Everyone has been talking about media-neutral production and multi-channel publishing for several years now. From a purely technical perspective it no longer is a great challenge – if it weren’t for first-time users with their sometimes crushing statements: “It’s all way too complicated, far too cumbersome, it requires far too many steps…”. So then, how is a true symbiosis between media service provider and end customer achieved
The first step is always the hardest – The starting point
For around three years, a&f systems ag has been pushing for a revolution in the field of media production, first with Inception and now with Aurora. Stämpfli AG was among the pioneers. A test system was set up on their premises, initial tests were carried out, and any defects, errors and lack of functionality was recorded. This carried on for two years. Stämpfli never gave up. They made pre-investments, trained staff and kept a&f on its toes. Then, the day suddenly arrived: Aurora was ready for the market and WoodWing released it for use in the field.
In this interview, Markus Trachsel, Head of Media Pre-press at Stämpfli AG describes his experiences with Inception/Aurora and the realisation of one of the first Aurora projects at ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences:
Mr Trachsel, what was Stämpfli’s motivation for getting on board so early with WoodWing Inception/Aurora?
Multiple content use has been a subject of great interest for me personally, Stämpfli AG and, of course, our customers since desktop publishing was first introduced. However, we could not find a clever solution for longer contributions also intended for printed materials until a few years ago. When WoodWing launched Inception in 2015, we were immediately impressed by the solution with this intuitive and easy to use tool.
«Giving up is not an option for us. Curiosity always wins.»Markus Trachsel, Head of Media Pre-press, Stämpfli AG
In the long introductory period leading up to marketability, did you never consider giving up?
At most, we asses how much time and how many resources we can invest in an issue or a product at that time. Giving up is not an option for us. Curiosity always wins. Since Inception had no interface to InDesign, we decided back then to invest our time and resources in the development of our editing system, the Stämpfli EditorBox (also based on WoodWing). However, I personally showed our customers Inception and discussed the potential of this solution in connection with the editing system.
Did you never doubt the product Inception/Aurora?
No. But we did get impatient. As a result, we grappled with the topic in even more depth, both theoretically and conceptionally. a&f bore the brunt of that. We might have been a little unruly when trying to get new versions and information.
How did you motivate the internal project team for this length of time?
We allocated our resources well. That also saved the product manager and the developers from the frustration that can build up over time. They were able to dedicate themselves fully to the existing product. It also helped a lot that a&f regularly updated us on any progress and that we visited events on that subject together.
What objectives did you define?
Since we believe that this solution really makes routine tasks easier for our customers and could hardly wait for it ourselves, we wanted to be part of the market launch from day one. And we achieved that goal! From the start of February 2018, we were able to offer our editing system version 10.2.1 to our customers.
Initial successes – The customer solution at ZHAW
The ZHAW IMPACT magazine is published four times a year. Each edition focuses on a key topic. The theme of the current edition, for example, is ‘social integration’. The magazine’s editorial team records a media-neutral version of the articles. This provides the option to supplement the articles with additional image and video material from the start. At a click of the mouse, the media-neutral article is then placed in the print edition and the app of the magazine.
How did you approach your customers with the new solution?
The tender for ZHAW IMPACT required that the content was published in an app. However, back then, content from the finished printed product was transferred to Inception through copy & paste. When we were given the opportunity to present our offer, we demonstrated a preliminary version of today’s Content Station with the new ‘story first’ approach to the customer.
«The open-mindedness of the Editor-in-Chief towards new technologies and processes enabled us to use the new system from day one.»Markus Trachsel, Head of Media Pre-press, Stämpfli AG
How did the customer react? Did they have reservations?
The ZHAW Editor-in-Chief recognised the potential of the Content Station straight away, which meant that we did not have to deal with scepticism from her.
How did the first production with Aurora go?
Very sporty. We only had four weeks from the initial kick-off to editor training. When we presented the entire production workflow to the full editorial team and the proofreader, we were met with significant resistance for the first time. We were so excited about the new solution and had so little time until the first production that we neglected the careful preparation of all parties involved. We had planned too little time for discussing the new processes in detail with the editorial team and to broach the issue of the change.
In order to ensure the success of the first production, we set up the ‘print first’ approach again for some of the editors and the proofreader. Now, we have to focus on supporting the editorial team on their way to the ‘story first’ approach.
How did the end users accept and implement the ‘story first’ approach?
It appears the editors still have to get used to it. Most of them produced for printed media for many years. Changing that mindset and internalising a new one will still take a while for most. But it is nice to see that the proportion of work produced in accordance with the ‘story first’ principle is growing with each edition – four have been published thus far.
WoodWing Aurora – Conclusion
What did the new system change for Stämpfli and the customers?
We have acquired a lot of new know-how. Tried and tested methods and tools have been supplemented by new ones. Time and again, we have to take care not to fall back into the old mindset, even with the ‘story first’ approach, but to adopt the approach resolutely. If we deviate from it, it must be done deliberately. The same applies for our customers.
In what way did everyday work get easier for those involved directly?
The people involved directly can develop and structure the Content Station as they please, and they are no longer restricted in the integration of multimedia elements. If you implement that consistently, you benefit from an efficient and lean publication process.
«With Content Station, all people involved directly received a tool that allows them to record articles in an easy and straightforward manner.»Markus Trachsel, Head of Media Pre-press, Stämpfli AG
How does the customer benefit in the digital area?
For the last four editions, the customer now also has a media-neutral version of the relevant articles. They can, for example, publish these articles on a website or – as is the case for the IMPACT magazine – in an app, as well as the Swiss Media Database (SMC). Content Station provides customers with a central repository for all their articles and the associated material. This eliminates the need to search for unfinished texts in the mail inbox or for images distributed across different desktop files.
Is the customer ZHAW satisfied?
The feedback we received from this customer on the latest Content Station is very good, even though some important functions are still missing and there are still some bugs in the system for which we have to use temporary workarounds. We greatly anticipate each new release to see whether these have now been implemented or solved.
Markus Trachsel, Leiter Medienvorstufe Stämpfli AG
Stämpfli AG offers services in the field of corporate and association communications. Everything revolves around integrated communication in Berne and Zürich, whereby the solutions cover the design and realisation of print and electronic media. Stämpfli AG is part of the Stämpfli Group which incorporates four companies and holds shares in other businesses. Stämpfli AG has around 330 employees from 16 countries. From communications specialists through publishing service providers, web developers and IT specialists, polygraphs, proofreaders, editors, print specialists and texters to interaction designers: A great range of specialists work hand in hand at Stämpfli.