Silos Are Great… For Storing Grain
In the brave new world of media, innovation, aggressiveness, and staff flexibility are key to handling new challenges.
The traditional regional publishing org chart is dead. To borrow a line from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “dead as a door nail," or perhaps better said, "dead as a coffin nail."
As someone who has had a career in both very large and very small work environments, there are always temptations to transfer best (?) practices from one venue to another, often due to familiarity rather than practicality. The previously more rigid MPA guidelines regarding workflow temptations and sins were an enabler of the puritanical approach to staffing. This was particularly challenging to smaller regional organizations where “bench strength” is almost nil and resources are usually well over-leveraged.
Enter the new cliché for anyone in the media business, print or digital: “convergence." Suddenly, everyone is confronted with trying to deal with digital, social, all formats and aspects, without the glimmer of any return on investment to offset the drain on the organization. Fortunately for many of us in the smaller regional titles, the loosening of the MPA guidelines which are requisite for membership in the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) has opened the door for greater collaboration and leveraging of resources.
No longer is there barbed wire and tower guards between “special or custom” publishing operations and the staff for the main title. Production departments (human and technological resources) can no longer be cost-justified simply on the concept of spec ads, color correction and imposition services.
At last year's CRMA annual conference, there was a panel on the resurgence of custom publishing in regional publishing, (something I have noted here before).
Two of our more successful members; Texas Monthly and MSP Communications (Minneapolis/St. Paul) noted that the key to success was being innovative, aggressive (unfortunately, no one is going to walk in the front door looking for you to create a magazine), and being able to react when opportunity presents itself without staffing up, because when the project vanishes, the inevitable staffing-down mode will kick in.
We had rigid silos in the org chart here for a long time, perhaps more for mental neatness than efficiency. But thanks to a great staff, while adhering to accepted guidelines to the letter, we have been able to handle the welcomed influx of challenges without becoming distracted from the mission.
Remember silos are great for corn, wheat and soybean, but in the brave new world of media, it’s convergence, baby.