Ease of use was the key to successfully combining Web and magazine editing into one
When BusinessWeek decided to upgrade its editorial system, its technical staff knew exactly what it wanted. In order to achieve total success, the magazine needed to integrate its workflows for print and Web content, while at the same time keeping things simple for users. The K4 Publishing System was the solution that made the project work.
Instead of implementing an intricate new system that could have further complicated the existing production process, BusinessWeek went for an ease-of-use approach that was still powerful enough to handle all of the magazine’s needs. The K4 Publishing System was the solution that made the project work.
Today, BusinessWeek’s entire online and print workflows are being managed by K4. All content — print-only, print-to-Web and Web-only — goes through the system, and all writers, editors, copy desk and design staffers are working entirely within K4. Thanks to K4’s built-in XML generation and flexible scripting capabilities, and a little help from MEI’s Editorial Systems team and integration partners, BusinessWeek was able to tailor K4 to accomplish exactly what it needed.
The first step was to upgrade BusinessWeek’s print workflow. As the project began, end users were made top priority — technical staffers started by listening to the folks who would actually be working with the new system on a day-to-day basis. They asked users what they were looking for in an upgrade to the existing system, based on Quark software. The answer was always, “Don’t complicate things.”
“I would define the success of a technical project by how much users are actually using the system or not,” said Mauro Vaisman, Senior Director of Editorial Technology at BusinessWeek. “To have a system up and no one using it is not success to me. Yes, it is important to eventually have a great, stable system up and running, but the user came first in this case.”
In order to be certain that users would embrace K4, the tech staff created a training process that was quick and practical. They designed a short, specific manual and made sure the basics could be taught in a single 90-minute session. That way, users could take in the instructions, return to their desks and start working immediately.
The next step was to phase in the system gradually, one print magazine section at a time. This allowed time to fix minor issues as they arose and fine-tune the implementation process before it affected the entire editorial staff.
“The print installation went smoothly, and the magazine’s staff quickly became comfortable working with K4,” said Daniel Schrier, Editorial Systems Project Manager for MEI.
Getting the same staff into the online workflow was the next part of the project. “When we went live, the technical staff said they knew K4 worked for the magazine, but they were unsure if it would work for the online content,” Schrier said. “They wanted the same quality of editing and workflow management for all online content, but the old online system they used no longer made sense.”
The problem was rooted in the fact that the online workflow required additional software outside of Quark. For print-to-Web content, magazine articles had to be formatted for posting through a separate Internet Content Publishing System (iCPS), which extracted content from Quark pages and converted it to XML.
The Web-only workflow was even further removed from the Quark system. Writers and editors would work on text in Microsoft Word, copy and paste it into the EditPlus HTML editor for formatting, then post the tagged content.
“Getting all Web content and its production staff on the same system as the print product was crucial to the success of the project,” Vaisman said.
“It’s the future of publishing, and it’s actually the present-tense of publishing. Having two different departments for print and online just does not make sense anymore.
“For us to share staff, the first thing we had to do was find a common tool. Our print users were already K4 users. We just had to figure out a way to turn our online staff into K4 users also.”
First, BusinessWeek had to develop a routine for using its K4 system to repurpose print material for its website. The obvious place to start was with the K4 XML Exporter, the optional add-on that organizes and exports content as XML directly from the K4 database.
To make sure XML Exporter could correctly export all of its specially tagged text, such as stock abbreviations, captions and headlines, BusinessWeek developed an “XML Preflighting” process. It takes advantage of K4’s ability to generate variants when an article reaches a certain status, a feature employed in other K4 installations to create versions of articles for different zones or language editions.
At BusinessWeek, a user opens the online variant in InCopy and runs a custom AppleScript that automatically converts styles to tags. Then the XML-ready InCopy file is checked back into K4, processed by the XML Exporter and sent to the online output team via a series of XSLTs.
Print-to-Web material accounts for only about 20 percent of BusinessWeek’s online content; getting the other 80 percent into the K4 system was the next step.
That kept the familiarity of using the two old tools while actually keeping the work inside a single new tool.
“Basically, we’re taking away any reason a writer or editor might have to get out of InCopy, so they can keep all aspects of the workflow in the one system, and reap all the benefits of the system at the same time,” said Steve McCarthy, BusinessWeek’s Manager of Editorial Technology.
But it’s not just the writers and editors who are benefiting from K4. Ultimately, ease of use has paid off for the entire BusinessWeek staff. The system has been in place for a number of months now, and, according to Vaisman, internal reaction has confirmed his theory that if you make it easy for users, your project will succeed.
Staffers can see the benefits of having a more defined, more navigable, more functional workflow. “K4 gives them version control, security, statuses, all kinds of valuable database tools that they didn’t have before,” McCarthy noted.
In short, K4 has lived up to the expectation that it wouldn’t complicate things. Now, not only are all workflows integrated under one system, the work is better organized, better protected and more efficient. All content receives the same level of preparation and editing, no matter where it is published.
With the help of the K4 Publishing System, BusinessWeek fulfilled its goal: Implementing a powerful, secure workflow that accommodates both print and Web content, while keeping things easy for users.
BusinessWeek Online: www.businessweek.com