Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Where would you find a CEO belting out karaoke of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (the lyrics swapped out with intentionally nauseating tech buzzwords), the creator of something called Pugpig, and a three-act play poking fun at software demos? At the Gilbane Conference, of course. Last week, web content professionals were schooled on the latest technologies: from responsive design to content strategy to digital marketing, and we were surely entertained in the process.
There were practicable insights as well, or else my boss would not be happy. In the Web and Mobile Publishing track sessions, or in any session with the words “digital publishing,” sat befuddled attendees from corporations, medical journals—even independent taxonomy experts. Only a handful raised their hands when the moderator asked, “Who here considers themselves publishers?” But it was clear that they all shared the same problem: what to do with the advent of pesky new technologies disrupting their businesses and workflows. Here’s my summary.
Panels featured a healthy range of publishing professionals, from the creator of the HTML5 publishing platform Pugpig (yes, that’s the name, and yes, that’s the logo) that powers the iPad edition of The Week and the app for UK fashion mag Grazia, to high ranking representatives from ePub platform MarkLogic and Boston-based Safari Books Online.
Metadata, demand-driven content, and discoverability. Did I say metadata? Cross-industry, these were oft repeated mantras. No surprise there.
MVQ (Most Valuable Question)
How in the bejezus do you get your content into a reusable format at the outset, pushed to different platforms, without recreating content?
The formatting problem seemed to be a universal one, and it was evident that the issue is deeply entrenched in authoring workflows. Corporate publishers are ahead of the game, having controlled environments and ownership of employee software to combat Microsoft Word-loving neophytes. As for media publishers dipping their toes into magazine apps and ebooks? Light years behind.
An attendee from Wolters Klewer, a global publisher of health information, struggled with doctors writing in Microsoft Word for publications rather than an alternative platform more conducive to HTML or XML conversions for app or ebook creation. Conversely, another attendee argued that journalists need to concentrate on writing and developing stories rather than the technical processes of delivery. Au contraire, I thought. Journalists need to adapt to the digital environment they’re becoming more and more a part of, or tech-savvy bloggers and writers will replace them.
What to Do
Jonny Kaldor, creator of Pugpig, put it simply, “There is no magic wand.” A veteran of the news industry, he knows what it’s like to be cash-strapped: He’s seen junior editorial staffers literally cut and paste every bit of content into a CMS. Hiring new journalists to build content expressly for the web or digital was not an option financially—nor was it a viable business practice.
Fortunately, smaller players are catching on, and there have been some exciting recent advances in the digital publishing space that attempt to address these issues. More on that in tomorrow’s post, including Pugpig’s newest venture (a beautiful hybrid magazine app) as well as impressive authoring solutions that came up in other sessions.