Publishing process and opportunities for community collaboration

Here’s some stuff I’ve been thinking about – and talking about at events – for the last 18 months or so. Thought it was about time I put it in a public space, and given that I’m currently at The Engagement Metric (#RJIEngage on Twitter) – a workshop about engagement in the newsroom in Columbia, Missouri – this seems like an appropriate moment.

This is the (highly simplified!) way most content gets published at the moment: lots of work for editorial staff up to publication, and reaction from users afterwards, though (very) limited opportunities for them to get involved beforehand – letters to the editor, for example). This is the way publishing (and indeed other kinds of media, like broadcasting) has worked for a long time.

It means that journalists all too often create, publish and then go back to the beginning. And when something is out there live in the world, their engagement (interest) may already have moved on, even as users/readers are starting to consume, interact, share…

But there’s opportunity within the empty quadrants – how could users/readers get involved before publication? And how could staff/journalists continue to be involved following publication?

We could involve users more before publication. We could be more involved after publication. Here are some of the ways that editorial staff and users could get involved in the production, reaction & curation of content.

And of course the single moment of publication is a thing of the past. In a realtime, liveblog, breaking news context, things look different.

Instead, there are many mini launches, and activities above and below the line become a constant, rippling collaboration of skills, insight and activity around a context of mutual interest, for mutual benefit.

In fact, that blue line in the middle doesn’t have a beginning and end – it’s a circle. The context unfolds, is followed up, creates more opportunities for collaboration, and so on.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What are the opportunities?


  1. Seb

    I think there is content which appeals to people because it is fresh, and that which is more serious.

    Don’t different rules apply for production lead times and for likely reaction half-life, depending on whether writers are going for one or the other?

    (A quickly penned thought from down in the Musicbase, Kings Place minus two)

  2. Curiously this is an idea I’ve also been thinking about for some time, but from a slightly different standpoint. The publisher in my thinking is the corporation not a conventional media company.

    To explain, companies, spurred on by their marketing departments, invest significant sums of money in creating content. Usually this is in an effort to demonstrate their understanding – ‘thought leadership’ – of a particular market. The end of this investment is more than often a report, sometimes accompanied by an event or series of events.

    The ‘problem’ with this process – and its popularity suggests it’s not broken – is that the window for promoting the content is short. Very soon after publication the report becomes dated and months of investment come to an end.

    Re imagining the process, roughly along the lines you describe above, raises the possibility of being able to extend the life expectancy of content. It doesn’t have to end in a short explosion of information but could potentially be a more gradual release with occasional, less pronounced peaks.

    For me, working in communications, this is the most exciting opportunity to change how we work. In particular, I’m very keen to see how Google’s Data Explorer develops. Google’s snaffling of the Many Eyes team bodes well.

  3. It sounds a little like re-defining publishing in Agile software development terms. This already exists, to a degree in news publishing (a rolling boil of production that continues until the consumer (usually) loses interest) and popular fiction/non-fiction – anything that has ‘editions’ in fact, which can create a feedback loop, and there is enough incentive for the publisher to renew/edit the product. With each cycle you (supposedly) get closer to the ideally-consumed published product – or repeat the features but with enough distinction to encourage the upgrade.

    You’re also describing a shift to group-authorship – I’m sure you’ve had CIF users argue that it is the community rather than the stick-shaker that ‘adds the value’ (or more specifically, drives the ad revenue page views). Perhaps news publishers should be looking at ways of co-opting / incentivising the feedback / improvement loops that are more like Stack Exchange, ie game-related, or market-driven (our social profiles effectively become brand affiliates).

    This model is a significant challenge for journalists – were most careers are personal-brand driven – this kind of model actively works against their longer-term interest. But again, perhaps the days of big-name readership are also on the wane. Do we read Burchill or the Indie?

    Authors take more of a personal financial risk (usually) which is why I believe the various online collaboration and discovery platforms are working (any cent is better than no cent) for some, whereas I don’t think the same is true of journalists – the opportunity costs are different.

    Sorry, none of my contribution is particularly cogent or new. Musing out loud, really.