In 2007, the production department at Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. (HFMUS) went through a comprehensive audit to find ways to streamline the operation and increase efficiency. To do this, according to Mike Esposito, director of production operations, the company analyzed its own systems but also looked outside itself, meeting with smaller publishers in the New York City area and the company’s counterparts in Europe for insight as well as with technology providers to assess new tools available. The department is now in a gradual state of restructuring as a result, with a special focus on blending staff support for print and Web operations—something most publishers have been striving towards for years with varying degrees of success.
The first step, according to Esposito, is to start evaluating the cultural similarities and differences between the print and Web staffs. Both have the need to develop efficiencies and troubleshoot problems, but they tend to differ in objective, he says. Print operations are focused on stability, established procedures and finding general functions to address specific problems while Web operations focus on flexibility, emerging procedures, and specialized functions to address general problems.
The second step, Esposito says, is to open up dialogue between these cultures, encouraging them to work together by gradually blending responsibilities and involving both teams in training. At HFMUS, print production staff now assists in gathering Web content, file conversion, light image tagging and other duties that will increase in time. At some point, “the operations may merge,” he says, but for now the goal is to have print staff spending 20 percent of their time on the Web by the end of 2008.
In the past, Web production would have to wait for print to finish. Now, Esposito says, one person is able to coordinate both, increasing communication, efficiency and timeliness, reducing “bottlenecks” and putting the two operations on more of an equal footing.