Whatever Happened to Cross-Media Publishing? –McIlroy

The other night, lying in bed, thinking about publishing (sad, but true!), I started to wonder: Whatever happened to cross-media publishing? As the Internet and Web exploded across the publishing world in the early to mid-1990s, cross-media publishing and media-independent publishing were our battle cry.

Sure, the Internet was in ascendence then, but we publishers knew that the Web folks would have to come home to papa eventually. They couldn’t build megalithic systems for Web publishing independently from the megalithic systems for print publishing currently in development and in place. These systems would have to merge together into a single, powerful, cross-media system: one database and workflow that could drive content both to print and to the Web (and, back then, we thought also to CD-ROM).

I credit the popularity of the cross-media concept to a guy named Jeff Martin. In the early ’90s he was an executive in Apple’s publishing marketing group. His efforts (and those of some of his colleagues) led to the establishment of an industry group called the Worldwide Publishing Consortium (WWPC), announced by Apple CEO Michael Spindler at Seybold San Francisco in October 1993. Seybold Reports reported that the WWPC “was created to address the issues of open-system publishing and cross-media communications, and to foster better communication among users, developers and suppliers.” This is the first time I could find the term “cross-media” used in a Seybold Report to describe something other than authoring to print and CD-ROM only.

At Seybold San Francisco in September 1996, Jeff Martin encouraged Apple to sponsor a “Masters of Media” display, which included a station showing “Future Cross-Media Authoring.”

At Seybold San Francisco in September 1998, Seybold Publications launched its Vision Awards, “which recognize products or people who have helped to move the publishing industry forward in the areas of print, Internet and media-independent publishing.” (The term “media-independent publishing” is generally used interchangeably with “cross-media publishing.” While working at Seybold we had many debates about which term was more accurate or more appropriate. Today I find 3,850 links on Google to “media-independent publishing,” and 30,900 links to “cross-media publishing”. I guess cross-media publishing it is.)

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