink on dead trees. You need to define your business as providing information to people. Ink on dead trees is just one way of delivering that information to people.

However, exactly this multi-channel delivery of news is causing concerns for journalists and newspapers (via The Blogging Journalist. As web has evoloved, it is not just another way of delivering news, it has become a necessity. Newspapers are being forced to exploit it to its extreme to stay in the competition. The web medium offers so much more than the print medium – interactivity, multimedia and discussions. To be able to successfully employ the web, journalists are being asked to change their style of reporting.

From major big-city dailies to the smallest local newspapers, the Web’s growing influence has not only provided fresh advantages for news presentation, breaking stories, and timely opinion. It has also created new time demands on staffers, management headaches for editors, and a host of new issues, from what to pay reporters for extra online work to deciding when to throw a scoop up on the Web.

Now, every event covered demands audio and video reports. Not only the reporting, but the readers now expect a platform for participating and discussing these issues. To be one-up on the others, newspapers are trying to publish as frequent and as many updates as possible. This is not only taking toll on the staffers time but sometimes also on the quality of the content.

At The Washington Post, staffers say they are glad to take advantage of the Web, but admit an increased workload and concerns over its inevitable effect on quality. “That is worrisome for those of us who want to have time to do proper reporting and write proper stories,” says Rick Weiss, a reporter and co-chair of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild’s Post unit. “We are getting spread very thin.” The union also has raised concerns over compensation for bloggers, which is not always done equally.

And all this has to happen in addition to the existing print medium. Print newspapers will never go out of fashion, they form the necessary but not sufficient part of publishing.

Solution in Technology

My interest in this problem is from the perspective of a technology solution provider. Can technology be leveraged to reduce or minimize the growing pains in multi-channel delivery? A very apt solution, at an abstraction, is a Content Management System (CMS). Some of its advantages that can directly help are:

Single Source Publishing

The concept of single-source publishing is that the news to be published is composed just once, and then published in different formats depending on the medium. Ofcourse this cannot help in capturing the video, but it can minimize the writing of same story multiple times. Web should not be considered only as a platform for publishing, but also for composing news. There are various CMSs available which interact with tools used for news composition.

A Print Solution to Complement Your CMS Workflow [1, 2] is an excellent piece by Lisa Bos.

Article Management System

A CMS should be implemented as an Article Management System or a Publication Management System that can automate a lot of processes in publication. Most important being the workflow. Once a journalist submits an article, it has to be routed through a process to finally allow it for publishing. There are also some cases where an article might be allowed to be published only on one medium.

One more efficient use of automation can be scheduled publishing. The CMS can be told to postdate the publishing of an article. Once set up, no manual intervention is required to make sure that it gets published.

XML Publishing

Most of the CMSs support XML Publishing. The essence of multi-channel delivery and single-source publishing is to store the content in a common place and then render it in different rich formats. This requires separation of content and formatting. The latest tools like Adobe Framemaker inherently support XML to enable multi-channel delivery.

Advantages of the Web

A Web CMS brings the advantages of 24/7 access from anywhere nature. Journalists can submit articles from the location of the event. Typing softwares nowadays allow inbuilt spellchecking and abbreviations which can reduce the time taken to write the article. As soon as it is up, it is available for editing, wherever the editors are located. The CMSs can be configured to send email/mobile alerts on certain events so that there is instant notification for a pending action.

The flipside of this is that a new technology has to be introduced. It will provide the maximum ROI if the journalists and editors get familar with it and use it effectively. There is definitely a initial learning curve but the new age technology is made as usable as possible from the user’s perspective.

The problems being caused by web in publishing today can be solved to a certain extent by adopting it and using it effectively in the core processes.

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Copyright Abhijit Nadgouda.

2 Responses to “Web Publishing A Headache For Newspapers”

  1. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » Blog Archive » From Paper To Web Says:

    […] I have already talked about how Content Management Systems can be aptly used by newspapers when publishing online. However, this time I want to target the differences between an article published on paper and on the Web that a journalist has to be aware of. […]

  2. Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface » Blog Archive » Adaptive Websites - The Future Of Web Says:

    […] Web is a major source of information today. However, it is also a source of information overload. It is not only the user generated content, but also professional publications like newspapers and magazines taking the online route. In addition to the stiff competition in the online businesses, Web is continuously changing and adapting to the demand by diverse users to display more relevant content. What is the best way to handle this? The answer lies in the not frequently mentioned concept of Adaptive Websites. […]

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