Create, Publish, Consume
MediaSpan's Monthly Report

Budget-Driven Pagination – An Efficient Approach to Content Production

2/6/2012 by Chuck Johnson

Some forward-thinking newspapers are evaluating a more efficient approach to producing content for print and web and even broadcast mediums, and Mediaspan has worked closely with them to develop new kinds of tools that can streamline these new processes. 

One area where cost savings are found is the use of Budget-Driven Pagination, also sometimes referred to as Assignment-Driven Publishing. The concept here is that before content is even created, it has already been identified, categorized, and scheduled for publication. By establishing the goals and destination for content, the creation of the content can be separated from the presentation of that content, and all human initiated steps can be optimized in an assembly line-like manner.

A typical example works as follows: a tip on a story comes to the attention of the editorial staff.  An Assignment is then created that describes the content that needs to be generated. This assignment also lists supporting details such as how much text is needed; whether accompanying photos or video clips or other multimedia should be provided; the deadline for when the content must be submitted; and the intended target publication(s) or broadcast shows where that story will eventually be displayed or read aloud.

Once the assignment has been delivered (typically via email) to the staffers who are responsible for creating the story, those staffers now have clear requirements and a set schedule. They generate the content as specified, and then submit it to the Content Management System (CMS) system. During the submission process the CMS automatically groups the content into a bundle, so that the story and all related media files can be easily accessed. At that point, the content bundle moves into the hands of editors and media-specific designers (paginators, web designers, teletype runners), who craft the final presentation and send it on to its intended destinations.

There are several clear advantages from this type of approach. One substantial benefit is that this process works very well with remote users and users that have only a limited association with the production department, for example, contractors, freelance stringers, or reporters associated with a sister publication in a different city. 

Another advantage is that the details of the assignment describe both the human resources (reporter, photographer) and mechanical resources (video truck, helicopter) that should be used to gather the content for the story. This allows for limited resources to be more easily scheduled around other competing needs.

A small but important advantage to the print workflow is that any assignment can be closely associated with the print budget, so that appropriately-sized slots can be ready and waiting on the designated pages even before the story has been submitted. An additional Jazbox-specific feature is that as the content is submitted, it can appear in InDesign as a list of items waiting to be placed on a page. This removes much of the guesswork associated with building a page from scratch. 

However the biggest advantage is that content can be generated independently of its final destination. A single assignment can produce content that can be sent to a paginator for placing on a page, and separately sent to a web designer for Internet delivery, and also sent to a television producer for presentation on a news show or radio broadcast. If the assignment description makes it clear what pieces need to be gathered by the content submitter, then the media-specific designer role can remain focused on the best possible presentation of that content.

About The Author

Chuck Johnson is the Jazbox Product Manager at MediaSpan Group Inc.  He is responsible for the development and support of the Jazbox product suite on all platforms and combinations, including Windows and MacOS X, Solaris and AIX, and both Informix and Oracle.

In Chuck's current role he is involved with every aspect of the Jazbox product, from customer issues to new development, from internal training to product documentation.  He acts as a system architect for major additions to the Jazbox suite, and he oversees a team of very experienced developers.

Chuck started as an editorial software engineer for Harris Controls and Composition back in 1990, which eventually evolved into today's MediaSpan Group Inc.  He has been a developer and designer for Jazbox, Newsmaker, IQue, the 2100, and the PLS 8900, and he remains fluent in many (computer) languages.  He has previously served as a product lead on the XP21 server product, and as a development project lead many times.

Chuck enjoys discussing politics, listening to live rock music, racing his Mustang, and his two cats.  Chuck's wife likes the music and the cats.