Working Through the Web Staff Puzzle
Online content development, design, and hosting is more complex than ever. What's IT's role? Editorial's? Who updates content? Where do ads go? "There's no right answer to it," says Prescott Shibles, vice president of new media for Prism Business Media. "You need to consider the markets you're in, the level of sophistication you're looking for, the staff you have, the skills you have, and how you want to position yourself."
Shibles created a new media division, which staffs 47 people in two groups. One is centralized: this includes Web design, technology development and integrated marketing technology people. These are resources for all of the magazines to use. Then each of Prism's 65 magazines also have access to three hybrid technology/front-line skills staffers as a shared resource, including a product development person, a sales development person and an audience development person. Each development person is assigned to a publisher, so there is no confusion as to who to turn to for what. "That person is a team member of the magazines and a team member of the new media team," says Shibles.
At New York Magazine, chief technology officer Joseph Galarneau adds staff members to his Web team as new initiatives emerge. In 2005, the core team was a developer and a systems administrator. In 2006, in addition to a couple more developers, Galarneau added a project manager to the team. That person happened to be someone who had been on the editorial side who moved into the more technical role of content and HTML management. This year, Galarneau plans to add three more members to his team.
Both the IT team and the Web team report directly to Galarneau, which keeps operations running smooth. "Having the reporting relationship where both sides of a technology house are coming together at one point eliminates any room for problems," he says.
On the smallest scale, according to Galarneau, a publisher needs an operations system person to handle the system administration (keep the site running, handle network and server issues and maintenance) and a developmental person (building platforms and programming applications).
Time Inc. Interactive separated its IT and Web technology groups last year, creating two distinct entities. The Web team handles HTML, online content, search and the network operations. Product, design and user-interaction staffers work side-by-side with the magazines to manage Web properties.
The separation between IT and Web development and management has paid off, according to Time Inc. Interactive president Ned Desmond. "The Web technology folks handle all the Web stuff from racks and boxes at our data center, to all the development and publishing platforms," says Desmond. "We work with the strategic businesses we have online that are investing and growing and we help build their investment plans and execute the technical and design side."