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McIlroy--Print Production Managers Must Become Content Managers

June 1999
I'm working on a new seminar series for Insync Media, a Los Angeles-based printing and new media firm, and I thought I'd share some of the insights that are emerging from the process.

Most of my seminars are offered to printers and prepress shops. When I say "you" in my seminars, it's usually the same "you" that I reference in this column. However, this new series is, instead, directed at your customers or, more specifically, at a segment of your customers—namely senior managers of creative/production services at large corporations, ad agencies and design studios.

With all of the upheaval caused by the Internet and the World Wide Web, these creative services managers and print production managers find themselves faced with an uncertain future. Will they still fill a vital role in their organizations in the next century? Or will they find themselves increasingly marginalized in print communication, as the dynamism shifts to the Web and other electronic media? My new seminar series, called "Managing Content: Strategies for the New Millennium," is specifically designed to prepare them to transform their roles and responsibilities into a position called content manager.

The central thesis of the series is that these creative services and print production managers are facing a crisis. For decades, they've employed their unique skills to tame the beast we call "print communications." In the last few years, two simultaneous changes are having a huge impact on their current positions—and on their future prospects.

On the one hand, the print beast has nearly been tamed. Print is moving from unpredictable craft to predictable manufacturing. Advances in digital workflows, color proofing and CTP are making print more science than skill. At the same time, the Internet and the World Wide Web are moving into the mix, broadening the communications channel and throwing a range of unfamiliar challenges into the manager's job.

Many doubted the prospects for the Internet and the Web, and the speed with which it would impact today's communications mix. But the explosion in e-commerce has changed the publishing value equation. With print collateral, you could sometimes ask for the order. On the Web, you can not only ask for the order, but take the order and the payment, calculate shipping, determine a delivery schedule and provide customer service after the fact. When it comes to marketing communications, print is fast proving to be the Web's weak sister.
 

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