Chunks, blobs and workflow conundrums

Diagram showing workflow confusionI’ve always been interested – and somewhat puzzled – by workflow patterns in news rooms (and when I say news room, I really mean any department in any organisation responsible for creating and publishing content). Every organisation, news or otherwise, has a series of workflow patterns in place in order to get the job done. And they’ll all be different. But the digital age and concept of multimedia, multi-platform, multi-everything, complicates workflow, particularly if people don’t have multi-skillsets.

How do teams (each with different roles and responsibilities) create a suite of content across multiple channels (meeting organisational objectives and target audiences, of course) efficiently, without too much duplication of effort and appropriately formatted for each press of the ‘publish’ button? And particularly when workplace culture is always evolving too? The answer is, I have no clue.

Until, that is, I watched a video on ‘adapting to adaptive content’…

This awesome presentation from Karen McGrane (I have her book too) set something straight for me… the problem doesn’t actually lie with us, the content creators, the teams we sit in, the organisations we work for or the editorial planners we work from. It’s all about the CMS (where content creators and web designers collide).

Write for the chunk, and not the blob

Add content into a cleverly designed CMS, stir in a nifty API which then transforms said piece of content, pulling it onto the right platform with the right tone and in the right form. All the content creator has to do is create good content and remember metadata, metadata, metadata… because this is where the magic happens. Metadata is not the boring form that needs filling in after filing your awesome story, it’s the backbone of that awesome story and will help it reach some awesome places and people.

Dictionary meaning of the noun 'API'

A CMS that is designed beautifully from the backend – with the content creator and their workflow in mind (budge over, IT) – will make for happy people. Happy people make more content. And so on.

Write for the chunk, and not the blob, says Karen. We are no longer publishing for the web, or publishing for print, we are publishing content, wherever that might be. And why are news organisations, as a rule, always the first to get to grips with the chunk? Because journalists are already used to writing for the chunk, whether they realise it or not… headline, standfirst, intro, body, pull quote, box out, caption etc.

And she refers to a couple of organisations who’ve coined their own acronyms when it comes to the modern way of content publishing (and I work for a university where we churn out acronyms like there’s no tomorrow.) They are COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere and PODE – Publish Once, Distribute Everywhere. I like.

And I’ll sleep soundly knowing this workflow ‘issue’ I roll over in my head all too often is too big for a single individual (me) to solve.

 

 

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