Whatever Happened to Cross-Media Publishing? –McIlroy

Software Report

Reviewing Adobe’s first release of InDesign in March 1999, the Seybold Report noted that “the hard problems today are workflow automation and media-independent publishing.”

I was working with Seybold Seminars at the time and, by checking Seybold’s past seminars transcripts site, I see that in the fall of 1997 we offered a whole track called media-independent publishing, featuring sessions like “Publishing in Multiple Media: Moving Toward Media Agility” and “Developing Multi-user Editorial Systems for Print and Online.”

By 1999, we had toned down our focus on the topic, because we found that every session made the same point: we should be working cross-media, but the tools and the workflows aren’t there yet.

And here we are in spring 2003. Where is cross-media today? Certainly newspapers and magazines easily repurpose articles from print to the Web. Many catalogs use the same text for print and online. But the majority of what we find in print today does not appear on the Web; and very little of what’s on the Web today ever makes it to print. What went wrong?

I think now that the dream of cross-media grew out of the print community’s sense of betrayal by the Web. After all our years of building a publishing craft, and even going to great lengths to digitize and automate that craft, here was the Web upstart quickly usurping our hold on graphic communication.

As of February 2003, the top 10 Web brands as measured by unique audience by Nielsen/NetRatings are Yahoo, Microsoft, MSN, AOL, Google, Amazon, Real, eBay, Lycos Networks and the About Network. The About Network is owned by Primedia, a company formed around print, though the About Network Website has no print analog. All the other sites are search engines, entertainment and e-commerce sites, with little or no connection to the world of print.

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