A point of view on modern publishing

This post is transcribed from an email I sent to our publishing tools team at Yahoo. I removed a couple of lines specific to our projects, but didn’t touch the rest.


Here are some thoughts that can (hopefully) help us narrow down our focus and populate the ideas backlog.

When we talk about modernizing publishing, (our overarching goal) we’re talking about tools (technology) that can help people with some tasks, so they can create content that reaches wide audiences.

When technology evolves, tools sometimes remain the same. It’s our job to look at the opportunities that exist for bringing publishing tools to the level of what’s possible with current technology.

Example: writing
Level 1 — typewriter. Enhancement: faster, more readable
Level 2 — spell-check. Enhancement: less errors
Level 3 — summly (automatic summarization). Enhancement: no human involved

I find it helpful to think about it this way: how can new technology (the internet, mobile phones, cloud storage, better cameras) help with new ways of doing something?

Each type of user has different needs.

This is why we need to talk to them. Each type of user has different needs and will require different tools.

A professional writer has a volume of work much higher than the average amateur blogger. They have dozens of ideas ready to be written, they have multiple simultaneous stories they’re researching.

But there’s a difference between what they do today and what they should be doing.

A modern writer is also a photographer and a cameraman. To be fair, regular people became the new photographers and cameramen. There’s almost no unexpected newsworthy situation where a media professional gets to before someone with a camera on their phone.

That’s part of the reason why modern editors need to be masters in curation. They dig through thousands of pieces of content to find what’s interesting and what they need. Primary sources of content now post everything online without intermediaries.

Media is not just broadcasting anymore. Social cannot be an afterthought. Any modern professional must be well versed in one-on-one interactions with their audience. Thousands of people might be looking at the same piece of content at the same time, but we treat them like they’re unreachable, like they’re looking at a piece of paper or a TV screen. Media hasn’t figured out interactivity yet.

Is online content really “delivered” as a magazine dropped in someone’s doorstep? Why can’t it be continuous and constantly updated? Assumptions based on old technological limitations (page size, newsstand visibility, offline, etc..) are ingrained in every media format we use today and in every step of the processes that are used.

Even if our users don’t do any of these modern things, it doesn’t mean it’s not the future (or present) of our business. Our tools must help them get there.

Specific tasks exist in each step of the way.

Discovery — the process to decide what to work on.

Coordination (or collaboration) — the process of working effectively in a group.

Authoring — the process of turning an idea into a piece of content.

Distribution — the process of taking content to other people.

Feedback — the process of reacting to what happens after content is distributed.

Each of these stages has a bunch of tasks for each type of user.

We should brainstorm what could be Level 1, 2 and 3 solutions for each task. What can we simplify, help with or eliminate?

Hope this helps clear up what should be our point of view about these tools that we’re building. I could rant about this all night long.

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